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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.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dick Brooks was Saratoga Springs' old-school journalist

For three decades, Dick Brooks was everywhere in downtown Saratoga Springs, notebook in hand, getting the skinny on who was doing what in City Hall. Sure, he had his favorite sources and his critics, but no one could resist finding out what "one wag was heard to opine," a phrase often found in his weekly column.

In later years, he disappeared, local contacts severed or lost. Bad habits and bad health were his sad undoing, and he died Saturday in a nursing home in Bennington, Vt. I hope there will be a good turnout for his funeral Friday at St. Peter's Church.

My first beat at The Saratogian in 1977 was City Hall, and Brooks was already on board as the seasoned columnist.

He taught me to stop at the door of the City Council chambers and take in the scene -- who's sitting with whom, how big is the crowd, what's the mood -- and to sit in the audience, rather than at the table set up for reporters. Better to be closer to the real people who you might need to catch up with during or after the meeting than to be separated and basically trapped with the other reporters.

He also beat this rookie, week after week, with scoops in his column that I tried but failed to get all week long. He charmed the secretaries and got longtime pals to save the juicy stuff for him. Though we worked for the same publication, we were competing for city news. There was no contest.

But it was fun. It was memorable. And no matter how technology changes, there will always be the need for people with a passion for digging out the news and reporting it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

He used to do it the right way, actually walking all the way to the police station to get reports, actually showing up at crime or accident scenes. He did hide in the office, taking watered down, police generated on-line reports.

The shot you took at him about bad habits was absurd.

By the way, any idea what the Saratogian circulation was when he was at the paper vs. now?

May 5, 2010 at 5:21 PM 
Blogger Ben lives on said...

Figures released for the first three months of 2010 show the print circulation of the Saratogian reached unprecedented lows with circulation dropping over 7% from 7,583 down to 7,066.

When Dick was in his prime it was a lare afternoon paper with 20,000 copies

May 5, 2010 at 6:12 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite disrespectful if you ask me, I knew Dick quite well over the years thru his with and post saratogian years and I will always remember him as a very witty, charismatic guy with a zest for reporting and writing the written word.

Get a clue Lombardo, do the paper a favor and hand in your resignation today.

May 5, 2010 at 8:49 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd love to see you guys do half of what Barbara does in a day. The
owners have cut the budget,cut the staff, cut the pay, cut the resources and still you demand a paper cheaper than the free weekly yet superior in writing to the New York times. If you don't like the paper or the writing, don't read it. For those of us who find it informative your blogging is distracting and disingenuous. Why don't you guys start a paper, find people to deliver it at 4 AM, find reporters who'll work for what you pay in taxes and the reward you'll get???? People like you whining about everything. Good riddance.

May 5, 2010 at 9:44 PM 
Blogger Jeremy Schiffres, City Editor said...

So sorry to hear about Dick's passing. Thanks, Barb, for posting this. -JS

May 6, 2010 at 2:06 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

half of what Lombardo does in a day? What is half of nothing? She strolls in around 11, is gone before 5 and in between does nothing other than piss and moan about how bad she has it. Does she work with her reporters to improve their work? No. Does she work with the editors on headlines, layout, design? No. All she does is micro-manage and pass the buck when something goes wrong. Those who feel bad for her "lack of resources" have no clue. There are numerous papers with smaller staff and MUCH smaller budgets that do outstanding work. However, with the leadership of Babs, the Togian is not one of them. They have been sinking for years with her at the helm -- and that was when they had a decent-sized staff. A good manager could do wonders with that paper in this community. For some reason she lingers on. How dare anybody defend her. All she cares about are her personal agendas and she has no work ethic. The Saratoga community deserves a better paper with a better leader.

May 6, 2010 at 2:37 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, The Saratogian does not even deliver its own product. That job is outsourced to the Times Union.

May 6, 2010 at 2:40 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee whiz Barb, ya really should have stayed away from this one. What were you thinking?!

May 6, 2010 at 2:43 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

May 6, 2010 at 10:43 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow you really don't like her. Are you a former employee who had to stay past 5 one day. Well she does quite frequently. She called me on a story she was doing on underage drinking well past my bedtime. She has taken up many important causes in our community like underage drinking. She even got a group of peole who have been meeting now for many years every month to try to tackle community problems. The underage drinking issue continues to be one of the important ones. This group meets monthly and welcomes anyone with constructive ideas. It is made up of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, school teachers, volunteer, truancy people, police, prosecutors, probation, the Prevention Council, SADD, downtown business owners, mental health and treatment providers and they make substantive change. If you want to channel your energy into something postive come and help. Call the Prevention Council and you get an invite. Just bring your brown bag lunch, we all do, including Barbara. It's OK to bring your baloney sandwich, it just might taste a little diffent.

May 7, 2010 at 2:12 AM 
Blogger Jeremy Schiffres, City Editor said...

To Ben lives on:
Being in the newspaper biz for 25 years - including a few years at the Saratogian in the late 1980s - I can assure you the newspaper's falling circulation is not the result of Dick Brooks' departure.
The circulation of print media - specifically newspapers and magazines - has been plummeting across the country for years, first because of news and advertising competition from television and then, of course, from the Internet.
It simply is the reality of our business in the 21st century.
We are adapting by strengthening our presence on the Internet. It seems you've followed us there, and we hope you continue to do so.
-Jeremy Schiffres
City Editor
Daily and Sunday Freeman
Kingston, N.Y.
(Yes, a sister JRC newspaper to the Saratogian.)

May 7, 2010 at 3:38 PM 

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