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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.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A peek inside the newsroom

Several times a year I conduct newsroom visits for Scouts and their families. The Scouts earn a communications patch, and The Saratogians earn the good will of the volunteers and family members who get peek at the inside of a newsroom.
Usually we pack a good-size crowd into our cozy newsroom. Last night, though, only the Campbell familys turned up —Christa, Scott, Kathryn and Nicholas, a Tiger Scout — so they got a rare personal tour.
It was unusually quiet in the newsroom at 7 p.m.
Most of the news stories were already written and on the website. Editors Paul Tackett and Angela Valden were editing and paginating the print news pages, including a front-page picture by Erica Miller of moose and bear mascots from the Great Escape listening intently to Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy holding a press conference. (Check out the No. 1 Art Slider position on our home page).
Meanwhile, sports writer Michael Cignoli was writing a preview of Saratoga Central Catholic’s Class B quarterfinals baseball game today, and sports clerk Chris Maley was preparing community briefs for publication. Mike and Chris spent a few minutes explaining what they were doing, and Chris showed them the access we professional sports photos through The Associated Press.
I never tire of talking about the news business, so even a one-family audience was fun.
First-graders are no strangers to computers, so the idea of finding the news online was easy to explain to Nicholas. Kathryn, a year older, could rattle of the primary colors, giving me the chance to show them how the primary colors plus black create all the colors you see in print. They got to see and touch the metal plates that go on the printing press, something that may be a quaint memory years from now.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Generic replacement car seat covers can be dangerous

Replacement car seat covers that aren’t compatible with the specific vehicle could be dangerous, especially if the covers block the opening for the side air bags.
“It literally could break your back,” explained Marv Schulz in a recent call to me. “I don’t want to see anybody get hurt.”
Schulz is owner of Pit Road Racing Collectibles on Geyser Road. It’s also a Budget truck rental business. In addition, Schulz is a licensed inspector of vehicles for insurance companies; state law requires a visual inspection when owners are switching carriers.
As part of that inspection, the insurance companies want to know if there are air bags; they aren’t concerned about seat covers. But Schulz is.
“A lot of people don’t even realize there is a side bag,” he said. That includes countless people who aren’t switching insurance carriers but are just buying replacement seat covers.
Schulz estimates that he performs the insurance inspection on more than 200 vehicles a month and that about 10 percent come in with covers that were not meant for the car.
“It’s a very dangerous situation,” he said.
It’s been bothering him for a while, and he finally asked me to help spread the word. So here we are. There’s no law governing replacement seat covers, and maybe we don’t need yet another law. But that places the burden on the vehicle owner to make the safe choice when buying replacement seat covers.
Thanks, Mr. Schulz.