Blogs > City Editor's Blog

By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Homeward bound

I’m hittin' the road on Sunday for a little R&R — rest and Rochester-ization.
I’m off from work Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, so it’s a good opportunity to head upstate and reconnect with some friends and family members who I don’t see nearly often enough. I loathe the long drive up the Thruway -- which I’m doing alone (ugh!) — but what’s waiting at the other end is good for the soul.
I’ve already made plans to get together with two friends from my high school days — hard to believe it was more than 25 years ago — and I’ll hook up, too, with my college roommate and his family, my wife’s brother and his family, and my father-in-law and his wife. Oddly absent will be my own parents, who are blowing me off to spend most of the week on Cape Cod with my sister and her family. Can’t blame them, though. I’m one of Cape Cod’s biggest fans and most frequent visitors, and I sure wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to go there. (My time is coming: Rhona, Marc and I are spending a week there in late August. You’ll know I’m there when you notice a weeklong gap in my blog postings.)
The downside to these Rochester trips is that I always eat WAY too much — because the get-togethers with friends and family tend to be at restaurants for lunch or dinner, and I have no clue how to eat light at restaurants. So I’ll have to work off the weight at the end of the trip. Perhaps a long WALK down the Thruway on the way home will do the trick. By my calculations, it should only take a little over four days.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Great marks for Marc

We parents sometimes forget to tell our children how proud we are of them, so I thought I take a moment here to do just that -- and for all to see.
We just got Marc's end-of-the-year report card from J. Watson Bailey Middle School in Kingston, where he was in seventh grade this past year, and I'm pleased to report his average for the fourth quarter of 2006-07 was 92.7, assuring him a place on the school's high honor roll for the eighth consecutive quarter. Way to go, Marc!
(BTW, he's getting MUCH better grades in middle school than I did as a child. I didn't really start to blossom academically until college.)
Oddly, Marc hasn't even seen his report card yet -- he's away at summer camp, where he'll get an e-mail about it from me shortly -- so you, dear readers, are learning about his grades even before he is. Doesn't seem fair, really, but I was in the mood to gloat, and I was stuck trying to come up with a blog topic, so Marc will just have to live with being the last to know.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How to reach more readers

Strange sequence of events in two newsrooms and some unknown reader's home Tuesday afternoon and evening:
About 4:25 p.m., a northbound Amtrak train stuck and killed a man on the tracks in the Dutchess County town of Hyde Park. By about 6 p.m., a short story about the incident appeared on the Web site of the Poughkeepsie newspaper, a competitor of ours. They had it first. We got beat. No sense in denying it.
A short time later, we at the Freeman had enough information to roughly match the Poughkeepsie story, so we wrote it up and posted it on our site.
Around 9 p.m., we picked up some additional key details: The age and gender of the person who was killed, the direction in which the train was traveling (which was wrong on the other paper's site), the correct number of people on the train, and so on. So we hammered out a quick story with all the new material and posted the update on our Web site about 9:15 p.m.
But the Poughkeepsie paper's story remained unchanged. Nothing new at 9:30 p.m. Nothing new at 10, 10:15, 10:30.
Then, an apparently frustrated reader of that paper did his fellow readers a favor and paid us the ultimate compliment: He or she went to our Web site, copied our text and pasted it in the "Reader Comments" area under the outdated story on the Poughkeepsie site, with the heading "From the Daily Freeman."
We're always looking for ways to reach more readers. This is one that never occurred to us.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

States of confusion

Just curious:
Why do the latest TV commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken use an instrumental riff from Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" as background music?

Monday, June 25, 2007

That was the weekend that was

Had a pretty good weekend ...
* High school graduations -- always an arduous tasks for newspapers to cover --went off without a hitch, and our writers and photographers did a great job covering them. (And congrats to Tommy John Wakeman, son of Freeman county Editor Tom Wakeman, for graduating from Kingston High School on Friday.)
* The Angels, my favorite baseball team for the past 30 years, keep winning, winning, winning. And the Yankees -- the team I love to hate, as regular visitors to this blog know -- keep losing, losing, losing. (And can we agree now that this Roger Clemens comeback is a joke? The guy is 1-1 with a 5.09 ERA. And in his first relief appearance in 23 years, he gave up a hit, a walk and an earned run in one inning of work. He's not helping the Yankees; he's HURTING them.)
* Also on the subject of baseball, Ken Griffey Jr. hit two dingers on Sunday to pass Mark McGwire on the list of all-time home run leaders. It's always nice to see a stand-up guy do better than a cheater. (Note to David in DC: If you accuse Junior of being a "juicer," I'll start posting high school pictures of you!)
* Our son left for eight weeks of summer camp yesterday. We'll miss him, of course, but I'm looking at the bright side: Quieter house, I can sleep in, and the weekly grocery bills will be lower.
* The price of gas is actually falling as the summer begins. I've seen $3.08 around here, and I actually saw $2.99 yesterday in central Massachusetts! But then, $3 gas isn't exactly a bargain, so I'm not sure what I'm so happy about.
* And last, but not least, there are now less than eight weeks to go before my family's annual Cape Cod vacation. Can't wait!


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Blasts from the past

It's high school graduation weekend around these parts -- and in many other places, too, I'm sure.
High school was a long time ago for me -- many, many, many years ago, as my 13-year-old son would say -- but I still hold that time in my life very near and dear, and an unexpected benefit of this blogging experience is that it's allowed me to reconnect with some people from back then.
When I started this blog just over a month ago, I wrote to pretty much everyone in my online address book -- including people whose e-mail addresses I'd collected at high school reunions -- to let them know about the undertaking. And though many sent back cordial responses, thanking me for the info and wishing me luck, I honestly didn't know whether any of them would become loyal readers.
Sure enough, though, at least two of those long-ago friends -- a guy named David, who was a year ahead of me in our high school, and a woman named Jennifer, who was in my class -- have been checking in regularly. David often posts comments on my blog -- most recently giving me a good-natured ribbing for suggesting Sammy Sosa has had a steroid-free career, a debate that now has spilled over to David's blog ( -- and Jennifer sent me an e-mail the other day to tell me she enjoys reading what I write.
Also, a woman in Buffalo named Lisa, who I've known since we were 13, has sent along some kind words, and I've even gotten feedback from the brother of one of the drunk driving victims I mentioned in a piece I posted in mid-May. That response touched me the most. I'm sure this man still feels a profound sense of loss, even 26 years after losing his sister, and it meant a great deal to me that he took the time to respond and thank me for my words.
None of this is about ego, mind you. I don't write this stuff in hopes of coaxing compliments out of either friends or strangers. I do it because it's a good outlet for what's going on in my head, it's a nice change of pace after editing other people's work in my newspaper job, and it someday may serve as an interesting record of this period in my life. But if it also helps me get reacquainted with a few long-lost pals, well, all the better.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Observations and ruminations

* I posted a list a few days ago of my 10 favorite things about living in Kingston. I knew I’d leave something out, and I did: Mickey’s Igloo II, the ice cream shop on Hurley Avenue, just up the road from the Freeman office. Every town needs a good soft ice cream joint, and Mickey’s is it in Kingston. (And the place has gotten even better in recent years by adding a full-blown fast-food menu and no longer shutting down for the winter.) So I guess it’s a Top 11 list now.
* I mentioned in my June 18 post that I got stuck in a backup of about 30 cars on Washington Avenue in Kingston, waiting to go through the traffic light at the corner or Hurley Avenue. Did anyone notice that traffic moved through that intersection much more quickly a few weeks ago, when the light was on the fritz and the city had to put up four temporary stop signs? The same thing happened in the spring of 2004, when the traffic light at the nearby corner of Washington Avenue and North Front Street got clobbered by a tractor-trailer. Maybe stop signs are more efficient traffic-control tools than signal lights. They’re certainly cheaper.
* I got my annual AAA membership renewal bill in the mail yesterday. It seems that a single page plus a return envelope would have been sufficient. But no. This mailing contained no less than 10 separate items: the bill, the return envelope (without prepaid postage, of course), an FAQ sheet, a proxy card designating someone to cast votes on my behalf at the AAA’s annual meeting, two separate fliers urging me to sign up for an AAA-sponsored Visa card, a Hertz car rental coupon, a solicitation for a donation to a traffic safety foundation, a pamphlet about the AAA Travel program and an AAA sticker to place on my car. Ten items. No wonder the annual membership costs so much.
* Speaking of bills, why is my Time Warner Cable account number 16 digits long? I mean, for goodness sake, there are only 300 million people in the United States. Even if every one of us is a Time Warner customer (which, of course, is not the case), none of our account numbers should have to exceed nine digits.
* Nice to see Slammin’ Sammy Sosa hit his 600th career home run on Wednesday. That, of course, makes him the career home runs leader among all active players who are not being investigated for steroid use. (Glad to see Ken Griffey Jr. closing in on 600, as well. One can only guess how astronomical Junior’s home run total would be if not for all the playing time he’s missed due to injuries. He easily could have been approaching 800.)
* I see the weekday newsstand price of The New York Times is going up 25 cents, to $1.25. Even $1 was preposterous; $1.25 is downright criminal … though easily outdone by the whopping $5 newsstand price of the Sunday Times. For that much money, the Times’ editor should deliver the paper to my house in person – and bring me breakfast.
* Lastly, congrats to all the local high school seniors who are graduating this weekend. Great job, one and all! Best wishes for future success, and please, celebrate responsibly.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Over the (border)line

Did you hear which song Hillary Clinton finally chose as her presidential campaign theme? "You and I" by Celine Dion -- a Canadian.
Too funny.
You can hear it here:
(And yes, I realize this is a link to Hillary's campaign site, complete with a request for contributions. But please do NOT interpret this as me endorsing her. I honestly have no idea who I'm supporting next year.)


Monday, June 18, 2007

The roads more traveled

Is it just my imagination, or is traffic starting to get heavier around here?
I was on Washington Avenue in Kingston about 9 a.m. today -- coming from the traffic circle (pardon me, "roundabout") toward Hurley Avenue -- and the backup from the traffic light at Hurley went all the way back to the bridge over the Esopus Creek. That's a line of about 30 cars, I'd guess.
An old joke in Kingston was that "rush hour" was defined as three cars waiting at a red light. Those days most certainly are gone -- though I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given the local population influx from the New York City area over the past decade or so. We simply have more people living here, which means more cars, which means heavier traffic. It's a trend that's not likely to reverse.
On the bright side, I'm happy to report that Wal-Mart in the town of Ulster (where I was coming from) is still relatively empty between 8 and 9 a.m. -- plenty of parking near the entrances, aisles not crowded, no line at the checkout. For that, I guess I'm willing to wait in a bit of traffic.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Global greeting

I've been using the Internet since 1993 (not long after Al Gore invented it, I believe), but I still marvel at its ability to connect people around the world in an instant.
I mean here I am, in the basement of my house in Kingston, N.Y., typing something that no one else can see, but all I have to do is click one command at the bottom of my screen, and my writing instantly will be available to anyone in the world who has an Internet connection.
I'm not easily amazed, but THAT amazes me.
So allow me to use this global reach that I have at my fingertips to wish all the dads in the world a happy Father's Day. (I'm a day early, I know, but I plan to spend tomorrow at a water slide park with my son and my wife, not blogging at my computer, so this will have to stand as my official Father's Day greeting.)
Kids, remember to thank your dads for all they've done. Dads, remember to forgive us for all the grief we gave you while growing up (and take solace knowing that our kids are getting back at us on your behalf). And, oh yeah, to David Hasselhoff: Congratulations on winning custody of your kids just in time for Father's Day. Maybe now we won't have to watch any more drunken videos of you trying, in vain, to eat a hamburger.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

The obligatory Top 10 list

I grew up in Rochester and went to college in Buffalo -- both fairly large metro areas -- so I never imagined I'd settle in a small city like Kingston in a rural area like the Hudson Valley/Catskills region.
Friends were off to places like New York, Boston, Chicago, Philly and L.A., and I figured I, too, would be drawn to the bright lights of a big city. After all, the argument goes, big cities have everything you could possibly want and need. Why exile yourself to a small town, where even the necessities of life are hard to come by?
As it turns out, the argument is dead wrong. Even this small community in this rural area, which I've been happy to call home for nearly 20 years, can provide all the things I want and need -- and then some.

Here then, in no particular order, are my 10 favorite things about living in Kingston:
* Everything necessary to my survival (job, shopping, banks, medical care, house of worship, restaurants, recreation, etc.) is within 5 miles of my house.
* I can drive 10 minutes in one direction and be at the Hudson River waterfront or 10 minutes in the other direction and be in the Catskill Mountains. Amazing.
* I don't have to wait two weeks to get a doctor's appointment when I'm sick.
* People know my face and name in the places where I regularly do business -- bank, pharmacy, stores, restaurants, etc. I've never once, since moving here, felt like a number.
* Short lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles office.
* Being able to buy farm-fresh corn on the cob -- at the farm where it was grown!
* The store Judy's 1/2 Off Cards at Kingston Plaza. I went in there today to buy wrapping paper, a bow and a greeting card to accompany a gift for a new baby. Total price: $3.54. No kidding.
* I'm close enough to places like New York City and Albany to get there quickly, but far enough away that I don't have to deal with them on a daily basis. (Same goes for Woodstock.)
* Deising's.
* The new WBPM (92.9 FM). At last, a radio station that plays '70s and '80s music without succumbing to the formulaic classic rock format!

Now if I could just find some good chicken wings around here! Oh, well. For that, I guess I'll have to go back to Buffalo.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Forget Paris -- PLEASE

Former Freeman reporter Kate Heidecker stopped in the office this afternoon and chided me, good-naturedly, about the fact that I hadn't written anything about Paris Hilton since the spoiled brat heiress was sent back to jail last week.
I suppose that's because I, unlike the cable TV news outlets that can't go 15 minutes without talking about this story, understand there's nothing new to report. The judge resentenced her, she cried out for her mommy, and she went back to the pokey. That was Friday. Today is Tuesday. Has anything changed in the past four days? OK, there was that statement she released from jail on Saturday, saying she wouldn't appeal her sentence (how big of you, Paris!); but nothing else is new.
She was in jail on Friday. She was in jail on Saturday. She was in jail on Sunday. She was in jail on Monday. She's in jail today. Does the media need to keep reporting (I mean repeating) this? Do shows like "The Insider" and "Entertainment Tonight" think they're fooling us into believing there are new developments simply because they show a reporter standing outside the jail every evening? Does CNN'er Nancy Grace, who I'm embarrassed to call a fellow journalist, think that keeping the phrase "Breaking Developments" on the screen will trick us into believing her reporting is anything more than rehash?
Enough already. Paris is in jail. She'll be there for another two weeks or so. We don't need to be reminded every day.
And I certainly don't need to write another word about her.
So there you go, Kate. I've written the follow-up that you've been looking for. Now I'm done with this subject. I only can hope the rest of the media will follow my lead.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Damn Yankees!

Anyone who follows baseball knows that fans are divided into two groups: Those who love the Yankees, and the rest of us.
As the above sentence suggests, I'm in the latter group.
I love it when the Yankees lose -- regardless of who they're playing. There's a certain satisfaction to be gleaned from watching players who think world championships are their birthright get their heads handed to them.
I stood in my living room, alone, and cheered when Mariano Rivera imploded in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Diamondbacks. And each of the subsequent years -- especially 2002 and 2005, because I'm an Angels fan; and 2004, because of the Yankees' historic collapse against the arch enemy Red Sox -- made me positively giddy! The Yankees and their fans had to deal with the harsh reality of NOT being the best team in baseball. They had to watch OTHER teams, for six straight seasons, hoist the World Series trophy in October.
So the 2007 season, of course, has been a pleasure -- until last week.
We Yankee haters knew the dismal performances couldn't last forever -- that either the pitching or the hitting would improve, and that the boys from the Bronx would start to make their move. Sadly, we were right.
The Yankees have won their last six games (thanks to better pitching and MUCH better hitting); the division-leading Red Sox have lost six of their last 10; the Yankees have gone from being in last place and 13-1/2 games out of first to being in second place and 9-1/2 games out; and the season still has 3-1/2 months left. Uh-oh.
And the Yankees' next two series, both at home, are against the so-so Diamondbacks and the suddenly awful Mets. Forget about catching the BoSox by September; the Yankees could be nipping at Boston's heels before the All-Star break. Ugh!
But then, 3-1/2 months also is plenty of time for the Yankees to start sucking again -- and for the Red Sox to right the ship. So all hope is not lost.
And even if the Bombers somehow find their way into the postseason, I -- and the rest of us -- take great solace in knowing that, since roughly the turn of the millennium, October has been the cruelest of months for the players in pinstripes.


Saturday, June 9, 2007

The SUNY side of the street

I can't help but notice that some schools in the State University of New York system are running away from the "SUNY" tag, while others are running toward it.
For years, the SUNY system has had four "university centers" (Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook), numerous liberal arts colleges (the group that includes such sites as New Paltz, Oneonta, Oswego, Plattsburgh and so on), a couple of two-year "ag and tech" schools and all the community colleges (including, locally, Ulster, Dutchess and Columbia-Greene).
The university centers long were known as "SUNY Albany," "SUNY Buffalo" and so on. New Paltz, formally, was "SUNY College at New Paltz." (Note the slight difference.) And each community college, in general, was known by the name of its home county followed by the words "community college."
But a funny thing happened on the way from the 1980s (when I went to a SUNY school) to the 21st century: The four university centers started referring to themselves with names that didn't include the word SUNY, while the community colleges added the acronym. All of a sudden, we had "The University at Albany," "Binghamton University," "The University at Buffalo," "Stony Brook University" and, as you know if you live in these parts, "SUNY Ulster" instead of Ulster County Community College. (The names of the liberal arts colleges remain largely unchanged.)
I understand the motivation of the community colleges. The phrase "community college" long has had a stigma -- unjustified, in my opinion -- that suggests a glorified high school where kids go if they can't get accepted to a "real" college. If changing the names of these schools to incorporate the acronym "SUNY" helps eliminate that stigma, all the better (albeit a bit misleading).
But let that be a lesson to the four university centers (Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook): SUNY is NOT a four-letter word. People will NOT think less of you if you include it in your name. The colleges operated by the State University of New York offer OUTSTANDING educational opportunities. Being called a SUNY school is NOT cause for shame.
I went to a SUNY school. So did my sister and my wife, both of whom now have successful sales careers. So did numerous staff members at the Freeman (including our publisher). So did VH-1 General Manager Tom Calderone (a classmate of mine). So did actor John Turturro. And so did countless other people who went on to accomplish great things in life.
And I don't think any of us are embarrassed to say we went to a SUNY school.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Paris the thought!

Paris Hilton is out of jail?
Are you freakin’ kidding me?
After serving three days of a 45-day sentence?
Are you freakin’ kidding me?
(The L.A. sheriff, by the way, says she actually served five days because – wait for it now – she checked in just before midnight on Sunday and checked out around 2 a.m. Thursday. Get it? Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Five days. Seriously. The L.A. sheriff considers an amount of time just over 72 hours to be five days. Seriously.)
But I digress. Allow me to get back on track here.
She was let out for "medical reasons”?
Are you freakin’ kidding me?
Did she have a tummy ache? A stubbed toe? An allergic reaction to inmates who have less money than her?
How serious a medical condition could she have had less than four days after posing for the paparazzi on the red carpet at the MTV Movie Awards?
And since when does having a minor medical problem warrant a get-out-of-jail-free card? (What’s that, Mr. Manson? You've got a paper cut on your finger? Oh, by all means then, feel free to go home and serve the rest of your sentence there. Just make sure to wear that electronic monitoring thingy on your ankle and promise not to go anywhere.)
Maybe I should try this: Commit a crime, get myself sentenced to a month or two behind bars, go to jail, then ask to go home after a few days because I don’t feel well.
I’m pretty sure I know what the sheriff’s response would be:
"Are you freakin’ kidding me?"


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The never-aging women in my life

Today is my mom's birthday. She keeps telling me she's 29, or 39, or something like that -- which is odd, beacuse I'm 43.

Oh, well. Mothers are always right ... right? So happy 29th birthday, Mom. Or 39th. Or whatever you're claiming this year.

Now that I think about it, my wife insists that she, too, turned 29 on her last birthday -- which also is odd, because we're celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary this coming September. That would mean we got married when she was 9. Gee, it seems I would remember something like that.

Oh, well. Wives are always right ... right? So happy belated 29th birthday, Rho.

My birthday isn't until August, so I guess I still have some time to decide how old I'll be turning this year. I'm leaning toward 2 or 3. That way, my mother will have to tend to my every need.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Good news, bad news

We in the newspaper business often hear complaints that our pages (and nowadays our Web sites) are filled only with bad news; that we don't print enough stories about good things going on in the community.

In fact, we at the Freeman have long made it a point to publish upbeat front-page features, on a regular basis, about the people and places that make our region a nice place to live. And we put these stories on our Web site (, making them easily accessible to all.

I find it interesting, then, that -- according to the latest tally on our Web site -- our five most-read online stories of the past week are as follows:
"Police seek missing woman."
"Crash in Lloyd kills Poughkeepsie woman."
"Phoenicia man arrested on multiple charges after shot fired."
"Cops catch robbery suspect."
"Teacher, aide charged with raping two 16-year-old boys."

The good-news stories are there for you. We hope you read them, too.


Monday, June 4, 2007

Signs of the times

I hate it when people tinker with street signs.
It's a common prank around here -- and in many other places, too, I'm sure -- to either reverse the street names on a sign at a corner or remove the sign altogether. This morning, for example, I noticed the sign at the corner of Green and Main streets in Uptown Kingston had been reversed so that Green appeared to Main, and Main appeared to be Green.
This may seem like harmless fun to the people who do it, but consider the impact on, say, an ambulance driver trying to respond to a reported heart attack and getting lost because a street is mismarked; not to mention the impact on the person having the heart attack. So much for harmless fun.
Or, heaven forbid, someone finds it humorous to remove a stop sign. No one involved in the resulting crash would be laughing, I assure you.


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Forget Paris

Some observations from watching too much TV:
* I heard this morning that Paris Hilton won't be allowed to give TV interviews during her upcoming 45-day jail sentence. Now if we can just get TV news shows to impose their own 45-day moratorium on Paris stories.
* ESPN Classic has started showing reruns of "American Gladiators." It's as bad as it was the first time around, yet strangely addicting.
* Did you ever notice the YES Network's "Yankee Classics" broadcasts never feature a game the Yankees lost? C'mon, guys -- just ONCE, show Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Diamondbacks or any of the last four games of the 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox. Classic games, every one of them.
* Tropical Storm Barrry has formed in the Gulf of Mexico and is headed for Florida. It isn't packing much of a punch, but you can be sure The Weather Channel will spend every free minute talking about it -- and overexaggerating its potential for damage -- until the last raindrop falls.
* Does Comedy Central have any movies in its library other than "Dogma," "Joe Dirt" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"?
* "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" is a great show. It's a shame that no one watches it and it's probably headed for cancellation.
* A poll in my son's middle school yearbook found that "Full House" is one of the three most popular shows among the student body. What does it say about the state of current TV when kids are less interested in new shows than they are in reruns of a show that went off the air 12 years ago? (It says TV shows were better 12 years ago -- which is true.)
* I love watching live camera shots of the weekday morning traffic backups at the bridges and tunnels in New York City. Then I get in my car and make the three-minute drive from my house to the Freeman office.
* I watched those Allstate commercials for something like two years before realizing the pitchman, Dennis Haysbert, is the same guy who played Pedro Serrano in the movie "Major League." I didn't recognize him without his Cuban accent and voodoo dolls.