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'Rarely have the stakes been higher' for schoolchildren, so teachers must step up, says News editorial

As Tom Precious reported in a front-page story in today's News, Johns Hopkins University is just about fed up with the Buffalo public schools and its teachers union.

The internationally acclaimed group has said it would help turn around two low-performing high schools in Buffalo: Lafayette and East. But now it's not so sure.

If the months-old fight over evaluating teachers -- a dispute that has already imperiled millions of dollars in federal funds for the Buffalo schools -- isn't resolved by May 1, Johns Hopkins may pull out.  That's less than two weeks away.

A strongly worded News editorial on the subject will appear in tomorrow's print edition of The News. (The editorial is by Deputy Editorial Page Editor Kevin Walter, who has written extensively about the troubles of Buffalo's schools, including a five-part editorial series last year.)

This editorial, which represents the opinion of The News' editorial board as a whole, challenges Buffalo teachers to overcome their union leader's obstinacy and to take charge of a rapidly deteriorating situation. 

Because the future of thousands of schoolchildren are at stake, and because the schools so profoundly affect our city and surrounding region, this is a crucial moment. 

The news story and related editorial, whatever your point of view, are worth your attention.

Hillary Clinton is on the rise, says a new poll and a whole bunch of stories

The once-scorned Hillary Clinton is, suddenly, the most popular girl in school.

Steve Kornacki of Salon offers this analysis of how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became the clear frontrunner for the 2016 presidential race, with numbers from a new poll backing up his premise.  And here's Politico's take on the same topic.

This comes on the heels of a lighter look at the former New York senator last week in Maureen Dowd's column in the New York Times, commenting on the spate of Hillary-as-coolcat activity in the Internet world.

Less flatteringly, the New York Post -- under the big headline "Swillary" -- took some harmless shots ("diplomats gone wild") at Clinton's partying after midnight in a Colombian bar last weekend, following the Summit of the Americas meetings in Cartagena. The photos captured her dancing and drinking beer out of a bottle.  Her big night out was said to last all of half an hour.

Call it fun while it lasted.  It'll be interesting to see if her popularity fits that description as well. 

Haunting images of the effects of war are the Pulitzer winners in photography


The real costs of war are sometimes lost in calculating discussions of global politics, but the photographs that won this year's Pulitzer prizes make those costs hard to ignore and impossible to forget.   They take us directly to the heart of the matter: human lives.
Massoud Hossaini's image of 12-year-old Tarana Akbari in Kabul, Afghanistan -- standing bloodied and heartbroken after a suicide bombing at a shrine -- is a stunningly emotional image.  Taken on Dec. 6, 2011 for Agence France-Presse, it was recognized in the breaking news photography category.  

The winning entry in the Pulitzer's feature photography category is every bit as emotionally searing.  But here the victim -- one of so many like him -- is a veteran of the Iraq war, back at home in America where he is trying to deal with a severe case of post-traumatic stress.  The photos of Brian Scott Ostrom by the Denver Post's Craig F. Walker take us into a life ruined by war.  This link to the Post's project includes the award-winning photos.

The New York Times photography blog, Lens, includes interviews with both photographers.  

(The photo above, via Getty Images, is by Massoud Hossaini for Agence France-Presse)


On the subject of Rust Belt Chic, count Buffalo in

Details magazine, that glossy arbiter of style, has decided that the Rust Belt is not only cool, but worthy of exploration by its upscale readers.

 And, while my travel list actually has Barcelona and Marrakesh considerably higher than, say, Erie,  I do like the idea of downtrodden cities becoming newly chic.

The Details story (as excerpted for Yahoo!) begins:

"Maybe it hit you this past Super Bowl when you saw Clint Eastwood's rousing, Chrysler-sponsored paean to the resilience of the Motor City: the Rust Belt is back in a big way. With spring in the air, now’s an ideal time to get to know the hot spots (and the people behind them) throughout this resurgent region."

 Here's the piece that identifies Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh as destinations where you can eat well, find good entertainment and an interesting cultural scene.

Buffalo deserves mention, too.  If I had visitors showing up at my Queen City door this spring or summer, here's what I'd do with them:

*  Tour Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House and its Toshiko Mori-designed visitors center on Jewett Parkway.
*  Take in some music at Babeville.
*  Dine at Tempo or the Rue Franklin if they were high rollers with a champagne budget, or Cantina Loco if they were frugal tequila drinkers.
* Hit the "Wish You Were Here" exhibit at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
* Do a driving tour of the grain elevators, the Central Terminal, the Guaranty Building and the Richardson complex.
* Get a hot dog at Louie's on Elmwood and sit outside in the sunshine to eat it, or, if they insisted, go to the Anchor Bar for wings.
* Ride bikes to Erie Canal Harbor for an outdoor concert as the sun sets over the lake.

On the same topic, from Sunday's Buffalo News, here is Business Reporter Matt Glynn's BizTalk interview with local tourism czarina Dottie Gallagher-Cohen.  She takes up the topics of the quality of Buffalo's hotel rooms (are you listening, Tom Brady?), attracting amateur sports events, and how gas prices affect tourism here. 

On a more provocative note, here's a thoughtful Huffington Post piece from Aaron Bartley, co-founder of PUSH Buffalo (the sustainable housing organization), on how rust belt cities may turn out to be leaders in the effort to use scarce resources wisely.  And in today's News, Maki Becker writes about Buffalo's urban farming movement.

Now that's seriously chic.

CLARIFICATION: The story linked to in this post is an excerpt -- by Yahoo! -- of a fuller treatment in Details that does have some good words for Buffalo's "green options" and a mention of its architectural wonders.  Thanks to the commenters who brought it to my attention.

Twitter: @SulliView


Department of Tradeoffs: Missing Springsteen in Buffalo but catching Cindy Sherman in Manhattan

0-1In New York City for a few days on business, I knew there was one necessity: I had to see the exhibit of photographs by Cindy Sherman, that mistress of photographic disguise,  at the Museum of Modern Art.  I caught the show this morning, and found it spectacular.  Its images are not always pleasant -- in fact, at times, they are  distressing -- but Sherman's work is stunning in its ability to make you see the world differently afterwards.

It remains on view through early June, and for anyone interested in contemporary art and photography, it's a must-see.  It's also a perfect complement to the Albright-Knox's "Wish You Were Here" retrospective of the avant-garde art movement in 1970s Buffalo on display now at the gallery.

In last Sunday's Spotlight section, Buffalo News Art Critic Colin Dabkowski provided an insightful look at the MoMA show, along with an overview of the artist and her formative years at Hallwalls in Buffalo. Here's the link for those who may have missed the piece last weekend.  (The photo here shows the large-scale Sherman portraits that lead into the many rooms of the installation.)

Was getting to see the Cindy Sherman exhibit worth missing the Bruce Springsteen concert Friday night at Buffalo's First Niagara Center? Rave reports from friends who were there suggest that it was a landmark show.   Here's the review from today's Gusto Extra by News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers who says the show was transcendent and soul-enriching.  It's safe to say he raves about Friday night's experience.

And here's a brief story on the Buffalo show from the Newark Star-Ledger which follows its Jersey boy's progress closely.  Writer Stan Goldstein notes that that the Boss played three songs Friday night for the first time on the Wrecking Ball tour: "Rendezvous," "Mountain of Love" and "Point Blank."  

I may have missed a great night of rock 'n' roll, but through this Harry Scull photo gallery, I was able to feel almost as if I'd been there.

I've often yearned to be in two places at once, and this is just one more poignant example.

Twitter: @SulliView


The wonders of Facebook or -- depending on your point of view -- not so much

Paul Ford's terrific New York magazine piece on Facebook's purchase of Instagram includes this great line:

"In terms of user experience (insider jargon: "UX"), Facebook is like an NYPD police van crashing into an IKEA, forever — a chaotic mess of products designed to burrow into every facet of your life. "

So true, and yet we love it.  The talk of our newsroom early this week was a Facebook-shared photo of Jeff Simon, our longtime arts editor and movie critic, bidding a tearful goodbye to his two-year-old grandson, Milo, at the Buffalo airport.  Milo, whom few of us have ever met, is something of a rock star in our office, as a direct result of his Facebook presence on his adoring grandfather's site.

 It's all very weird.  Just moments ago, I somehow felt compelled to announce to the world, or at least to my Facebook friends, that I had a mom-daughter manicure planned. And I learned what another close relative had for dinner last night.

At any rate, here's the full Paul Ford piece about Facebook and Instagram -- well worth a read.

For those who are still decrying the Facebook timeline switchover, here's some inspiration from CNN, which provides a photo gallery of some of the more creative uses of the forced-upon-us change.

And for the local angle, here is News reporter Steve Watson's recent front-page piece on the timeline controversy.   

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Steve Buttry's 'letter to curmudgeons' is a wake-up call to his journalism colleagues

At the journalism conference I attended last week, a guy named Steve Buttry seemed to be in the front row of every panel discussion, and his presence on Twitter, with the hashtag #asne12, was impossible to ignore.  At one point, the Twitter police even tried to shut him down for over-tweeting. Who knew you could do such a thing?

When he got back, he wrote an open letter to his colleagues in journalism who are reluctant to join the digital revolution.  Here's the link to the original piece, posted Friday.   He says he's received more feedback to it than to anything that he's written in his career.  That career spans many a job -- reporter to top editor -- at many a traditional newspaper.

These days, Buttry, 57, is  Director of Community Engagement & Social Media for Digital First Media, and a major convert to all things digital.

I'm with him.  I've been blogging since January, tweeting since February, have shot video at concerts, restaurants, art galleries on my iPhone and posted them through YouTube onto my blog.  I've been tutored, very kindly, by young members of my paper's staff.  I've found help and inspiration in the most unlikely places. 

What's more, I'm having fun with the new tools and I understand them far better than I did from a distance.  And I'm more energized and optimistic about the future of journalism than I've been in a long time. 

In that spirit, please join me for a live chat with readers tomorrow (Tuesday) at 2 p.m. on the home page of

Twitter: @SulliView

What do women voters want? Romney's 'gender gap' problem and what he plans to do about it

ImagesLast week in this blog, I asked readers what they'd like me to ask President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney when they spoke to an editors gathering I attended in Washington. Despite some excellent suggestions, I never got to pose any of them to the president, who apparently took questions only from the Associated Press, whose annual meeting coincided with the lunch at which he spoke.

His likely Republican challenger, though, answered questions from the assembled editors and I managed to get one in.  (Ken Paulson, outgoing president of the American Society of News Editors, was the conduit for the questions, which had been submitted to him in advance by ASNE members.)

I wanted to know how Romney plans to deal with what might be called his woman problem -- the fact that polls show women in key swing states favoring Obama over Romney by 18 percentage points if the presidential race were to be held today.  That could be a make-or-break figure, given the candidates' dead heat among men.

Romney acknowledged the problem -- and then, for the most part, dodged the answer.  

"Our party has traditionally had a gender gap," he said.  But rather than explore why -- some pundits think it's because the GOP is on the attack against issues that matter to women, including reproductive rights -- he said that what women really care about is jobs and the economy.

Here's how he put it:

"My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own and also with me, and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy, and getting good jobs for their kids and for themselves ... They are concerned about gasoline prices, the cost of getting to and from work, taking their kids to school or to practice and so forth after school."

The president, he said, is vulnerable on all those points.  

Here's a piece from Forbes on why women don't use their political muscle effectively. 

Reporter Dana Milbank's analysis from the Washington Post of the two ASNE speeches gives significant attention to the "gender gap" question.

And a report from the Tampa Bay Times describes Romney's problem and his game plan, so far.

It's a hot topic and one that is sure to develop as the campaign goes on.

(Photo from AP) 

Twitter: @SulliView

Hillary Clinton: her popularity, her political future -- and her scrunchies

O-HILLARY-WATERMARKED-1-570It used to be that Hillary Clinton was a "love her or hate her" kind of gal.  She was admired by many but demonized by the members of what she once called a "vast right-wing conspiracy."

But these days, it's mostly the former. Americans are enthusiastic about her most recent incarnation as Secretary of State. 

According to a profile by Racheal Combe in the May issue of Elle magazine, Clinton -- who was a regular visitor to the Buffalo News editorial board in her previous role as New York senator --  now "seems to get a standing ovation every time she opens her mouth."

A recent Gallup poll pegs her as the nation's most admired woman, coming out ahead of Oprah Winfrey, and she's frequently mentioned as a presidential candidates in 2016, despite her insistence that she's not interested.

The story can't refrain from that well-worn subject -- Hillary's hair -- and reports that some members of her staff would like to ban the hair scrunchies that allow the world traveler to pull her blonde locks into an emergency chignon. 

Here's the Elle profile.  The portrait at right is from the magazine photo shoot.

And here's a piece from London's Daily Telegraph that suggests that Clinton may not be as reluctant to run for president in 2016 as she once was.  Says who?  None other than the "grandmaster of political messaging," also known as her husband.   If you're interested in reading the Clintonian tea leaves, it's worth a look.


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