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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.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Publishing in the midst of whipping winds and power outages

It feels like a race against time: Get the pages to the printer before the power goes off.

For the moment, knock wood, The Saratogian is up and running and so is The Record in Troy, where our printing press is located. I am grateful for everyone who makes the effort to put the news together, and for the carriers who brave the wind and rain to deliver our papers come heck or literal high waters.

I’m in the newsroom right now with Online Editor Emily Donohue and reporter Michael Cignoli, who have been updating, tweeting and facebooking. Erica “Storm Tracker” Miller has some fantastic shots of trees down on Broadway, at the track and elsewhere. Here is an uprooted tree leaning on a power line on Clement Street near Clinton Street from this morning, and a fallen tree in front of the former Border's on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. Luckily, Erica got her Starbucks fix before power went out on that side of the street. This afternoon, things are hopping at Uncommon Grounds, which just filled an order of a bag full of bagels and a holder of coffeee. Those cardboard four-cup holders don't hold up in a tropical storm. But thanks to David L., wearing rain-soaked hat as Son rather than Competing Reporter, for making the run grub run.

Now Matt Donato and Gabe Weintraub are putting together Monday's Pink Sheet -- yes, so far there's racing Monday -- followed by an abbreviated sports section. Angela Valden and Chelsea Kruger are cranking out the remaining news pages.

Join the conversation and let us know how you are coping today.

On Saturday, my husband and I rode back to Saratoga from Colgate along the relatively scenic Route 20 (scenic compared to the Thruway), with green hills, leisurely grazing horses oblivious to Travers Day pressure, and ginormous silver windmills as still as a photograph. A storm is headed this way? Pshaw.

Torn between being the Editor and the Mom, I gave my son Joe my cell phone charger Saturday when we dropped off the stuff that didn’t fit in his car (guitar, golf clubs, broom, Tide). Sure, he had weeks to buy himself a new charger. Yes, he told me he’d just order himself one online. But for my own peace of mind, I thrust mine on him. “Just do me one favor,” I said. “Answer when I text.”

Dumb, dumb, dumb. Now my own phone is down a power bar and I am sweating out the specter of missed communication.

Joe didn’t need my charger, with three housemates who also have phones. He’s 21 and can take care of himself. So explain to me why I left a flashlight equipped with two fresh batteries on his kitchen counter without saying a word about it.

Well, the trees are whipping outside The Saratogian’s Lake Avenue windows. Time to post and get moving on tomorrow’s pages and keeping up to date.

Friday, August 19, 2011

School newspaper a welcome addition to Saratoga Springs High School

It’s great to have a job you can get excited about. That’s how I feel about journalism. It has so many rewarding moments, enough to somehow compensate for the downsides. Rik Stevens, the upstate New York editor for the Associated Press (and a former Saratogian staffer), told students in the class I teach at University at Albany that his journalist father, learning that his son would be following in both his parents’ footsteps, accurately predicted that he’d “hate the hours, hate the pay, but love the work.”

It’s great to see other people excited about journalism, too. I am so glad that Saratoga Springs High School will not only be reviving a school newspaper this fall (hard to believe a school of this size and caliber has been without one), but will also be offering journalism classes.

Earlier this month, a press release came to The Saratogian about the rigorous 2011 Reynolds High School Journalism Institute program hosted by Kent State University in Ohio in July. Flipping through the release, I found the local connection: One of the participants in the competitive program affiliated with the American Society of News Editors Foundation was Jill Cowburn, a teacher at Saratoga Springs High School. Reporter Suzanna Lourie quickly interviewed Cowburn for a news story, which is where I learned the former New York Times television company documentary-maker and producer, who student-taught at Shenendehowa High School, would be introducing a journalism program at the high school. Sixty-three juniors and seniors have already pre-registered for three sections of Introduction to Journalism.

The school newspaper, she said, would at least at first be online only. That’s not only a money-saver, it’s in keeping with journalism’s digital revolution.

My immediate response was to email Cowburn offering a partnership with The Saratogian on this new venture. I was thrilled by her enthusiastic response – as well as by the enthusiastic response from newsroom staffers interested in participating. And, as Cowburn noted in her email to me, this will also provide “some great mutual opportunities for engagement in the community.”

Clearly, Cowburn understands Journalism 101 in 2011.

As Lourie noted in her story, Cowburn recognizes that “all students can gain from journalism’s core critical, creative and analytical skills.”
“Most won’t go on to be journalists, but regardless, they will be more informed consumers of media,” Cowburn said.

And better citizens, I would add. A win for everyone.