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 22, 2012

American Homecomings: Follow the lives of returning veterans

I cried this morning – happy tears – when I read Paul Post’saccount and watched WNYT’s Mark Mulholland’s video of a little girl in Schuylerville surprised at her school’s field day by the appearance of her father, who was deployed seven months ago. She didn’t know if she’d ever see him again, she said.
Thousands of stories could be told about the men and women who have served the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan and about their readjustment as they return home. People need to hear those stories. And there needs to be a place where people can find and share related news and information.
The Saratogian is providing such a place at through a special project called American Homecomings.
Thanks to being among 75 daily news companies nationwide in the Digital First Media family, The Saratogian is able to bring you special reports that we would not have the wherewithal to provide on a strictly local level – like American Homecomings.
This year-long project includes interactive layers of frequently updated human interest stories, videos, pictures, blogs, news and information for and about returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and their families.
Eight veterans with different backgrounds and challenges and being tracked for the length of the project, and you can follow their lives at American Homecomings. You can also offer your comments, and even share your own stories and pictures.  
As we continue to report on our local veterans and provide live chats on related issues, we also call your attention to American Homecoming at and @AmerHomecomings. They are our stories, too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Saratogian continues as your local newspaper; the land, not the newspaper, has been sold

The city block on which The Saratogian sits, including the building in which I am sitting as I write this, is as of this moment owned by local businessman Frank Parillo, who has the smarts and the wherewithal to acquire valuable property when he sees it.
The Saratogian itself is not — repeat, not — part of the sale.
I want to assure you that we are continuing to do what we do as your local newspaper, er, news company. We’re still here, printing daily and every day expanding our online presence. 

Read a full story about the sale here. 
John Paton, the CEO of our parent company, has made it clear that one way to run a financially viable news company is to reduce so-called legacy costs, like buildings that are not needed for doing business. (Click here to find John Paton's blog) The Saratogian property falls in that category.
Make no mistake, I found this brick building — with “The Saratogian” spelled out on the corner — charming from the day I started here as a reporter, on June 20, 1977. But what I love more than the building is being downtown, in the heart of Saratoga Springs. The deal with Parillo keeps The Saratogian at 20 Lake Ave. for at least the next three years. That’s plenty of time to figure out where our base of operations will be after that. This is an opportunity to open the door, literally, to the community.
Yes, The Saratogian has the charm of an old building: stuffy in the summer, drafty in the winter, and windows that were caulked shut during the French and Indian War. Hard to get nostalgic about a place when half the year staffers wear gloves while they type and sit practically in one another’s laps. Can’t say I’m enthralled by a building whose largest conference room comfortably seats six. And for the last 14 years the printing has been off-site (in the building of our sister paper, The Record, in Troy), so I’ve long gotten over missing the smell of ink and the way the building shook as the press rattled and rolled.
When Col. Walbridge sold The Saratogian to Gannett Co. Inc. in 1934, the editor at the time probably offered the same assurances I offer today: Local news is our bread and butter, our brand, our reason for being.
There was a time when newspapers, and other businesses, abandoned their downtowns and moved to the suburbs, and I worried that we would end up in a sterile building somewhere far from where the action is. Happily, that never happened.
In April of 1985, when The Saratogian switched from afternoon to morning publication, I remember then-Publisher Margo Drobney saying that we need to be available where and when readers want us. At the time, that meant when they started their day.
That philosophy is more imperative than ever: We must be where and when readers want us. Today, that means being available 24/7 on a variety of platforms, in addition to print, and being an interactive company engaged with its community. We are better equipped than ever to meet those obligations.
When Gannett sold The Saratogian to Journal Register Co. in March of 1998, the new owner made it clear that our mission was unchanged: we are the hometown source for local news. We’re still owned by Journal Register Co. and managed by Digital First Media, which operates more than 800 digital and print products in 18 states serving 57 million customers per month.
The impressive reach of Digital First Media allows us to offer readers much more than we could ever provide with our local news resources. Breaking news, features, pictures and videos on topics of general interest — business, health, entertainment, veterans — are just a click away at and through social media. The strength of those numbers is being leveraged to grow readers and advertisers, essential for the financial survival of news companies.
As part of the reduction of legacy costs, Digital First Media has been consolidating and outsourcing some business functions. That does not include the gathering and reporting of local news. We’re going through a spurt of turnover in news and sports, and I am already in the process of interviewing and filling these openings.
I am so proud of The Saratogian staff and how much this small, talented, dedicated crew accomplishes. I love being an integral part of this community. It is exciting to be a journalist during this revolution in the way news is defined, produced and shared. All these things will continue to hold true, wherever The Saratogian staffers hang their hats.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Psst: Toga Tattlers taking over as social scribes

I knew the successor to Jeannette Jordan as The Saratogian social scene reporter would have big shoes to fill.
But I didn’t imagine it would take eight feet to do it.
Yet that’s what we have: Four local women have teamed up as the “Toga Tattlers” to bring the social scene to life for Saratogian readers.
You’ll be meeting the Toga Tattlers in print and online early next week. For the moment, I’ll do just a little tattling. They are, in alphabetical order:
  •  Sage Cerone, the youngest of the Tattlers, is a Saratoga Springs native who professes to have “been on the social circuit since she was old enough to hold her own wine glass” and, like her sister Tattlers, “is a lover of all things Saratoga.”
  • Robin Dalton is a New York City native who moved here in 2007 after falling in love with Matt Dalton and Saratoga. They have two children and one dog, Smushie.
  • Jenny Witte (rhymes with pretty) aptly describes herself as “an energetic mother of three who knows Saratoga inside and out.” She brings extensive blogging and online media experience to the mix.
  • Tamara Valentine discovered not long after graduating Skidmore College that she belonged in Saratoga, and has lived here more than 20 years, raising her teenage girls “just steps from the track.”
There was no shortage of would-be social scene scribes who responded to the job posting. It was gratifying to hear from so many people who thought the job would be fun but also recognized that it’s real work. Besides describing who’s who and what they wore, the social writer for The Saratogian has an important role in letting the community know how these myriad events benefit local organizations, programs and people. And no detail is too small – including the accurate spelling of dozens of names. 
The game plan is for the Toga Tattlers to do their reporting where most people look first, on the Internet. They will have a blog onThe Saratogian website, a Facebook presence, and you can already follow them @TogaTattlers.
For print, we will cull from their online posts so that no readers will be left out. This is a new way of handling social coverage for The Saratogian, so I’ll be most appreciative of your comments and suggestions as we fine-tune the process. Even with four Toga Tattlers, we can’t be everywhere, and an essential component to our coverage will continue to be reader-provided photos and information. 
The Toga Tattlers stood out among the many promising applicants for several reasons. I was intrigued by the hook of a team approach, and I liked the range of ages, interests and backgrounds. They are absolutely at home in the world of Facebook and Twitter. It was critical to have someone who could hit the social media ground running, in flats or heels. They brought to their interview infectious enthusiasm, familiarity with a spectrum of the local social scene and, last but not least, respect for the position and the shoes into which they are so eagerly stepping. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Words (and procrastination) With Friends

May I have a word with you, friend?
It’s about Words With Friends.
For way too many days I’ve been meaning to update my blog. There’s been no shortage of topics to write about. For instance: my son Joe’s college graduation and the torch ceremony at which no one’s hair caught fire, the de-postering and conversion of my working son David’s bedroom to a den, the almost-wrapped-up search for a social scene reporter, the New York Racing Association shakeup (that I didn’t see coming), the grassroots revolt that will be required for public school districts and governments to scale back benefits to stay within the 2 property tax cap without cutting programs, excitement over seeing “Romeo + Juliet” next month at SPAC while acknowledging the financial challenge of maintaining the New York City Ballet’s residency, and my father’s advice about Vicks VapoRub, although applying it to your soles to break up chest congestion is urban myth.
So what finally got me going on the blog? An addiction that took hold this weekend as I lay in bed with Vicks VapoRub slathered on my chest and soles, trying to shake off 10 days of coughing.
After finally updating the operating system on my iPad with the help of IT guru Pete Blanchette, I responded affirmatively to an invitation from Lisa Lewis, editor of The Record in Troy, to play Words With Friends. Two days later, I am itching to see whose turn it is to play this poor man’s Scrabble among the almost 20 games I have going with friends, relatives and colleagues as far away as Johannesburg and as close as, well, 15 feet from my office in the newsroom. I am fighting the urge to check out Words With Friends when I should be catching up on 6,000 emails.
I hope to whip Online Editor Emily Donohue , who was 17 points ahead of me after playing “wad”  earlier today. But I must not succumb to the temptation. I cannot let my blog slide for weeks yet get distracted by … OK, here we go, 21 points for “sills” (along with pluralizing “luger”).
This morning I tossed out a New York Times piece about procrastination that I had clipped and deposited in my stack of bedside must-read articles. The gist of it was to create little reward-like incentives to get things done. So here’s my inducement: Finish a task, add a word. If this works as planned, as everything always does, you’ll be hearing from me much more often.
Your move, Ms. Donohue.

Labels: , , , ,