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Some possibilities for the soon-to-close Millard Gates Hospital complex

I toured the impressive new Gates Vascular Institute this week, where Buffalo General Medical Center and Millard Fillmore Hospital are combining their emergency departments and creating a new hub for vascular medicine.

You can get a pretty good workout walking around the place, which has a footprint of a full acre.

A week from today, the ER at Millard Fillmore Hospital at Gates Circle will be no more, and the hospital will close its doors after more than 100 years, with hundreds of employees moving from one place to another.  It's a monumental change.

From a patient's point of view, "Get to Gates" will mean going to Ellicott and North streets, not Delaware and Lafayette avenues.  Here's News Medical Reporter Henry Davis' recent report on the project.

But what about the massive hospital complex that's left behind? 

So far, 17 parties -- local and national developers and architects, as well as people who aren't in the development business but have ideas nonetheless -- have shown interest in developing the site, according to Michael Hughes, Kaleida Health vice president and chief marketing officer.

Some, no doubt, are spurred by a $1 million incentive, as The News reported last month; others  are attracted by the location or the character of the neighborhood.

Formal RFPs (requests for proposal) are expected within 30 days.

What are these ideas, exactly?  Are we looking at high-end condos? Medical offices? A Nordstrom store with a really great shoe department? 

What's most likely is "mixed use" -- residential, office and retail -- though details aren't yet available.  But, Hughes said, Kaleida is committed to doing right by the old site: "We want to make sure the community is satisfied with the result of the reuse process."

He added: "We don't want another Statler situation. Having a boarded-up or vacant building there is not an option."





Spring fever, Buffalo-style: Let's just go ahead and feel good about it

ImagesThe poet Emily Dickinson put it this way:  "A little madness in the spring/is wholesome even for the king."  

On this, the vernal equinox (also known as the first day of spring), Buffalo News editorial writer Kevin Walter has a different take on the craziness of our recent weather.

"Do we deserve spring?" he asks in a light-hearted editorial today.

"Where were the biting winds that made the walk from the parking lot or Metro stop so miserable?  Where were the mountains of snow and the sidewalk slush?  Where was the suffering?"

Today's temperature will hit 70 decrees again, and the warm-weather trend will continue all week.  It's downright weird:  People are biking, strolling, eating ice cream outdoors, possibly even falling in love at an unforeseen pace.

But is all this insane happiness misplaced?  A stretch of 70-degree days in mid-March Buffalo can't be right, can it?

We turn to Michael Lemonick, the former Time magazine science writer who teaches at Princeton and writes the "Climate Central" blog:

"As the planet has warmed, many of these spring events have been creeping gradually earlier, a direct result of global warming," he writes.  "What once would have been a smoothly integrated ecosystem can go haywire." 

He notes, a bit anxiously:  "I’m not sad to see the flowers starting to bloom. But I’d also like the local ecosystem to survive intact over the next several decades."

Images-1Chastened, we turn to a different poet.

John Keats -- though presumably unaware of future climate change -- gave voice to the dark undertones of a brightening season in these lines from "Isabella":

"Even bees, the little almsmen of spring, know there is richest juice in poison-flowers." 

This blog was posted at 1:14 a.m., the moment that the Buffalo winter gave way to the new season.  If you're reading this, it's spring. Here's a slideshow from the Huffington Post of spring photos from around the world -- or you could just walk outside and look around for yourself.








As Springsteen's Buffalo date nears, he's still proving it all night

1258946593_5969On May 9, 1974, the influential music critic Jon Landau was in the audience at the Harvard Square Theater when a rocker named Bruce Springsteen opened for Bonnie Raitt.  When he wrote about the concert in The Real Paper, he made a proclamation that became famous: "I have seen the future of rock and roll and its name is Bruce Springsteen."

He also wrote: "Springsteen does it all. He is a rock 'n' roll punk, a Latin street poet, a ballet dancer, an actor, a joker, bar band leader, rhythm guitar player, extraordinary singer, and a truly great rock 'n' roll composer ... There is no one I would rather watch on a stage today." 


Now, nearly 38 years later, Springsteen is out with a new album, "Wrecking Ball," and his tour will make a stop at First Niagara Center on April 13.   He's hardly stopped to catch his breath since that career-making show in Cambridge. 

Thanks to News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers who handed me the new disc a week or so ago, I've been listening with appreciation to The Boss' latest.   Miers' review gives the disc 3.5 stars (of a possible 4) and calls its commentary on a nation gone wrong "incredibly sad."

Here are a few related items from recent days:

* An excerpt from Jon Stewart's interview with Springsteen from Rolling Stone magazine

* A talk by Springsteen last week at Austin's South by Southwest music festival.  The audio clip is from NPR.

* Rolling Stone's review of Springsteen's show at the Apollo Theater earlier this month -- the kickoff of the tour -- which calls newcomer Jake Clemons on sax "the MVP of the evening." (He's the nephew of the great Clarence Clemons who died in June of last year.) 

The photo above captures one of the most memorable moments from Springsteen's  Nov. 23, 2009, show in Buffalo, shot by News photographer Robert Kirkham. (See the full photo gallery here.) That was the landmark gig that wrapped up the E Street Band's last world tour. 

For those keeping track, it's 25 days, and counting, until Springsteen takes the stage in Buffalo again. 

The 'Doonesbury' abortion strips: How it shook out at newspapers across the country and right here

So how did it all turn out?  Over the past week, about 70 newspapers across the country pulled from their printed pages some controversial "Doonesbury" cartoons that dealt with a Texas law requiring women to get a "transvaginal sonogram" before an abortion. 

 Here at The News, we moved them from the daily comics pages to today's Viewpoints section, where all six appear on Page G3 with an explanatory note.

This Washington Post roundup describes what happened at other papers, including an inventive treatment of the matter by political cartoonist Pat Bagley of the Salt Lake Tribune.  The Tribune was among some of the large papers in the country where the strips did not run, including the Los Angeles Times, the Portland Oregonian, the Orlando Sentinel and the Arizona Republic.

Meanwhile, at The News, we're strongly considering a permanent move for "Doonesbury" to our daily Opinion pages and Sunday Viewpoints section.  This week's strips brought into sharp focus the fact that Garry Trudeau's creation is not really a "comic strip," but a political cartoon. And in this season leading up to the presidential election, it's unlikely the strip will become less political.

Trudeau's biting commentary deserves a place in The News, but probably not on the comics pages next to "Family Circus" and "Garfield."  The opinion pages seem like a better fit.  Stay tuned.

 

With a public radio retraction, a new look at Apple's labor abuses in China and Mike Daisey's story

Not long ago in this blog, I wrote about having seen a production, in New York City's Public Theater, of a play called "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." Mike Daisey's self-written monologue powerfully drove home the ugly contrast between Americans' love for its latest sleek gadgets and the inhumane conditions under which they are produced in Chinese factories -- child labor, poisoning, hideously long hours worked for a pittance. It made for a deeply affecting night at the theater.

Daisey's play, and an extroardinarily popular piece on the same subject that aired Jan. 6 on public radio's "This American Life," brought much-needed attention to the way Chinese workers are treated. The New York Times wrote stories on the same subject, angry consumers signed petitions, and Apple began to reform its practices.

Now comes a curveball.  "The American Life"  is retracting its piece, saying that -- after an investigation -- it has good reason to believe that Daisey mispresented parts of his story. Plenty of airtime this weekend will be devoted to this topic.

Here's what Daisey had to say in his own defense:

"I stand by my work. My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge. It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity. Certainly, the comprehensive investigations undertaken by The New York Times and a number of labor rights groups to document conditions in electronics manufacturing would seem to bear this out."

And he's right. The problem is, he presented his findings as if they were established and verified fact -- not "a combination of fact, memoir and dramatic license." There's a difference, and it has plenty to do with the trust established between the teller of the tale and his audience. Author James Frey found that out when, in 2003, he published a "memoir" about his drug addiction -- "A Million Little Pieces" -- that turned out to be less than completely factual. All hell broke loose.

Readers (and radio listeners) don't like to be lied to and they don't like to be duped.

One of the sad parts of this is that Daisey's misrepresentation erodes the good that was beginning to come from his work. It's all too easy now for Apple and American consumers to shrug and turn away from a very real problem.

Here's a New York Times story on the controversy, including the full statements from Daisey and This American Life's Ira Glass. And here's one from the Wall Street Journal on the same subject. The Times is standing by its reporting on Apple's labor abuses in China, which make many of the same points that Daisey's play did.

Coincidentally, the last performances of the Daisey play's return engagement at the Public Theater are tonight and tomorrow afternoon. Now that ought to be an interesting place to be.

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Note to readers: "This American Life" is produced by Chicago Public Radio, not National Public Radio as an earlier version of this post indicated.

 

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As Maureen Orth inspired, Tim Russert's spirit looked on -- as did his grade-school nun

CNS-THURS-2-Mercy-sisterThe crowd in the Nardin Academy gym was heavily female Wednesday night, as the accomplished and groundbreaking journalist Maureen Orth gave a moving keynote address to the third annual Nardin Forum.  News reporter Harold McNeil summed up her remarks well in this story in today's News, and photographer Harry Scull captured the images.  It was a night for and about women, so it was unsurprising that, amid all the students, alumnae, parents and visitors, there was hardly a man in the room.

 Still, one sensed that Orth's late husband, Tim Russert, the celebrated NBC newsman from South Buffalo, might have been there in spirit.  Russert, the moderator of "Meet the Press," died suddenly in June, 2008.  (Their son, Luke, is now an NBC journalist.)  

At any rate, his memory was well represented by several of the women present.  Not only by his widow, Maureen Orth, but by two of those accompanying her: his sister, Kathy Russert, of Hamburg, and his seventh-grade teacher at St. Bonaventure Elementary School in South Buffalo -- Sister Lucille Socciarelli, a Sister of Mercy.   Orth mentioned both of them, and others in her party, from the podium.   Her shout-out to Sister Lucille was greeted by some knowing nods, since Russert often gave her credit for giving him his start in journalism at the grade-school paper, the Bonnette.   (Here's the eulogy for Russert that Sister Lucille delivered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on June 18, 2008.  The photo of them above is from 2006.)

But Orth herself may have most clearly invoked Russert -- who for many years was the nation's best-known Buffalo Bills fan.  Her opening remarks included this line, delivered with real feeling to the crowd of some 500 Buffalo women: "I hope you get Mario Williams." 

Famed 'Olive Garden' restaurant critic Marilyn Hagerty, 85, in the Big Apple

Hagerty-nyc[1]Marilyn Hagerty's 15 minutes of fame has been extended, by popular demand.

The 85-year-old restaurant critic for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota became a worldwide sensation last week when her earnestly admiring review of a chain restaurant went viral.  She described the new Olive Garden as "the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks."  Food snobs found her review hilarious, but Hagerty won hearts with her matter-of-fact responses about how she does her job.

Now, through the good offices of none other than uber-chef Anthony Bourdain, Hagerty is in Manhattan, where she'll dine at Le Bernardin, probably the most celebrated French restaurant in America.  She's also joining CNN's Anderson Cooper for a visit to the Olive Garden in Times Square and maybe even catching a lunch with Michelle Obama.  (She's shown in the AP photo above arriving at LaGuardia airport.)

This brief piece in the Village Voice welcomes the North Dakotan to Manhattan. 
Meanwhile, her son, Wall Street Journal reporter James R. Hagerty, gets some mileage out of mom's fame in this entertaining piece.  And here's the New York Times account of her first encounter, this afternoon, with a New York City hot dog vendor and his wares, right down to the soggy onions.

The greater meaning of Mrs. Hagerty's moment in the sun?  Sometimes it's cool to be down-to-earth. Chalk one up for regular folks.

In The News, a change of venue for a week's worth of especially edgy 'Doonesbury' strips

For four decades, Garry Trudeau's "Doonesbury" comic strip has specialized in edginess and controversy -- often quite brilliantly. In the strips scheduled for this week, Trudeau has gone a step further than usual as he  lampoons a new Texas law that requires women to have an invasive "transvaginal" ultrasound procedure before an abortion. 

His treatment of the touchy topic has caused an estimated 40 to 50 newspapers to pull the cartoons, instead substituting some older Doonesbury strips this week.

"For some papers, phrases such as 'slut' and '10-inch shaming wand' were a bit too hard to take," the Baltimore Sun reported. "The harshest bit of dialogue may be the day-four bit comparing a transvaginal sonogram to rape."  

Like some other newspapers editors across the country, I thought the strips -- given that language as well as their depiction of a woman with her feet in stirrups in an abortion clinic -- were inappropriate for our comics pages, where readership is more likely to include children. They won't appear there this week, but they will appear in print in The News on Sunday. 

We will run all six of the daily strips in a single block in this Sunday's Viewpoints section, amid other political cartoons, with an explanatory note.  This allows our readers to see the strips in print in a more appropriate context, on our largest circulation day.  It also gives parents plenty of warning in case they want to keep children away from them, and allows adults who want to avoid the strips to do so more easily.  In the meantime, interested readers can keep up with the daily strip online at doonesbury.com.

In a Washington Post interview with Trudeau, he talks about the topic:

"I chose the topic of compulsory sonograms because it was in the news and because of its relevance to the broader battle over women’s health currently being waged in several states. For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to re-litigate reproductive freedom, an issue that was resolved decades ago. Why [Rick] Santorum, [Rush] Limbaugh et al. thought this would be a good time to declare war on half the electorate, I cannot say. But to ignore it would have been comedy malpractice."

News readers can judge that for themselves in Sunday's Viewpoints section. 

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Christopher Fahey and Michael Kearns face off in The News' first live web debate Tuesday at noon

We're going to make a little history at noon Tuesday when reporters Robert J. McCarthy and Brian Meyer moderate The News' first live debate from our newsroom studio. 

The participants in the 30-minute session are the candidates for the 145th state assembly district:  Michael P. Kearns (a Democrat running on the Republican line) and Democrat Christopher J. Fahey.

We hope to accomplish several things:

* Raise the profile of a special election that is, unfortunately, expected to bring very low turnout.  The election, to replace Mark Schroeder who ran successfully last fall for city comptroller, is on Tuesday of next week (March 20).

* Introduce the candidates -- particularly Fahey, who is a virtual unknown -- to the electorate.

* Inform voters of the issues in the campaign in a different way than our usual reported stories.

The district, which includes parts of South Buffalo, Lackawanna, Hamburg and West Seneca, is heavily Democratic -- about 45,000 Democrats and 21,000 Republicans.  Kearns, a Common Council member and former mayoral candidate, is fairly well known.  Fahey is backed by Congressman Brian Higgins and has the endorsement of the local AFL-CIO.

"I'm hearing that it's going to be a close race," McCarthy, the News' political reporter and columnist, told me Monday.
 
He added: "These are two worthy candidates who present a clear choice, and this is a great way for people to get to know them."

We hope you'll join us at noon to watch the debate live, or catch up with it later at BuffaloNews.com.   The debate will include two questions from readers.  You can submit suggestions to McCarthy by emailing him at [email protected].

Separately, The News editorial board will endorse one of the two candidates in Thursday's paper.

The venerable New Republic's booster shot of new media from Zuckerberg's Harvard roommate

246598-chris-hughes-co-founder-of-facebook-speaks-at-the-charles-schwab-impacThere was Mark Zuckerberg's social experiment with Facebook (and we know how that turned out -- we now share what we had for breakfast with hundreds of "friends" we've never met). 

And now there's a journalistic experiment about to begin, courtesy of Zuckerberg's college roommate.

Chris Hughes, fresh-faced and 28 years old, has bought a majority stake in the century-old New Republic magazine, thus becoming its publisher and editor in chief.  

Founded by Walter Lippmann in 1914, the well-respected magazine has struggled financially in recent years, moving from weekly to biweekly.

It seems to be good news.  Hughes -- who made his money the new-fashioned way by getting in on the ground floor with Facebook -- says he wants to promote and protect long-form, contextual journalism.

In an interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Hughes -- who left Facebook in 2007 to run the Obama campaign's highly successful social network -- says he sees that kind of meaningful journalism in short supply.

"The shortage is understanding the big problems of our day," he told NPR. "Where do you go for context on the problems our nation faces?"  Hughes hopes to make digital tablets such as the iPad the place to read that kind of work, and he believes the medium will suit the message very well.

Hughes told the New York Times that he hopes to build the magazine's mobile applications "so that they're clearly an investment for the enterprise." 

When new media meets an august institution, under an apparently thoughtful and well-intentioned leader, interesting things are bound to happen.  It should be fun, and instructive, to watch. 


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