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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, June 22, 2010

Kudos to Judy Ekman as she leaves the Prevention Council of Saratoga County

This evening Judy Ekman will be the recipient of well-deserved thanks and good wishes from a relatively small sampling of the many, many lives she has touched during her 30-year career in substance abuse prevention and making ours a better, healthier, safer community.

The people she helped the most won't be there. I'm referring to the countless kids and their parents whose paths crossed Ekman or the programs she fostered, maintained and supported.

Most of the people at this evening's send-off will be those who have worked with her over the years. She has been great at creating community coalitions. As Prevenion Council board member Stephen Toussaint told The Saratogian in today's print edition and online (at, Ekman brought together people representing "a broad spectrum of the community" to work toward common goals."

She leads by example, at once quiet, friendly and firm. She is a warm and wonderful person who has made a major, positive difference in so many lives.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

READ/RUN a great way to support literacy volunteers in Saratoga Springs and capital region

People come through time and again when there are neighbors — or strangers — in need. Even in tough economic times, individuals step up when government funding is cut back.
And when there’s a way to get actively involved in a fun way, that’s all the better. Now more than ever, grassroots fundraising events rely on increased community participation and support.
Take, for instance, Literacy New York Greater Capital Region, the local branch of what used to be called Literacy Volunteers of America — and its June 13 fundraising Read/Run in Saratoga Springs.
The group provides free services for about 400 students of varying ages in Saratoga, Warren, Washington, Albany and Schenectady counties with an annual budget of $450,000 … er, make that $390,000. Its total annual budget has just been cut by more than 13 percent, because the state has cut its funding for the organization by almost 40 percent, which is roughly $60,000. United Way continues to be a major revenue source.
The state aid reduction is tough to argue with given the state of the state’s budget. But it makes operating all the more challenging for the literacy group — as well as countless other nonprofits that depend at least in part on public funding.
Cutbacks force organizations to think creatively about ways to share resources and avoid duplication of effort. The Literacy group is no stranger to that concept. It’s been a while since the individual countywide literacy groups merged into regional entities, thus reducing administrative expenses.
About a quarter of the current students live in Saratoga County. Most are people trying to obtain the GED; others are trying to find a job, keep a job or get a better job. Even with its existing budget, the literacy group has students on waiting lists and don’t expect to be able to create more matches until the fall at the earliest. More than 30 people are waiting for tutoring in Saratoga County; the organization tries to push up on the list those who are preparing for their GED.
Tutors volunteer their time, but there’s still the administrative cost involved in assessing student needs, setting up their programs, training tutors and ongoing supervision of the matches. And besides help with reading, there is a lot of training in English as a second language as well as tutoring in math and financial literacy.
The beauty of next Sunday’s Read/Run is that it ties in with its mission, has a broad, family-oriented appeal, raises awareness for the group, and involves a lot of people. More than 80 volunteers include literacy tutors, Girl Scouts, retired teachers, National Honor Society students and employees of area libraries, SEFCU, State Farm, Banana Republic and other businesses. There will be cartoon characters and characters from literature along the route. The Saratogian is proud to be the media sponsor.
While funding for Literacy New York and other agencies decreases, the demand for their services is on the rise. Literacy programs are an excellent investment. But while the programs are free, it costs money to provide them.
As Nancy Holzman, coordinator of the June 13 event and director of Resource and Community Development for the group, notes, the gap left by government cuts means grassroots fundraising events are more and more critical to the survival of community nonprofits. Support, she says, can take many forms: financial sponsorship, donations goods and services, volunteerism and — last but not least — event participation.
You can do any of those for the Literacy New York Read/Run. Go to to find out how.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Everyone loves Compton's ... and you're not too old for The Scene

The summer season sees the return of The Scene, a publication of The Saratogian that's separate from the print product. A new print version is distributed every other Wednesday at a number of locations in and around downtown Saratoga Springs, and the website is available for your enjoyment and comments at (and at in the entertainment dropdown).

The latest edition, which came out June 2, includes a feature on the crew that satisfies the 3 a.m. munchies at Compton's on Broadway. The popular breakfast and lunch place is hopping when most of us are into REM sleep. My favorite at Compton's, during normal brunch hours, is eggs over easy and a large OJ. But some days Bev McKim and I can't resist splitting a chocolate milkshake.

Upcoming editions of The Scene will include a story by and about Maggie Doherty, a Saratoga Springs High School grad who sings with Zach Rossi and is a journalism student at Hofstra. Other SSHS grads contributing to The Scene are Kathleen Ronayne, the incoming managing editor for the school newspaper at Syracue, and David Lombardo, whose other writing gigs include the legislative observer Statewatch and an "Entertainment Daily" blog.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tell The Saratogian what stories and topics you'd like covered

A revolution is under way, and it’s happening in a newsroom near you.

Join us.

A familiar old face is serving as our standard-bearer — Ben Franklin — a symbol of innovation, an informed, active citizenry and an invigorated press.

The press? Make that the “news media.” The role of the media as a catalyst for positive change has always been paramount. The Internet is making it easier to shine a light on issues and to pose and implement solutions.

Long before personal computers were commonplace, readers have generously given their time as Saratogian advisory board members, critiquing coverage, suggesting coverage topics and serving as citizen ambassadors for the hometown paper.

Now you can serve as advisers, sources and participants with the click of a button. The buzzword is “crowdsourcing,” and we want to embrace it as a way to plant and sow the seeds of coverage that you are interested in and possibly knowledgeable about.

What topics, broad or specific, would you like us to focus on for short- and long-term coverage? Are you willing to be a source or can you suggest someone else who might be?

Based on your suggestions, we’ll come back to you, asking for help on more specific topics, as the reporting process becomes a collaborative effort.

The other day, our reporters tossed around a few topics that seem to pique local interest: running a successful small business in Saratoga, recreation options in the city, historic properties and their preservation, the cost of our schools and the efficiency of city government. Choose from or add to these topics.

We have already begun work on a project that has been on the radar lately because of a couple of cases involving well-known citizens: Alcoholism. The number of AA meetings per week in our towns will surprise you. If this is a topic to which you would like to contribute ideas, tips, data or firsthand experiences as this project takes shape, let us know.

We will also be diving into the impending vote to change the form of government to a system with a city manager. Care to help us with that one?

In the old newspaper days, fear of tipping off the competition would make me reluctant to tell the world what we’re working on. Today, I want to reach out to the world and tap into everyone’s energy and knowledge. We need each other.

OK. We need you. After all, anyone can publish. Which brings me to the Ben Franklin project.

The July 4 edition of The Saratogian will be created, as much as technically possible, using only free software available over the Internet. We will be writing stories, uploading and editing pictures, laying out the pages and writing headlines using free computer programs that can be found by anyone with the initiative to look for them. The other 17 dailies in the Journal Register Co. will be doing the same thing.

It’s an exercise (already accomplished by two of JRC’s publications) that acknowledges the digital world and a revolution of company culture. With arrogance and fear of the Internet behind us, JRC, under the new leadership of CEO John Paton, is determined to be regarded as a leader in the news industry.

It’s exciting to be part of a can-do, forward-looking culture. And a little daunting. After all, the Ben Franklin project — independence from newsroom proprietary computer software for Independence Day — will, even if for just one symbolic day, be a time-consuming project added to an already full plate.

Hey, maybe you can help us figure out the best free word processing, design, photo and page layout programs to try. Any suggestions? Anyone out there who can give us a hand with Scribus?

Add your comments to the online version of this column. And check out our newest blog, The Saratechian, which reporters Mareesa Nicosia and Emily Dohonue, our Twitter Queen, started last week.

Something new can be energizing, too.

As Ben Franklin said, “All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable and those that move.”

We’re on the move. Join us.

• Learn more about the Ben Franklin project at

• Follow The Saratechian blog at