Blogs > Fresh Ink

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, August 24, 2010

Will blog post be a charm for reuniting owner with lost Chamilia and Pandora bracelet?

A colleague here at The Saratogian found a lovely and expensive charm bracelet today (Aug. 24) in downtown Saratoga Springs. It has Chamilia and Pandora charms on it.
If this sounds like something you lost, call 583-8715.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Weeding emails from 1,846 to 248 ... make that 267 ...

Late last night, during the Colbert Report, I completed a week-long goal of reducing my email in-box from more than 1,800 files to fewer than 250.
By morning, it was back over 270, but, ever the optimist, I'm hoping to stay on top of the endless incoming pile. Just like I try to keep the actual desk clean. Ha.
Dozens of emails arrive in my inbox every day, and hundreds have been staying there. Many are from you, readers, with suggestions and questions. Many are from my boss, also with suggestions and questions, as well as follow-up notes, directives, attaboys and, once in a while, a what were you (or someone on your staff) thinking. Until recently, many were for opportunities to improve my sex life were I a male in need of a little (or big) boost. And there are dozens of press releases, some of great interest, some of no local value, and a lot that fall in between.
My email address recently changed from to (Journal Register Company owns The Saratogian). The switch was made because lots of emails being sent to the address weren't getting there, and the senders weren't receiving bounce-backs or undeliverable mail notices. I miss the brand in my email address, but it's worth the tradeoff to know I'm getting your emails. The challenge now is to keep up with them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cliche contest: How many can you count?

It seems to be a rite of passage for every reporter to cover an event while precipitation was apparent and to tell readers that "rain did not dampen the spirits of ..."
So I realize this is the pot calling the kettle black.
But when this press release came in from Assemblyman Jim Tedisco's office last week, we in the newsroom couldn't help but chuckle over the strained horse racing references. I counted five. How about you?

Approval of VLT operator will boost Saratoga, protect horse racing industry
Statement from Assemblyman Jim Tedisco

“The race to save horse racing in Saratoga and get Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) at Aqueduct Race Course is about to cross the finish line – which is welcome news for taxpayers, the historic Saratoga Race Course, and the entire thoroughbred industry.”

“After being kept at the starting gate for nine years, Saratoga needs this deal to happen and all that’s left is for the Assembly Speaker to pick the horse. We need to make sure that the $25 million that will be set aside from this deal is wisely spent and will keep Saratoga and thoroughbred racing alive and well.”

“Saratogians deserve a big win here and not more scratches.”

Monday, August 16, 2010

Every letter is important in a job application letter

When I was an intern in the newsroom of the Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, N.Y., the city editor made a show of depositing into the circular file every job application that was sent to "Binghampton."
The lesson was not lost on me.
Now, as managing editor, I receive dozens of unsolicited job applications a year, and dozens more in response to specific postings. I've been trained not to dump applications but to save them for a couple of years.
Well, the two years are up for the "Dear Ms. Picus" letter from a job applicant who had written directly to The Saratogian's human resources manager. The problem? Her last name is Pickus, with a K.
If you can't proofread a cover letter for a job in a newsroom, what hope is there for you as a reporter writing on deadline? (A sloppy application letter is a bad sign for any job, actually.)
The Picus letter is now in that big circular file in the sky, with all the would-be reporters in Binghampton.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A night in Lake George; an afternoon in Williamstown

I'm a shameless hometown booster, but I want to tell you two fun things my husband and I did out of town (but not too far afield) in the past week.
First, we made our second day trip this summer to Williamstown, Mass., for a play at the terrific Williamstown Theater Festival. This time it was "Our Town," the famous play by Thornton Wilder that I don't remember ever seeing. The "stage manager" -- essentially, the narrator -- was Campbell Scott, the son of George C. Scott and an accomplished actor in his own right. After the show we discovered Mezze, a relaxed, fine dining establishment that would do well in Saratoga. Williamstown is only 60 miles from Saratoga Springs, and a pretty drive through the Berkshires (so long as you don't hit rain and fog, like we did last year, on that winding mountain road).
Second, we met old pals who vacation every year in Lake George and joined them for the first time on the dinner cruise about the Luc St. Sacrement. Been on the Minnehaha over the years, but never the big ship and its two-hour cruise. It takes you 14 miles up the 32-mile lake, about as far as the Sagamore Hotel, and then back. You travel mostly through the residential section of the lake, so you see a fair view of the mountains, as well as a lot of big, cool lake homes on the shore and a waterside view of Camp Chingachgook. Took a photo to show my niece, who camped there for a couple of weeks this summer.
Music on the cruise was a little corny at times, but how can I complain about a guy named Lombardo (pretty sure he said it was Dan Lombardo)?

Friday, August 13, 2010

A perfect summer evening: Under the stars at SPAC with the Philadelphia Orchestra

Here's my idea of a perfect summer night in Saratoga Springs: Sitting back in a lawn chair on the grass at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, watching the stars appear while the Philadelphia Orchestra performs Gershwin.
That was Wednesday night.
The weather was beautiful -- a comfortable evening, not too humid. I was glad to see a big crowd, inside and on the lawn. Don't know how many were lured by the post-show fireworks donated by SPAC board member Ed Lewi and his wife, Maureen. That was icing on the cake for fireworks fans.
My husband and I are "sustaining" SPAC members -- a fairly basic membership that helps support SPAC and provides perks like early sign-ups for shows. One perk this year was two free amphitheater tickets to a specific performance of the New York City Ballet or the Philadelphia Orchestra. I picked the Gershwin night, and was glad. And even though the free seats were good ones (in the back of the lower level, right in the center), my husband and I opted for the more informal night on the lawn.
I try to make it to a couple of ballets and a couple or orchestra performances each season. Usually I like the lawn. This year I sat inside twice for the ballet, and I must admit, it's a different experience -- sitting closer to the stage and inside, I was more engaged. But the lawn is still good, especially with the benefit of the screens.
Well, as of this writing, there are six more opportunities to see the orchestra at SPAC. Next Saturday, the final night, is the famous 1812 overture followed by fireworks; that evening used to be an annual tradition for ours and another family, until the kids got too old to corral. But I hope it instilled in them an appreciation for the music and for SPAC.
Remind me sometime to tell you about meeting members of the Philadelphia Orchestra in a hot tub in Ohio, in the spring of 1977.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

NYRA volunteer v.p. belatedly reveals Pataki pay-to-play "request"

How much would you pay to be a state appointee to the New York Racing Association?
Oh, that's right -- you're not supposed to pay anything. You're not supposed to be asked to pay anything.
Not legally, not ethically.
Well, here's an unpleasant peek into the real world.
This morning Jim Heffernan, the vice chairman of the New York Racing Association, and I were panelists at a seminar sponsored by the Saratoga Institute on Racing and Gaming Law. It's part of Albany Law School's program of continuing education for lawyers, and it also serves as a forum for non-lawyers interested in racing-related issues.
Our hour-long panel had to do with NYRA, its financial situation and its relations with the horsemen and the media. The questions were mostly softballs, and the answers explanatory as opposed to controversial. -- until Heffernan volunteered to tell the story about how he got to be on the NYRA board.
I think it was his intention to show how you didn't have to be politically connected or a racing blueblood to be on the board.
But he inadvertently revealed a dirty secret. He explained how he had taken the initiative to apply to the governor's office for a NYRA seat, believing his affinity for horse racing and his track record as a successful businessman with a specialty in restructuring would make him an asset to the board. I think he is right.
Anyway, eventually he moved up the ranks of applicants to the point where someone representing then-Gov. George Pataki told him Pataki would like to appoint him -- and that it would cost him a $100,000 donation to the Pataki campaign.
He said he told the man that was $99,000 too much, alluding to a fund-raiser to which he’d already contributed.
He didn’t cough up any money, and he got the appointment anyway. He did only one thing wrong: Not exposing the pay-to-play directive.
As Heffernan told the story, it took all my self-control to not grab the mike to start questioning him, which wasn’t my role on the panel. Besides, a man in the back of the room did it for me.
What the politician asked you to do was illegal, the man said. Did you report it? Why not?
Heffernan conceded that he did not report it, and didn’t really have an explanation for letting it slide.
Here’s my guess: A pay-to-play “request” is shrugged off as political business, and after rejecting the request he saw no reason to rock the boat and get knocked off the NYRA short list. He was “asked” to make a donation, he refused, and he got the appointment anyway. My impression, and the conventional wisdom, is that Heffernan is doing a heck of a job in this volunteer board position.
Besides, nothing was in writing or tape-recorded. His complaint could have been reduced to a he said/she said dispute. He did say the man is no longer in government, for whatever that’s worth, which is not much.
The end results: A good person is serving the public well. But the system never changes when flagrant violations of the law, not to mention ethics, are waved off as politics as usual.