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

Saturday, July 14, 2007

How to cover a bar fight

Friday was one of those days at the Freeman when a single story required a lot of hands, but the hard work and long hours paid off.
If you're a Freeman reader, you know I'm talking about the Jim Sottile-vs.-Mari Ann Sennett altercation at Mariner's Harbor.
It's not exactly an average bar fight when the participants are the Kingston mayor and the wife of a district attorney candidate, and we weren't about to treat it like an average bar fight.
The vast majority of the leg work on the story was done by our political editor, Hugh Reynolds, a decades-long Freeman veteran who arguably knows more about the inner workings of Kingston and Ulster County politics than anyone else in town. Hugh -- or Huge, as we like to call him -- nailed down the facts like no one else can, and he created what I believe to be the most comprehensive account of what transpired late Thursday in the bar area at Mariner's.
Paul Kirby, our Kingston City Hall reporter, gets an assist for working the phones to get comments and background from some of the city's key players, and for securing the security camera video of the scuffle. And even I got in on the act, nailing down some of the particulars about police involvement -- or, rather, the lack of it -- from city Alderman-at-Large Jim Noble, who was kind enough to give me a few minutes on the phone even as he was rushing out the door to Friday evening's Children's Day Parade.
And then there's Ivan Lajara -- the consummate behind-the-scenes player whose title at the Freeman, Life editor, doesn't come close to explaining how much he contributes to so many facets of our product on a daily basis or how much he truly is a newsman at heart.
Ivan -- a whiz at all things computer and Internet -- spent the latter half of Friday afternoon and most of Friday evening working to make the security camera video adaptable to our Web site. He started with a video file on a CD, supplied by Mariner's, that we couldn't even view on our Freeman computers because of various compatibility problems, but he ultimately waved his magic wand enough times so that, before the night was up, we -- and all of our online readers -- were able to watch each and every second of the mayor and Mrs. Sennett going toe to toe (or fist to head, or drink to face, as the case may be). A picture -- especially a moving picture -- is worth a thousand words and then some.
I've often contended that newspaper readers don't really care what goes into producing a story; they just want the story available to them once it's written. But this is one of those rare occasions when so many people spent so much time on a single story and did so much good work in the process that I would have been remiss if I didn't trumpet their efforts ... and also say "thanks."
Hugh, Paul and Ivan did a lot of heavy lifting on Friday, and they have my appreciation ... and yours too, I'm guessing.

And by the way ... it seems the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, which covers some Kingston news, also owes Ivan a "thank you." The Record folks note on their Web site that the YouTube video of the fight they posted with their story came from That's the one Ivan prepared and uploaded Friday night at the Freeman office.



Blogger spincity said...

wouldnt a job offer about cover that..ya big porkay

July 14, 2007 at 11:57 AM 
Blogger Elizabeth Patrick said...

Glad to see your blog was posted apres 1AM - says to me you are out there working! - And happy to see you recognize the Sottile/Sennet brawl was BIG news. I hope Kingston can capitalize on this - I, for one, thought it was way funny. Sorry, but have you ever seen the Taiwanese parliament in session? Hand-to-hand combat all the way around. Politics means something, when people care enough to exhibit their passion.

July 14, 2007 at 7:54 PM 

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