Upstate Focus, a loose collaboration of upstate New York editorial page editors, tried something new yesterday -- televising a meeting. Several of us gathered at Rochester's public television station, WXXI, to hold a 90-minute editorial board meeting with Gov. Paterson and his budget director, Bob Megna.
This kind of meeting happens all the time -- a paper's editorial board will meet with policy-makers, interst groups, issues experts, advocacy group leaders and the like to learn and to probe viewpoints, part of the process of reaching editorial positions. But this one, titled Answering to Upstate, involved representatives from several papers -- The Buffalo News (me), Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Jim Lawrence, who chaired, and his deputy page editor Jane Sutter), Syracuse Post-Standard (Fred Fiske), Watertown Daily Times (political editor Jude Seymour) and the Elmira Star-Gazette, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin and Ithaca Journal (Dave Kubissa does all three for Gannett). And it was streamed live on the Internet (we had the links yesterday) and then produced for TV and radio. Here, I understand WNED-TV is looking at broadcasting it on its Think Bright channel.
Quick side note -- WXXI's building is prominently labeled the "B. Thomas Golisano Production Center." Didn't hear if anyone welcomed the guv to that.
Anyway, Paterson was open and frank, especially in taking on the Legislature and its reluctance to do what's right for New York, not just for legislators. My favorite line, in a discussion of the engineered incumbency-protection practices that keep returning the same folks to Albany, was "You literally have to sleep with the flies in Albany to get turned out of office." I used that as one of the stand-alone quotes on tomorrow's pages.
We didn't have enough time to get into local issues as deeply as we liked (I didn't get to a planned question on talks with the Senecas over cigarette taxes), but we did cover a lot of ground. Not a lot of news -- that's not primarily what editorial board meetings are for -- but it was a good, detailed exploration of his stands. Paterson handled what his budget guy later called tough questions well. He says the right things -- but it will be a real problem for him to deliver.