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.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Onion-Corn Debate Should Make Taxpayers Weep

They can bring tears to your eyes. But the debate between state senators and assembly members over whether to make corn or onions New York's official vegetable is enough to make a person weep.
With all the major issues on the Legislature's plate, lawmakers ought to be embarrassed to be serving up something so trivial.
I like the suggestion on to combine the veggies and compromise on the cornion. It could turn out the only legislation that they actually agree on.
Add lima beans and we could have sufferin' succotash with a kick -- and a kick, out of office, is the only cure for what ails the Legislature.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Secret Gardens Tour this Sunday

Every year I vow to have my best garden ever. Even when that’s true, I still have miles to go before attaining anything close to a “wow” garden – like the kind that will be on the Sunday (June 26) Secret Gardens Tour.
If you missed The Saratogian preview of what’s on the tour, check it out at
I’m a member of Soroptimist International of Saratoga County, the local branch of a professional women’s public service organization. The garden tour is one of two big fund-raisers that the club organizes to benefit programs such as Project Hope and Power, a series of classes that help local domestic violence victims obtain their legal and financial independence.
The tour, in its 17th years, is two weeks earlier than usual because the Soroptimist International’s international conference is taking place in Montreal, close enough for Saratoga members to attend. The garden tour is so labor intensive that we couldn’t have members heading to Montreal and still staff the garden sites. The date change will allow for some new views of perennials that bloom in June.
Tickets for the tour will be available at the Saratoga Springs Visitor’s Center beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday. The tour runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn more at

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

From one yearbook editor to another: Hold your head high

The creation of a high school yearbook is the year-long labor of love and dedication of a handful of students. It culminates with the distribution of the books, as eager students leaf through pages to see themselves and their friends and gather signatures on the end papers. I know. I was editor of The Torch at Voorheesville High School, Class of 1972.
The experience brought together many challenges of publishing that served me well as a backdrop for the newspaper business. Planning the content. Selecting a theme. Setting up photos. Selling advertising. Making deadlines. Designing the book. Laying out the pages. Proofreading. Making fixes. Proofreading again. Handing your baby over to the printer, fingers crossed. Finally, distribution day, hoping that fellow students will consider this a keepsake worth keeping. And that was, for me, on top of a full class load, applying to college, cashiering at the Grand Union, and other activities.
The yearbook was, for me, a big responsibility, taken seriously, and produced with care. That’s exactly the way it’s been this year for Britta Moberg at Saratoga Springs High School.
When I saw her listed as co-editor of the yearbook, I smiled. I know her! And I wondered, where did she find the time? During the fall semester Britta was an intern in The Saratogian’s composing room, where ads are created. She saw her involvement in the yearbook as an opportunity to get even more experience in graphic arts. Not to mention lessons in organization, management, accountability and a heck of a lot of hands-on work.
Adult assistance, she told me today, came from longtime yearbook adviser Ed Brandt. She described for me how Brandt painstakingly proofread the yearbook, insisting on quality work. This was the first year all the photos were placed digitally. Somehow, the altered smile of one senior was overlooked on the screen and on a black and white proof of the page.
I can see how that can happen. It’s not something you’d be looking for among the hundreds of pictures. Yet when you open printed book and look, out jumps what appears to be an amateurish attempt to put a yellowish blob on a couple of teeth. Living in the glass house of publishing, I am reluctant to throw a stone for missing this.
Speaking of throwing stones, shame on the online commenters who are blasting the yearbook students for the doctored picture. Yes, it appears to be an “inside job,” and the culprit should be held accountable. The incident was regrettable for the girl whose portrait was doctored, for the boy who was inadvertently “cut out” on the reverse side -- and also for the disappointed students who worked so tirelessly and selflessly to publish this yearbook.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Now it's a story: Police chief admits sexting

Last night I explained to you why I killed a story about a vague accusation about a local public official. I assured you that is there was indeed a story to be told, you’d read it in The Saratogian. This afternoon, you did, online. And it will be across the front page of Thursday’s print edition.

The story is Saratoga Springs’ Weinergate: The city’s police chief, Christopher Cole, sexted lewd messages and photos of his “private parts” to a woman he was seeing. At least one photo of himself was taken while in his office in City Hall.

It’s not a crime for one consenting adult to “sext” to another. But it’s dumb as heck. And it raises a number of questions:

What possesses a city’s top law enforcement officer to think it’s OK to text sexually explicit pictures of himself, to anyone, ever? What does he think he is, a congressman?

Why did the woman, who started the ball rolling by sexting Cole a boob shot, decide she wasn’t having fun anymore?

When the woman tried to complain to the police department’s spokesman, why did he merely refer her to Public Safety Commissioner Richard Wirth rather than report it immediately to Wirth, the City Council member who oversees the police and fire departments?

When it was clear the cat was out of the bag, Cole’s offense was a quick defense – a press release admitting to an error in judgment and noting that the sexting was with a single, 39-year-old woman and that the picture sent from his City Hall office was taken during his lunch break.

My professional dealings with Cole left me with the impression that he has been doing a good job. His lack of common sense is disappointing. As one online commenter said simply, “Don’t tweet your meat.”

Wirth called this a case of two consenting adults "having a personal, adult relationship.” Not exactly. The police chief is a public figure who’s accountable for his behavior and is never really off the clock. Unwelcome sexting could be harassment. And the handling of the attempted complaint needs to be publicly explained. The case is far from over. This is an embarrassment – for Cole, for the police department, and for Saratoga Springs.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

When is a story not a story -- even if it's on TV?

Earlier this evening I assigned a reporter to write a story.
Five minutes ago I killed it.
It was, it turned out, a non-story. But I want to tell you about it because I expect to get calls tomorrow asking why we are “protecting” a local official.
Here’s what happened. One of the TV news channels had a short report during tonight’s 6 o’clock news saying an investigation was under way into possible lewd messages from a high-level local public official. Because the person named is in The Saratogian readership area, we needed to look into it.
The reporter called the person’s boss, who basically said he had received no complaints, official or unofficial, about anything of the kind. The boss said a TV reporter had called asking about alleged lewd messages, that he hadn’t heard anything about it and said he’d look into it (hence the “investigation”).
Now what?
The reporter wrote the story, and it was missing something: Substance. It was tantamount to putting the person in the position of denying a vague, anonymous and unofficial allegation. Would you like to be in that position, in print?
We have an obligation to serve our readers, responsibly. When something appears on TV about our community, we know some people will look to their local paper for more information. Sometimes, like this time, the only story is that there was a story on the TV -- and that’s just not enough. If there is indeed nothing to the story, we will have avoided smearing someone’s character. But if it develops that there is something to the story, rest assured we’ll pursue it and print it.