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Monday musings, from Paladino to Spitzer to Pete and Roger

Cacthing up on a Monday ...

Prospective gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino insists he is not a subsidy developer. This coming from a guy who helped lead the charge to get downtown -- including his Ellicott Square -- declared an Empire Zone and who built the the pricey Waterfront Place, where tax breaks for condo buyers will save them $5.3 million. Please. Paladino has been one of the leading advocates of subsidy programs that have benefited downtown business interests -- and practically no one else. What's next -- advocating for campaign finance reform?

Eliot Spitzer is emerging from exile following his resignation through a growing number of media appearances in which he has weighed in on everything from Wall Street to Kirsten Gillibrand. The other day he said he's not interested in challenging Gillibrand in the upcoming election, but said it in a way that has some speculating about a possible candidacy. Among those saying "Run, Eliot, Run" is a columnist for the New York Daily News. Says Mark Greenbaum: "Spitzer's deep credentials in going after Wall Street fat cats would be a welcome addition to a decrepit Senate body which seems largely uninterested in pursuing the broader reform that many Americans crave."

The Buffalo Pundit is usually spot on, but slamming my boys for their appearance during the Super Bowl? Why, I ought to get my buddy Tony to have a talk with you. 

And, as an added bonus ...

Hey, I can have fun mindless fun on this blog once in while, can't I?


(Follow this blog and my reporting on Facebook and Twitter. Have a story tip or something you want to share? e-mail me.)  

Something cooking for Saturday

No fresh post for today, am tied up with major story involving candidates seeking Ellicott District seat on the Common Council that hopefully will publish Saturday.

In the meantime, the Buffalo Pundit is kicking, ah, butt, and taking names regarding the change in leadership at the Erie County Legislature and assorted political maneuverings involving Chris Collins and Steve Pigeon, among others.

Happy Xmas

War is over

I'd like to reprise my Christmas post of Christmas a year ago, Happy Xmas - War is Over! (If You Want It) by John Lennon.

Unfortunately, the song remains as relevant as the day John Lennon wrote it.

Readers, have a happy holidays, and in this season that mingles spirituality with materialism, let me leave you with these poignant words from Dr. Winston O'Boogie:

"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace."

Think about it.

I'll be back at it Monday.

Warren Buffett and the future of journalism

I'll admit to initially being a bit put off by the title of the speakers panel I'm participating in Thursday: 

"Journalism on the brink: When the daily paper becomes the daily blog, who wins and who loses?"

The again, it's kind of subtle compared to what Warren Buffett had to say this morning on CNBC:

"Newspapers have a terrible future."

Far be it for me to argue with the boss.

Buffett. whose Berkshire Hathaway owns The Buffalo News and a piece of the Washington Post, went on to note the steep decline in newspaper circulation reported last week.

"The truth is fewer people ... are going to be reading newspapers a year from now and two years from now," he said.

It's not the first time Buffett has let his feelings be known. Six months ago, he told the Wall Street Journal he would not buy a newspaper company "at any price. They have the possibility of going to just unending losses.”

I guess now would not be a good time to insert a YouTube video of Timbuk 3 singing "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades."

Instead, let me plug the speakers panel at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. It's sponsored by Buffalo Spree, whose current issue includes a story on the state of local online media.

The panel includes a cast of thousands beyond yours truly: Geoff Kelly, of Artvoice; Newell Nussbaumer, a founder of Buffalo Rising; Marc Odien and Chris Smith of; Alan Bedenko, i.e. Buffalo Pundit, da man among local bloggers; Brian Connolly, online editor here at The News; Ben Siege of Block Blub magazine; Elena Buscarino, editor of Buffalo Rising; and blogger Sharon Bailey.

I think you should show, if for no other reason than to see who can get a word in edgewise.

In the meantime, listen to what new media guru Jeff Jarvis has to say about what the future of journalism will look like.

In a recent post, Jarvis declared:

The future of news is entrepreneurial.

There’s a lot in that statement. It says: The future of news is not institutional… The news of tomorrow has yet to be built…. The structure – the ecosystem – of news will not be dominated by a few corporations but likely will be made up of networks of many startups performing specialized functions based on the opportunities they see in the market…. Who does journalism, why and how will change…. The skills of journalists will change (to include business)…. We don’t yet know what the market will demand and support from journalism…. News will look disordered and messy…. There will be more failures than successes in the immediate future of news….

That statement also holds many implications for sectors of the economy and society: investment (put money into the new, not the old)… public policy (don’t protect and preserve the incumbents but nurture the startups by creating a fertile and level playing field)… education (how do we train journalists when everyone can do journalism? – how do we train everyone?)… marketing (advertising won’t be one-stop shopping anymore and that means it may support news less)… PR (influence will be no longer be concentrated)… technology (there are opportunities here)…

Finally, that statement does not say some things. It does not say that the incumbents’ institutions will necessarily die, only that they have proven not to be the source of innovation and growth in news.

Hey, I think I have my talking points for Thursday.

Follow this blog and my reporting on Facebook and Twitter.

I'm live on Facebook and Twitter -- get in on the action

I'm continuing to experiment with new media tools and have added a Facebook page in addition to the Twitter account I set up several months back. I encourage those of you who follow this blog to track my work through one or both.

In a sense, Facebook will allow me to open yet another reporting front. First there was print, then the blog, then Twitter. Where it ends, who knows. But I'm aiming to find out.

TwitterI've been using Twitter to give readers a heads-up on my latest blog post and will continue to do so. Don't worry, I don't bore people with what I'm having for lunch.

The Facebook page is going to function in part as a feed of my my stories and blog posts at Outrages & Insights. I also plan to post additional content, value-added news, comment and links, if you will. Stuff from me you won't find elsewhere.

Those who sign up to follow me on Facebook can also post comments and content to the page, which allows readers to go way beyond the simple posting of comments on the blog. I'm hoping this helps me build an online community. I'm intrigued and excited about the possibilities.

I was hoping I could build a community around my blog, but I've been disappointed. In retrospect, my expectations were too high. Anonymous posters do not make for a community. Snarky comments, yes. Verbal food fights, yes. But community, no.

Buffalo News policy requires that I keep almost all knucklehead posts up -- unless they really cross the line -- even though I think they are the equivalent of peeing in the pool and driving away many serious minded people who might otherwise have something intelligent to say.

The Facebook page is mine, however, and I will remove inappropriate comments. So, don't libel, don't flame, don't cuss -- in short, don't be a jerk.

The opportunity for mischief is less simply because people posting to Facebook have their names attached to their words. That tends to have a civilizing effect.

FacebookI'm hoping readers jump right in by signing up as a "fan" -- I hate the phrase, but Facebook didn't ask me -- and weighing in. For starters, I'd like to hear from people about what they'd like to see on the Facebook page. I'd prefer that you post your comments on Facebook, rather than the blog.

And if there's some technical wizard out there who has ideas for bells and whistles, I'd love to hear from you. Among other things, I'd like to know if there's a way to feed my Twitter posts directly onto my Facebook page. You can do it on personal pages, but it doesn't appear doable for fan pages.

One word of caution for those who want to "fan" the page. It seems there are two fan pages entitled Outrages & Insights, so make sure you fan the correct one.

How this all plays out, who knows. As I said, this is an experiment. In my business, it's change or die, and, folks, I don''t care how much gray hair I have, I'm stickin' around.

In other words, I ain't singing Pete Townshend's infamous line.

If you're game, and already on Facebook and/or Twitter, you probably know what needs doing to follow me.

If you're new to the applications, you'll need to sign up for an account. Both services are free and registration is simple. Here are the links to register for Facebook and Twitter.

Go for it.

Buffalo in the online world

The new issue of Spree magazine has an interesting story on the state of local online media that asks the question:

Is there a war going on in Buffalo’s online media world? And if so, is anyone paying attention to it? The answers seem to be maybe and absolutely.

I was one of the folks interviewed for the story. News Editor Margaret Sullivan was, as well.

I didn't get into the "war" angle, but instead answered a series of questions posed by Spree Associate Editor Christopher Schobert about what we're doing here at The News and how I go about my job as a blogger. Actually, one part blogger, about three or four parts print reporter.

As I told Schobert:

I think a well-done blog—that is, one where the writer does his homework as opposed to simply venting—can strike a chord with readers who want ‘tell it like it is’ journalism without all the blah-blah-blah that comes with so-called ‘objective reporting,’ which all too often is the byproduct of lazy, timid reporting. But it’s a fine line to tread.

The full Q&A can be found here, along with several others, including Chris Smith and Marc Odien of, two of the sharpest minds in town on this stuff.

Spree is hosting a panel discussion Nov. 5 as a followup to the story. I'll be a panelist, along with the aforementioned Smith and Odien and several others, including Geoff Kelly from Artvoice and Brian Connolly, online editor here at The News.

The theme of the discussion is "Journalism on the brink: When the daily paper becomes the daily blog, who wins and who loses?" The yakking commences at 7 p.m. at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.


Break out the dunce caps

Western New York's community IQ ranks near the bottom of the nation's 55 metropolitan areas with a population of 1 million or more, according to a study done by the Daily Beast that factored in education levels, the presence of colleges and universities, voter turnout and book sales.

Roughly tracking standard IQ tests, perfection added up to 200 points. The average was 100. Brain dead = 0. 

We scored 70.


The score ranked the Buffalo-Niagara Falls MSA 44 out of 55.

Ouch, again.

To further put it in perspective, we rank below the likes of Grand Rapids, Mich. and Birmingham, Ala.

And it's not like the results skewed towards the Sun Belt. Yeah, Raleigh-Durham ranked No. 1, followed by San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland. But Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Denver rounded out the top five and regions including Milwaukee (ranked 15), Providence (22) Rochester (26) and Pittsburgh (27) ranked  much better than us.

Here's what the Daily Beast had to say about WNY, after the obligatory cheap shot courtesy of Willis McGahee:

Its per capita nonfiction buying ranked near the bottom, and the rate of college graduates was in the bottom 10 percent.

I guess this is no big surprise, but it's nevertheless depressing, and underscores what we're up against in trying to rebuild a region that has a moribund economy and dysfunctional governance. Digging our way out is going to take smarts, among other things.

Us, we put a lot of energy into tailgating on Sunday and wigging out about the Bills the rest of the week.

Murder and mayhem

Two crime reports have caught my eye, both of them depressing from a Western New York perspective.

The Daily Beast, Tina Brown's very readable Web site, studied crime statistics provided to the federal government by the nation's colleges and universities and identified the 25 safest and least safe campuses. Buffalo State College made the wrong list.

Meanwhile, a study of homicides in New York State shows that nearly one in five killings is the result of domestic violence. Moreover, the incidence of so-called "intimate partner homicides," the largest category of domestic killings, jumped 25 percent statewide last year, including 45 percent outside of New York City.

The report by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services showed there were five domestic homicides last year in Erie County, up from three the year before, and two in Niagara County, vs. one in 2007.

The Albany Times Union has a story that summarizes the study's findings.

... while only 4 percent of male homicide victims 16 and older were killed by an intimate partner in 2008, the figure was nearly 50 percent for women 16 and older.

"That is a stunning statistic," said Amy Barasch, executive director of the state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, which advises and trains state leaders and agencies

I'm No. 2 and trying harder

Uh-oh, it looks like the FBI is engaged in "dirty politics" as Byron Brown perceives it, but before I get to that bit of news I'd like to share that Outrages & Insights has been selected as the second-best newspaper blog in the state.

The New York State Associated Press Association announced the winners of its annual journalism contest today and Outrages & Insights placed second among newspapers with a circulation over 125,000, which includes the dailies in New York City and Rochester.

While Rochester Slept, by Chad Roberts of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle placed first while Inside Pitch by Mike Harrington of The News was awarded third.

Mel brooks

My posts submitted for consideration included mini-exposes on Tom Golisano's and Steve Pigeon's slime job on Sam Hoyt and the Buffalo Police Department's suppression of crime reports, and, my favorite, the ongoing efforts by village mayors -- including the leader of Farnham, population 322 -- to save their "phony baloney jobs," in the legendary words of Governor William J. LePetomane.

To paraphrase the Elvis album, I guess 629,735 page views can't be wrong.

My live blogging of the crash of Flight 3407 was included in package that took first place for spot news coverage, although I was a bit player in the Herculean task by our staff to cover that tragedy. In all, The News won nine first-place awards.

In the print competition, the AP honored the One Sunset investigation Patrick Lakamp and I did as the top business story of the year in the large newspaper category.

My coverage of the New York Power Authority -- including this story on NYPA bonuses and this piece on how the authority is profitting at the expense of Western New York  -- placed third in the business reporting category.

But enough about me.

Back in City Hall, the FBI delivered a letter to Common Council President David Franczyk on Tuesday that many are reading between the lines to mean the Eliot Ness crowd is looking into the mayor's interceding into the police department's handling of Leonard Stokes when he was ticketed for having a stolen handicapped parking permit on his car.

We already know that the FBI has interviewed at least one of the police officers who was involved in questioning Stokes. Phil Fairbanks, in his story today, reports:

A number of Council members speculated privately that the FBI is probably not interested in the permit issue per se, but may be looking into what the handicapped parking issue reveals about Brown's relationship with Stokes. The question, they speculated, is whether that relationship influenced the city's handling of One Sunset.

 Fairbanks also reports that the city's Ethics Board has swung into action.

In a related matter, the city Board of Ethics voted unanimously Tuesday to ask Brown to respond to a separate Franczyk letter about Stokes and the handicapped permit.

 Board Chairman Douglas Coppola said the request is part of the normal process for reviewing any alleged ethics violation. Brown has repeatedly refused to comment on the permit allegations.

As I said the other day, this story is not going to go away, and the appearance of a coordinated effort by Brown and Co. to "disappear" the incident is only piquing curiosity.

Gone fishing, again

I'm off for the week, will be back at it Monday, Aug. 31.

I'll leave you with Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles singing "Living For The City."

I'll dedicate it to Michael Gainer. Hang tough.

Hit it, gentlemen.

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