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Barbara Lombardo writes about journalisml, local news and anything else that strikes her fancy. She is executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News, sister papers in the Digital First Media family. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Paterson: "I signed up for public service"

Gov. David Paterson just told the nation that New York needs a leader who can devote all his attention to running the state.
He's right.
That will be his job for the 308 days remaining to his term.
But what can be accomplished by an already weak governor who is now officially a lame duck working with a dysfunctional state Legislature.
Who's in charge?
Heaven help New York residents, taxpayers and businesses.
Meanwhile, it seems only fair to acknowledge that for all of Paterson's political faults and failures, he can point to substantive accomplishments over the last two years. He noted reducing $33 billion of state debt, many times more than normal; taking the unpopular action of delyaing payments to benefit the state's credit rating; eradicating the Rockefeller drug laws while toughening penalties against "drug kingpins," and enacting legislation to protect homebuyers and borrowers. And, he says, "I have never abused my office. Not now, not ever."
Paterson noted that he signed up for public service, but he's a realist about politics.

New York's never-elected governor?

Waiting impatiently for Gov. David Paterson to make a public announcement -- will it be to say that he will not run for governor?
The governor has had a rough term since the beginning of his accidental term. He came across as smart, thoughtful, charming and funny in his speech taking the baton from disgraced predecessor Eliot Spitzer.
But it's been almost all downhill from there.

Protecting the public safety in a flash

News doesn't often happen right under our nose, but on Thursday it looked like something big was happening on the street outside The Saratogian's main entrance.
Reporter Patrick Donges saw four police cars surround a black Bentley parked outside the closed nightclub on Maple Avenue, with a couple of officers' weapons pointed at the man behind the wheel.
Well, it turned out to be much ado about nothing. A call to police about an armed threat wasn't as serious as first believed.
But such a threat needs to be taken very seriously. And from what we laymen from the Fourth Estate could see and hear from our perch across the street, the police acted quickly and appropriately.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Teens aren't the only reckless drivers

Some new laws that make it harder for teens to get into car accidents took effect Monday. I welcome them.
One law reduces the number of non-family member passengers from two to one for drivers under 18 who haven't passed a driver's ed course. Studies have shown the more kids in the car, the greater the chance for an accident. There's just too much goofing around.
The other law requires that a teen with a learner's permit wait six months before applying for a license. Previously, there was no waiting period.
One more law increases from 20 hours to 50 hours the time a teen with a learner's permit is supposed to drive with supervision. Fifteen of the 50 hours are supposed to be after sunset. To be honest, I'm not too optimistic about parents being honest about this one.
But the more supervised practice and the fewer distractions for teenage drivers, the better.
I can assure you I didn't feel this way when I was 17 and chomping on the bit to get my driver's license. But I've since discovered I'm not invulnerable.
One thing I remember Coach Mead teaching me in driver's ed at Voorheesville High School was to keep your eyes on the road. The distractions back then seem so simple -- the AM radio dial, a friend in the car.
Today, it's frightening how people who ought to know better are so cavalier about driving while making phone calls and checking and sending message -- as if the danger applies only to other people.
Laws that apply to driving while distracted are difficult to enforce. You'd think the desire to get to your destination in one piece would be incentive enough. The new laws apply to teens, but youngsters don't have a lock on dumb decisions.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger takes a bite out of the tabloids

Golf that doesn’t involve a windmill is of no interest to me. Neither is Tiger Woods’ life, public or private.
I think I’m in the minority, given the gazillion Web postings about his womanizing ways and the sponsors that dumped the man who could no longer be their role model. One friend told me Friday that a week after Woods’ accident she was in a pool to guess how many women he had.
When you’re the world’s top golfer, you make millions in endorsements, and you have a foundation to help kids, you set yourself up on a pedestal. And when it’s discovered you’re toppling from that pedestal, people can’t wait to push you over.
“Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions,” Tiger said Friday in his televised apology, which I made sure to stream live on The Saratogian Web site. It was news.
Fair or not, people who become public figures, by choice or circumstance, are fair game for gossip. “Private life” becomes an oxymoron. People are judged, ridiculed and condemned for behavior that ought to be considered irrelevant. The mainstream media sometimes rely on the thinnest of justifications for prying into people’s lives.
“No matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake,” Woods said. “The right to some simple, human measure of privacy.
Woods’ words struck a chord for me. I feel sorry about the excessive intrusion into the lives of people trashed by the tabloids and a little embarrassed to be part of the profession responsible for fueling it. This goes for golfers, governors, former congressmen and Olympic athletes. If not reveling in people’s troubles makes me a bad journalist, please accept my apology.

Barbara Lombardo is managing editor of|The Saratogian. Readers may e-mail her at|blombardo@saratogian.com.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Saratogian will Flip for you

In 1985, The Saratogian switched from publishing in the afternoon and became a morning newspaper. More and more people were looking for their news first thing in the day. So we changed, to be there when people wanted their news.
Twenty-five years later, we’re still changing — for the same reason, with a twist. We want to provide your news when you want it, where you want it and how you want it.
You might be reading this over a cup of coffee on your desktop monitor, or laptop, or BlackBerry.
The point is, we’re in the news business, not just the newspaper business.
Finding news online isn’t exactly new. But just this past week The Saratogian began new initiatives to use the Internet to be more timely, compelling and maybe even fun. And more is coming.
Last month, we reported that John Paton would be the new CEO of the Journal Register Co., the Pennsylvania-based parent company of The Saratogian. This month, Paton started his new job with a bang. Or whir. Or whatever you call the sound of a Flip video camera.
He wants this media company to get with it, technologically speaking. To make the point, he sent every publisher and editor home with a Flip and a promise to quickly equip every reporter with one.
We took the toys out of their boxes right away. Our newest reporter, Patrick Donges, a December graduate of University at Albany, knew what to do. For a story about the Saratoga Springs Police Department’s Facebook page, he brought his pad, pen and Flip over to Chief Christopher Cole’s office.
Back in the newsroom, Web Editor Steve Shoemaker quickly uploaded the video. So you can read Donges’ story and also watch Cole talk about the Police Department’s Facebook page in a quick video clip at www.saratogian.com.
Meanwhile, using the more sophisticated video camera, sports writer Stan Hudy, working with Shoemaker, videotaped senior night for the Saratoga Springs ice hockey team. It’s a sweet tribute to the players and their parents.
The Flip will be used more frequently for less complicated quick hits, such as breaking news. Hey, if Tom Coons’ sixth-graders at Maple Avenue Middle School can use them (see the Feb. 5 story by Mareesa Nicosia), so can we.
We’re still learning to think now, as in right now, about getting news online. We’re learning to think of the different ways you want to receive news, and how to make them complementary, not repetitious.
As fun as the Flip is, Paton recognizes we’re not about games and gimmicks. We’re only as good as our content. No matter how the news is gathered and reported, it must be timely, compelling, relevant, complete and credible.
That has always been our job, going back to The Saratogian’s start in 1855. And it will still be our job, whether you’re reading news delivered to your door or to your iPad.
Barbara Lombardo is managing editor of The Saratogian. Readers may e-mail her at blombardo@ saratogian.com.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tomorrow's journalists tour The Saratogian

In a few weeks, a den or two of Tigers will be coming to The Saratogian.
They are the youngest of the Boy Scouts. Each year a new group comes for a tour to earn a communications badge.
I enjoy showing off what we do here, although tours were more fun when we had a printing press in the basement. Now, like a lot of media companies, our press is at another site and our pages are transmitted by computer.
So the kids get to see a bunch of people working at computers, like in a lot of offices. We make it more exciting by having them talk to a real live news reporter or sports writer and to watch an editor designing the front page of the paper. And we can let them peek at all the photographs from around the world that The Associated Press makes available to its members.
We're trying to arrange for students who are involved in their school newspapers to come here, too.
Tomorrow's editors, reporters and photographers are in today's classrooms and dens. To learn more about coming for a tour, e-mail me at blombardo@saratogian.com.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Are you as smart as a sixth-grader?

So I left yesterday morning's social networking class extremely enthused and maybe a little confused about where to start first and how best for The Saratogian to make use of Facebook and LinkedIn and whatever else has been created in the last 24 hours.
And yesterday afternoon, I took my first 30-second video in the newsroom, pointing the flipcam at reporter Mareesa Nicosia while she discussed an upcoming story with Assistant Managing Editor Betsy DeMars. I figure I will incorporate that into a column for the print and online versions of The Saratogian ... maybe later today.
Then this morning I unfolded my home-delivered Saratogian to read that sixth-graders at the Maple Avenue Middle School, under the direction of Tom Coons, are learning to do the same thing with these lightweight cameras and a whole lot more, including video animation and graphics for computer presentation. They're also using Power Point, which is old hat for students.
Right next to that feature is a story about the Saratoga Springs Police Department's Facebook page, which has been created is in addition to the departmet's Web site. You can hear Chief Chris Cole talk about the page on a 30-second video taken for The Saratogian Web site by our newest reporter, Patrick Donges.
And if you have a few more minutes, you can watch sports writer Stan Hudy's video of the senior and parents night for the Saratoga Springs High School ice hockey team at www.saratogian.com.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

On board the new tech train

Last week I created a Facebook page. Yesterday I practiced writing a 140-character Tweet. At 8 tomorrow morning I will be at a session being offered at Longfellows for people wanting to learn more about social networking. And shortly after that, I'll be trying out a flipcam, which will be used by Saratogian staffers to tell parts of stories with quick video.
The new tech train is moving, and I intend to be on board.
I'll keep you posted on how it goes ...