Archive for June, 2009

Stand By Your Man

Friday, June 26th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

Tammy Wynette may have written those words, but political wives have been living them for as long as I can remember.

In the real world, if a husband got too friendly with an intern, frequented high price call girls or flaunted their infidelity, we’d advise their wives to kick that lying, cheating spouse to the curb. (And vice versa, of course.)

But on the political stage, wives are more inclined to take Tammy’s advice. They put a brave face on for the camera, stand next to the worthless piece of political scum and express their support for their philandering partner as they “work through this difficult time.”

Frankly, it’s always made me a bit sick. That’s why Jenny Sanford is my new personal hero.

Bucking the grin-and-bear-it trend (adhered to be the likes of Hillary Clinton, Silda Spitzer and Elizabeth Edwards), Jenny isn’t standing by her man. In fact, she’s kicked his sorry derriere out. She doesn’t care about his career, she said, just her children and their character. She’s not just going to survive without him, she told the press. She’s going to “thrive.”

Witnessing Hillary, Silda and Elizabeth weather the media storm at their husband’s side, I felt sympathy and a little pity. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for any of them to endure the public scrutiny and humiliation associated with their husband’s actions. But at the end of the day, I always worried about what kind of example it sets when they basically publicly condoned their husband’s behavior. To me, their support sent a message that politics was more important than morals, ethics or their family.

My heart goes out to Jenny Sanford. I can’t imagine how mortifying it must have been for her and her family to not just learn of her husband’s infidelity, but to have his dirty laundry aired before the world. And those emails!

By drawing the line, Jenny earned my respect, not my pity. I admire her spirit, the strength of her convictions and her priorities.

In fact, the only thing I can fault about the hopefully soon-to-be former Mrs. Sanford at the moment, is her taste in men.

Jackson, Fawcett memories

Friday, June 26th, 2009
Tyler Murphy

So unless you haven’t seen a TV, heard a radio, or had access to the Internet in the last 24 hours then you’ve probably encountered the media splurge of the latest sensational celebrity death. Pop star Michael Jackson and pin up Farrah Fawcett both died yesterday.

As we finished up our deadline work this morning I thought just about everyone had seen enough of the stories, having placed a number of AP articles in the paper and then navigating through most of the major news network sites this morning, who wouldn’t be?

I was surprised to see the entire office spring into an usually intense water cooler discussion, as co-workers and interns came out from their desks or peeked over their cubicles, to put in the two cents over what they remembered. I couldn’t resist putting in my own.

I was surprise to find such a strong following of Jackson lovers. He was a little before my time and I’m starting to wonder if maybe I haven’t given the man enough credit.

For the my part I met Jackson in the early 90’s and later. If you’re familiar with the singer’s history I don’t think you’ call it his best of times. Pedophile allegations, outdated music, and a freaky personal appearance, was all I absorbed unfortunately.

As for Farah I can’t say I remember much more than she was on the cover of one of my first playboy magazines, which I swiped it from an inattentive relative in junior high.

It was strange gauging the different memories and opinions of people born over the last five decades and how the media has impacted an iconic person’s legacy, depending on which generation they grew up in. Something’s are forgotten and others over exaggerated.

The thriller video however is timeless.

I think it’s a good thing to tell the brighter side of a person after they pass on and I’m sure in the pending, week long, media blitz to follow will beat every horse in the herd to death before it’s over.

Regardless of how anyone perceived them, you have to give credit to the sheer volume of gossip, sensationalism and controversy stimulated by their lives and deaths.

RIP

To walk or not to walk

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

I grew up on a quiet country road, where there was hardly ever any traffic. Passing cars and trucks were few and far between, so crossing it wasn’t much of an issue. Sure, I’d look both ways before crossing as I had always been told, but there wasn’t much to look out for. When faced with busier streets elsewhere, like in the bustling metropolis of Oxford or (gasp) the county seat itself, Norwich, I was ill prepared.

As a kid, I’d tremble at the thought of crossing one of those busy street. Even as a teen and a college student, when I felt invincible to harm, I still felt anxious. Luckily, there would be a friend there to drag my sorry behind across that street. After a suitable amount of eye-rolling and an exasperated sigh or two, of course.

If I was really fortunate, a kindly police officer would be there to stop traffic long enough for me to slink across the intersection, mortified by my inability to cross under my own power. In fact, without the intervention of a few of New York’s finest from the 50th Precinct, who made sure I got across Manhattan College Parkway safely every morning, I may never have made it through my sophomore year of college.

To be honest, although I’m a heck of a lot older now, not much has changed. I like to think of it as having a healthy respect for all those tons of steel whizzing by, which I know full well could easily crush me like a bug. That’s why I always cross in a crosswalk, and usually double (and sometimes triple) check before I take that first step off the curb.

I know, I know. I sound like a pansy. I am, I’ll admit it. But I have absolutely no desire to be a cautionary tale.

Others, however, have no such fear. Every time as I drive through Norwich, this becomes painfully clear to me. It seems like every day I see someone step out in front of a moving vehicle with a total disregard for the amount of time and space is actually required to stop said vehicle, even assuming an instantaneous reaction time on the part of a driver who, lets face it, probably has their minds on other things. The idea of actually waiting for the white “Walk” sign to flash, or actually crossing at a designated cross walk, is apparently a foreign concept.

And bicycles. Don’t even get me started about how people behave on bikes.

Equally insidious is the fact that other motorists don’t always feel the need to obey the rules of the road when it comes to those crosswalks where they are required by law to yield to pedestrians. One more reason people should be even more careful when crossing the street.

My personal philosophy about crossing leans more toward Shakespeare than Dirty Harry. When you are stepping out into the street, you shouldn’t be asking yourself if you feel lucky. To walk, or not to walk, now that is the question.

Be safe.

1.9 million dollar fine for a $24 crime

Friday, June 19th, 2009
Tyler Murphy

I don’t even know where to begin. How about a quote from a personal inspiration of mine, Martin Luther King Jr.

“How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”

Now I know Dr. King was talking about the unjust laws of civil segregation but I bet he’d be the first to recognize that the injustice of a punishment can far exceed a the crime’s.

Thursday a federal judge jury fined a 32-year-old Minnesota woman $1.9 million for downloading 24 songs worth 99 cents a piece from the internet, illegally.

The woman has four children and a husband. Without a doubt their financial lives are ruined. Her spouse will be equally affect financially, the children’s futures now lost, they will spend the rest of their lives paying it off.

Shame on the jury for being lulled into such a complacent state to find any conceivable way to go along with such a blatant injustice. No matter what direction they received from the judge or the law they shouldn’t have agreed to the sentence.

The corporate monsters that were no doubt instrumental in this case are not interest in recouping the money but rather sending the headline message to all those out there still downloading songs at this woman’s, and her family’s, expense.

The verdict is more criminal than the crime ever was. I’d encourage everyone to ignore these laws and continue downloading whatever music they want in protest to the verdict.

These laws designed to halt the large commercial copyright infringements of corrupt distributors and should not have been turned so viciously against a single individual consumer using the illegal site for recreational purposes. She was not even turning a profit at the artist’s expense.

That’d be like charging people who litter $500,000 fines for dropping a cigarette bud and blaming them for the effects of global warming. Not that I disagree with making littering illegal, in fact I despise litters but one can’t ignore the drastically exaggerated punishment and the wrongfully placed blame being laid on a single person playing such a small role in the grand scheme of its deterioration. The same is true with the average person seeking downloads for music. There is a level of culpability here just not to the tune of 1.9 million dollars.

Just because there may be a legal argument or law to condone chopping off a person’s hand for stealing a piece of bread doesn’t mean it’s justice.

For more about this story cut and paste these links into your web browser

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/19/business/media/19music.html?ref=media

or

http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/06/18/minnesota.music.download.fine/index.html

Championship end to spring sports season

Thursday, June 18th, 2009
Patrick Newell

Afton’s softball team doesn’t win a state title every year, it just seems like it. Perhaps 15 straight Section IV titles, a staggering statement of the program’s excellence and consistently, has something to do with that type of thinking.
Last weekend at Waterloo High School, the Crimson Knights, who swallowed bitter pills in four straight state title game defeats, shrugged off those disappointments and beat Batavia Notre Dame, 7-4, for the Class D title.
Afton’s softball program has reigned as the preeminent Class D school in New York State for the better part of 25 years, yet it had been all of seven years, since 2002, that the Knights won a state championship.
After beating Stockbridge Valley 1-0 in its playoff opener over a week ago, all-state shortstop Jessie Winans was quoted by The Daily Star that she believed this was the year Afton would win a state title. Winans’ prediction wasn’t in the mold of Joe Namath’s bold proclamation that the Jets would beat the Colts in Super Bowl III. Namath’s poolside prediction was considered outlandlish and far-fetched at the time.
As for Winans and her prognostication, it’s never a bad idea to place your bet on Afton when a state softball title is on the line, and congratulations to the Knights’ team and coaching staff.
Elsewhere last weekend, local athletes were wrapping up the state track and field championships at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.
Just a few notes to add to the Monday, June 15 story in the sports section: Greene sophomore Chad Noelle lowered his own record in the 1,600 meters when he ran just over 4:21 to place among the top three in the state division two meet. Noelle’s teammate, Mike Hollings, also set a school record in the long jump leaping 21-feet, 7-inches.
B-GA field event competitor, Melissa Reigles, placed fourth in the discus, not sixth as mentioned in the report.

I’ll take that as a compliment

Thursday, June 18th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

At Tuesday night’s school board meeting in Norwich, one area resident took aim at many aspects of The Leadership Project. No one was spared including, interestingly enough, The Evening Sun.

“[T]he local newspaper seemed to know more than the board or school staff and students,” he said, with a pointed look in my direction.

While I know it wasn’t intended as such, I actually took that as a compliment. After all, isn’t the role of a newspaper to disseminate information?

Our small newsroom is stretched to the max on most days, as our staff strains to cover as many events across the county as we possibly can. I know how hard my fellow reporters and I work, and the hours we spend on the phone, on the internet and in the field, to gather the information we need to keep people informed.

Sure, we have some contacts that will help tip us off on a particular topic. But most of what we learn is because we always have our ear to the ground  so to speak, and then do the legwork to follow it up.

The fact that we may “know more” on a particular topic is hardly a conspiracy. It’s a result of that effort. And, frankly, it’s our job.

Obviously, going into the June 2 board meeting, I knew The Leadership Project would be a hot topic. We’d been getting phone calls and letters to the editor for nearly a week. I wanted to make sure that I had enough information to make sense of what happened at the meeting, so I made some phone calls.

And after the meeting, at which I took a copious amount of notes and collected some written statements, I made more calls. Why? Because I still didn’t feel like I knew enough about the actual program that had sparked so much controversy. And I figured if I felt like I didn’t know enough, our readers would probably be of the same opinion.

While I like to eat mushrooms, I don’t aspire to be one and would never assume that anyone else does either. That’s why I always strive to get as many sides to the story as possible. I figured there had to be something about this program that had convinced a local business to ante up $10,000, so I set about finding out what that “something” was. And I wrote an article based on what I learned, just as I had done after the board meeting.

The paper’s decision to “embed” me with the students on the retreat was an interesting opportunity for us. It was the only true way for us to see if the retreat was all the organizers said it would be. Trust me, if it hadn’t been, my communications from the Adirondacks would have been a heck of a lot different.

It was a great PR exercise for the newspaper, although our critic implied it was strictly a way of advocating for the program. As I’ve blogged about before, it gave us a chance to test our use of technology and social networking to supplement our online content and drive traffic to our website. Based on the numbers, and the feedback we’ve received, I’d say it was a success. The daily blogs and frequent “tweets” had many following our site closely for the four days of our trip and well after our return.

Just how successful was it? I got an email earlier this week from my cousin Terry, who lives in Kentucky. He and his family are planning for their vacation and looking into visiting the Lake Placid area. Somewhat by chance, he googled “Lake Placid evening.” You’ll never guess what popped up at the top of his search results: one of my blogs from the trip. How cool is that!

In our articles, we strive to be as balanced and unbiased as possible, but we do have three outlets to share our own feelings, opinions and observations of the issues we cover. Those are the “thumbs” which appear every Friday, our blogs and our columns. And today, as always, I’m glad to have that outlet.

Once again, thanks for the compliment.

Reporting live from the Adirondacks

Friday, June 12th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

My tagging along with the Leadership Project trip to the Adirondacks was a first in many ways, including for the Evening Sun. Never before had a reporter gone on assignment and been able to keep in constant contact with not just our editor, but with our readers.

Because of the availability of wireless internet access at the places we stayed, I was able to posted blogs daily from my laptop. Via my cell phone, I was also able to use Twitter to give even more frequent updates on the group’s activities. And as often as I could, I posted pictures, also through a Twitter application called Twitpic.

We have been talking about how we could apply the technology for while, but hadn’t really had an opportunity to put it to use and to the test until now.

From the road, I couldn’t tell how many people, if any, were following all of those updates, so I was blown away when I got back. When I checked the stats on Twitpic, I discovered that most of the pictures had been viewed about 200 times each. The group photo with Olympic Gold Medalist Jeff Blatnick had more than 280!

That made me wonder about the blogs, which we don’t usually see stats for. I was thrilled when I found out that the “Thank you for sharing” post I’d made on Sunday actually broke the record for the most pageviews of any reporter blog on evesun.com. I thought that was pretty cool.

The decision to send me along on the trip was made rather last minute, and we really didn’t promote the fact that I would be going or posting updates to the site. I can’t help wondering how high those numbers would have been if we had.

I’ve gotten great feedback from a lot of parents who had children that participated in the retreat, but a lot of other community members as well. They said they really liked being able to keep up with what the students were doing each day. One parent said they were actually checking the site hourly for updates. Another told me family members in other parts of the country were following along as well. I’d say that makes the test a success.

I’ll have at least a couple of more entries about the trip. And I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of pictures that we’ll be sharing as well. So keep checking back!

We don’t got no computer

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009
Jeff Genung

I made a gross error in judgment earlier this week. In my zeal to get as many photos of the Sherburne Pageant of Bands in on Monday as I could, I didn’t leave enough room for the list of scoring results. Instead, I put a refer to our website on the front page, and posted the complete results there, for free.

 

Oops. Not everyone has a computer, Jeff. I’d say I’m pretty plugged in, gadget-wise, so sometimes I forget that there are still homes in Chenango County with nary a computer, cell phone, PDA or iPod to be found. 

 

And I think as of today, I’ve heard from all seven of them.

 

See, the way I figured it, if you’ve got a kid (or grandkid) in band, you already knew who won. I assumed that only the most ardent of marching band fans would want to see the extensive (I’m pretty sure every band got at least five awards, thanks for coming!) list of scores and awards, and that Evening Sun readers would be more entertained by the pictures. Trust me, I won’t make that mistake again. Next year, all the results, in print (and online, so there). 

 

The last lady who called, and I can kvetch about her here because she obviously won’t be reading my blog, wouldn’t take my sincerest apology for an answer. She challenged my assumption that our readers needed to see pictures at all. “If they wanted to see the bands, they could have gone to the goddamn parade!” she wailed. When I countered with, “If you were so interested in the results, you could have stayed for the awards ceremony!” that really ticked her off. Even when I offered to read her the results over the phone, or print them out and mail them to her, free of charge, she wouldn’t have any of it. No, she wouldn’t be happy until I apologized on behalf of all 21st century humanity for relying on any sort of “modern” technology whatsoever. 

 

Frankly, I’m surprised she had a phone. It bet it was rotary.

My glimpse of Oxford

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
Jessica Lewis

After three years as a reporter at The Evening Sun, I’ve never seen a School Board meeting as exciting as the one in Oxford on Monday night.

Don’t get me wrong. The topic was a serious one. On the line, the job of at least one, if not two, school administrators. While it was interesting, it was far from idea. However, what made the meeting so incredible to me, was the outpouring of input from the community at large.

I can’t say how many people attended the meeting, but I know there were at least 20 teachers and twice that many community members. Despite an hour long wait in a room that was badly in need of air conditioning, all of those individuals patiently waited for the board to come out of executive session and listen to their thoughts and opinions.

Another hour passed as teachers, students, parents and tax payers voiced their support for the high school principal, and some made clear their lack of support for the superintendent.

I don’t know what effect, if any, the public’s opinions will have on the board’s final decision, but the response from the community was overwhelming. Although it often takes a polarizing event to garner this type of community attention, it always makes me happy to know that the community is paying attention, and when it matters to them, there are many who will speak their minds.

The Trust Factor

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

I am dragging today. It was around 1:30 a.m. before we finally went to bed last night, but even though I was physically exhausted, I just couldn’t fall asleep. My mind was too full of everything we accomplished during the day. And believe me when I tell you these were accomplishments, not just a bit of adventure. It wasn’t just about DOING things. There was so much learning going on during those experiences, some of it prompted by the adult chaperones but much of it gleaned by the students all on their own.

I am absolutely amazed by these kids, and the transformation I have seen in them over these past few days. And each day, they have amazed me even more. It was this that kept me up last night. And considering how I feel this morning, I probably should have taken the opportunity to record my thoughts. But I’ll be honest: even my fingertips were sore. And for good reason: we spent half the day rappelling and the other half rock climbing. My delicate little fingers, used to spending their time tapping away on the computer, got a little abraded. As did the rest of me. (The extent of which I didn’t fully realize until I got in the shower.)

I was amazed by what I witnessed on those rock walls, both rappelling and climbing. And I’m not just talking about the scenery. (Which, by the way, was absolutely breathtaking.)

Both activities held an element of challenge on a personal level for many. It’s hard to stand at the edge of a cliff and take that first step in rappelling. Or leave that secure handhold in search of the next when climbing up a rock face.

Everyone tried both rappelling and climbing at least once. Whether they reached the top or not on that first attempt, didn’t temper their feeling of accomplishment. I was so proud of those who struggled on their first climb and couldn’t finish, but went on to try a second time and reach the top.

What made the difference for many was trust. They trusted their fellow participants and the guides who were belaying from below enough to put their lives in their hands. They also trusted themselves enough to know they had listened and understood the safety instructions, as well as to identify their comfort level. They also learned that, even when facing an individual challenge, it is easier to overcome your fears and reach your goals with the support and advice of others with a different perspective.

How do I know that’s what they learned? They told me. These were some of the things they shared when we gathered as a group afterwards. And it wasn’t talk. They showed how much they trusted each other with two activities, one of which was the Human Ladder, where each participant had to climb a horizontal “ladder” of wooden rungs held by their peers. I’m not going to lie. I watched this with some trepidation, but the kids didn’t even hesitate.

And let me mention once again, that these kids were not all close before this experience. Many didn’t even know each other before the program, yet here they are, not only communicating with people they have never communicated with before, but begun to value them for who they are and trust them with their personal safety.

Perhaps the most amazing thing is that these students feel a responsibility and a desire to use these connections and other things they have learned here to make their school a better place. As I type this, they are discussing how they can be “agents of change” (Kurt Edwards’ words, not mine) when they return to Norwich.