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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Empty nest syndrome gets a bad rap

"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," my father has said over the years.
The truth of that saying is apparent in the first fruit of my labor -- my son David.
Don't take my word, though. Check out his columns on "The Scene" -- you can get there through or find The Scene at under the entertainment tab. His self-deprecating humor wrings familiar and true.
Critics, be forewarned: His column is not nepotism. It's more like parent abuse.
David's been writing lately about what it's like to be an underemployed college graduate living at home with two people who are alternately referred to as his R.A.s, housemates and wardens.
I intend to write a counter-column from my perspective. As soon as it's funny.
My parents couldn't understand why I was in "such a hurry" to live on my own after college. I can't understand why my son isn't.
My father still shakes his head at my decision not to live in my old room in Voorheesville while working at my first job. I could have lived "at home" and saved money, like my smarter siblings subsequently did.
Snagging a job straight from grad school gave me the economic freedom to find my own place. (Full disclosure: My parents generously took on my school loan and gave me their old car, free and clear.)
It's true, I was in a hurry to not live at home. I wanted the freedom to come and go as I pleased.
I still do.
I look forward to re-experiencing my version of the "empty nest syndrome."
I think David is looking forward to being able to strike out on his own, too. One day I lost my temper and told him I would start charging him rent. When I texted him later that day about whether he'd be home for dinner, he texted me back, "What will it cost?"
My husband and I say David's job is to find a job. I hope it involves writing, because he seems to enjoy it and is good at it. And I'm not saying that just because I'm his housemate ... er, warden ... I mean, editor ... that is, his mother.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Walking in another department's shoes

It's valuable, important and humbling for people in the newspaper business (and any business) to experience what it's like to be in the company's other departments. And last night I had an opportunity to do that -- in circulation telemarketing.

"Hi, this is Barbara Lombardo," I began. "I'm calling from The Saratogian newspaper ..."

"Don't say newspaper," interjected my boss, Publisher Mike O'Sullivan, from the desk behind me. "People know what The Saratogian is."

The publisher, the department heads (me as managing editor, plus the directors for advertising and pre-press composing) along with the human resources manager, Ballston Spa Life editor Joe Rocha, and some of the circulation folks who were extending a day that began well before dawn, had a telemarketing blitz to bring former subscribers back to the paper with a terrific offer of $1.99 a week for 26 weeks. I think that's better than my employee rate.

I am grateful for the people who answered their phone and were polite in their rejection; I'm even more grateful for those who signed up. I apologize for disturbing those who were already subscribers and were on the list in error; I would have liked to take the time to chat with those people, but my job was to make as many sales as I could.

I burst out of the gate with the first sale of the evening on my first call. But like the thoroughbreds that break too early, I fell behind; my second sale was one of the last of the evening. That was still 100 percent more than my boss, who could have done better with more dialing and less chop-busting. Meanwhile, sitting next to me, spending what I thought was too much time chatting with people, Joe Rocha quietly sold four of the 26-week subscriptions.

Lauren Rose, the ad director, made four sales, which is only two more than me — or 100 percent more, depending on how you look at it. In our cozy quarters, she couldn't help but hear me fumble through the prepared text.

"Stick to writing," she advised.

Enough said.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A move from news to sports

Andrew J. Bernstein, who's been city reporter since November 2007, began this week in his new position as sports editor.

Bernstein surprised me when he indicated interest in the position, because he was doing a solid job on the city beat. But he was ready for a new challenge, and I'm glad to be able to offer it.
And believe me, it will be a challenge -- the sports editor is arguably the toughest job in the newsroom.

The focus of the sports section is local, and the demands are intense. Consider the dozens of local high school, youth, and adult athletics that deserve attention. And consider that we have a staff of five full-timers to write, edit and paginate the sports section of The Saratogian, not to mention the Community News, our weekly newspaper serving southern Saratoga County. And remember that we are also in a competitive media market, making it all the more critical that we serve local readers better than anyone else.

By the way, to the person trying to tell me about a Japanese porn site on the blog, I am trying to respond to you that I don't see what you are talking about. Of course I don't want a link to a porn site. Where should I be looking to eliminate it?