Archive for November, 2009

The First Big Breaking News for Television
November 30, 2009

I spent some spare time last week watching some of the old television coverage of the Kennedy assassination.  There were a few specials on tv that piqued my curiosity and I subsequently found hours of coverage on the web and   

Friday, November 22, 1963 through November 25th was an historic period  not only for our nation and the world, but for television.   I was fascinated by how my predecessors in this industry covered such a huge story. 

Despite the advances in television in the past 46 years, journalists then faced some of the same challenges we face today.  On November 22, 1963,  viewers of CBS and Channel 3 saw only a CBS graphic  for the first few special reports with the voice of Walter Cronkite reading the few details known then.    The first report was at 12:40 PM Dallas time, ten minutes after the president was shot.

The reason?  It took a while to fire up the studio cameras and lights.     Cronkite wasn’t seen on air until 1:00PM, 20 minutes after the first bulletin. 

We’ve been there with the technical setbacks.     A broken live truck;  having a crew stuck in traffic; an engineer off duty.   It happens today, although we can pretty much get on the air in our studio in a matter of seconds.   What we’ll be able to show people is another  story. 

Jay Watson of WFAA almost had the scoop of the century but was vexed by technical limitations.     Abraham Zapruder, who filmed the assassination, walked into WFAA to get his film developed and was promptly interviewed live by Watson.  

 Watson told viewers the film was being processed and would be shown shortly.  What Watson didn’t know was that WFAA’s equipment only processed black and white film, not color.  Zapruder took his infamous film and went to a local Kodak shop to get it developed.     As it turned out, LIFE magazine bought the rights and the film wasn’t shown to the public until the 1970s.   

Covering breaking news today is often a matter of hustle and luck.   We all want the pictures right away,  but it is not always that easy.  

We’ve all seen the the famous  clip of  Cronkite removing his glasses to say  “From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1:00 P.M. Central Standard Time.”  

That didn’t happen until 1:38PM CST,    and I always thought that was the first time viewers learned their President was dead.  Actually,  Cronkite had already reported that President Kennedy was dead.      At 1:17PM, Cronkite reported that the CBS affiliate in Dallas reported Kennedy was dead, and then came Dan Rather’s report, then an Associated Press report quoting two priests who administered last rights at Parkland Hospital.    By most accounts Kennedy was dead  by the time the priests arrived at 12:50PM,  even though the official time of death is listed as 1:00PM.

Viewers didn’t see much from the scene for a while.  News photographers shot with film then and it took time to develop and then splice.   The first images of the scene were actually still photographs, in fact Cronkite held up pictures to the camera before any film was ever seen. 

Mistakes were made as they regrettably are today.   It was reported that Vice-President Lyndon Johnson had been shot and suffered a heart attack.  There were reports a secret service agent was killed.     The name of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit, who was murdered by Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was reported over the radio before his wife was told. 

If you get a chance, check it out on youtube.

My JFK Assassination Moment
November 24, 2009

I wasn’t born when President Kennedy was assassinated but grew up with stories from my parents and grandparents about where they were when the shocking  news broke.    My mother was watching  “As the World Turns” while she was ironing and my father was at work.

Years later I was fascinated by yellowed copies of the Boston Globe and the Boston Record American in our basement.   “Shock, Disbelief, Grief ” was the headline on one of them.   As proper suburban Bostonians we visited the JFK memorial in Hyannis, his birthplace in Brookline, and later the JFK Library in Boston.    When I was in high school President Ronald Reagan was shot.  All of these events  fueled an interest in the Kennedy assassination that I still have today.

My only real assassination moment came in 1991 when I was a reporter in Michigan.    My assignment:  to see the gun used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald and interview its new owner,  Earl Ruby.    Ruby ran  a dry cleaning business in Detroit, and had been awarded the gun owned by his late brother, Jack.     It had been in a safe deposit box in Dallas since November of 1963.  

Earl Ruby didn’t own the gun very long.  A few weeks after I interviewed him he sold it at auction for $220,000.  The money went to pay IRS bills his brother left behind in 1967.

I have this story on a tape in a box somewhere.  As soon as I find it, I will post it here.

So I Met Linda McMahon
November 22, 2009

I was walking with my son Julian through West Hartford Center on Friday and spotted Senate candidate Linda McMahon sitting inside Starbucks.   I don’t know for sure, but  from my observation I got the sense she was talking with someone who appeared to be a voter.   He left with a smile on his face.   She was smiling too.     I don’t think he said “listen…. this is liberal Democratic West Hartford and I am voting for Dodd.”    I definitely didn’t see that kind of body language!  

I went up to say hello and found Mrs. McMahon to be very warm and very  interested in my new son.  She talked about her grandchildren (she is expecting another in January) and briefly about politics.   I wasn’t working and don’t think it is appropriate to bombard candidates or politicans with policy questions in these types of situations.    McMahon did mention she was confident she will be the next senator from Connecticut.

We also talked about her upcoming inaugural appearance on Face the State.  That will be Sunday, January 17th, 2010.

O’Connor Won’t Run For Governor; Caligiuri & Cafero Might
November 20, 2009

Former U.S. Attorney and former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Kevin O’Connor will not run for governor in 2010.

The 42 year old Republican made the announcement tonight during a taping of WFSB’s political program, “Face the State.” O’Connor is now an attorney with the Bracewell Giuliani law firm.

He ran unsuccessfully for congress in 1998, losing to Democrat John Larson. O’Connor has four young children and cited family considerations as a reason for not running, but did not rule out a future run for political office.

Earlier this year O’Connor decided against running for the U.S. senate seat held by Senator Chris Dodd.

Also during the taping of Face the State, state senator Sam Caliguiri said he was strongly considering dropping out of the race for the U.S. senate and running for congress in the 5th district against Democrat Chris Murphy.  Caliguiri also said he would not rule out running for Governor.

House minority leader Larry Cafero was a third guest on Face the State, saying he will decide within a month whether to run for governor.

You can watch Face the State this Sunday at 11AM on Channel 3.

The Homeless Shelter Debate
November 18, 2009

There’s a debate brewing in Downtown Hartford over whether to create a homeless shelter in the historic Center Church in Downtown Hartford.  The Courant’s Jeffrey Cohen has been covering it.    As soon as the plan was announced some residents and merchants immediately opposed it.   Some folks, who may or may not live in Hartford began to criticize the critics.  Here is the debate.

As a former resident of downtown who still goes to downtown restaurants and businesses I think it is unfair for people to criticize Hartford citizens and merchants who do not want to be next to a homeless shelter.     To characterize those people as “racist,” “xenophobic,” and “classist” is just uneducated and insulting. To characterize them as “wealthy” people who don’t care about the homeless is also incorrect.    One of the people who commented on Cohen’s blog was labeled “wealthy” and a “high priced condo owner.”   That person’s condominium is assessed at $187,000.   

Perhaps this is why many of the people who posted on Cohen’s blog who were critical of my friends, colleagues and former neighbors have chosen not to post their names or identify the town where he or she lives.   Many of those criticizing anonymously are doing it for the sole purpose of assauging their own guilt over their failure to do something concrete to help the homeless.
Most downtowners do care about the homeless just like people in many of the surrounding suburbs, many of whom are wealthier. Most downtown merchants care about the homeless as do suburban merchants who make more money than their downtown counterparts.

One of the posters on Cohen’s blog  said it perfectly:
Mat:   “it’s astonishing to me that so few people have any tolerance for a Hartford resident voicing an opinion that would be taken for granted in the suburbs.” As a journalist I’m often contaced by people who are concerned about a sex offender living in or moving to their neighborhood. Why is it wrong for people in downtown Hartford to be concerned about their neighborhood?

Imagine if a homeless shelter had been proposed for West Hartford Center, the Buckland Hills area or Route 44 in Avon. There would be tremendous outrage.

No one downtown is arguing against the need to help the homeless. Of course a shelter is needed, and anyone who lives near a site where a shelter is being proposed has every right to fight it.

If you’re coming to Hartford, bring a bag lunch!
November 17, 2009

You can’t win if you don’t play.    That’s an old phrase from the Lottery but it holds true in downtown Hartford where some merchants   often complain “it’s hard to stay in business because there aren’t enough people downtown.”   

Let’s go back to Sunday November 8th, the  day of the Connecticut Veterans Day Parade.    It was a beautiful day.  The sun was shining, it was warm, and there was barely a breeze.    It was an unseasonably mild November day to honor the men and women from our state who served our country and to honor those who died doing it.    These marchers  survived wars in Germany and Vietnam yet couldn’t buy a bottled water  in downtown Hartford. 

A crowd of 45,000 people lined the streets of downtown, yet Starbucks was closed.  Dunkin Donuts closed.  Tapas closed, and the list goes on.   Even McDonald’s was closed.  45,000 people stood outside shuttered eateries and coffee shops.  Kara and I were stunned.    Restaurants with outdoor seating on the parade route were closed.   I don’t get it. 

Laura Soll, the public relations maven who helps organize the parade told me a tremendous effort was made to encourage businesses to open for the parade crowd.  Apparently that effort fell on deaf ears.  

To their credit, there were places that did open,  like  Mayor Mike’s where we ate.   But no doubt the owners of Mayor Mike’s had real estate envy that day looking at Black Eyed Sally’s a half block away.  Right on the parade route with patio seating in the brilliant sunshine with a spectacular view of the State Capitol.  It too, was closed. 

The restaurants who  closed on the day of the Veterans Day Parade did your capital city a tremendous disservice.   For many of the parade goers from all over the state it may have been the only day of the year they came to Hartford.   They went back to Putnam or Plainville and told people Hartford was a ghost town.     Sadly, they were right!    Suburbanites who pulled on the locked  Starbucks  door, later spent their cash on mocha lattes when they returned to West Hartford and Glastonbury.  

The damage these parade- spurning places inflicted on the city will be long lasting.  Next time one of those parade goers has to come to Hartford he or she will know to eat first outside the city and then come in for a game, concert or whatever.   Stop at the Starbucks in Manchester and get your coffees first, then go into Hartford.     They won’t take a chance to come downtown in the event they arrive to find everything closed.

I love to use Vaughan’s as a model of how to run a Hartford business.  It is open 7 days a week lunch and dinner and has a reputation for always being there.   It is an attraction because of the way it is dedicated to serving the customer and the city.  Imagine if all the city restaurants were like that.    It would lead to new business and more people on the streets.   People might say “let’s go downtown and grab  bite to eat.”

Parade organizers brought 45 thousand people downtown.  The Convention Center had the car show.   Downtown Churches attracted hundreds of people.  The Wadsworth Atheneum and Connecticut Science Center doing brisk business.  Despite all of this, many restaurants did not open. 

That’s bad business. 

Feeling the pain of our friend Al Terzi
November 17, 2009

Something is missing here at Channel 3 this week:  the presence of our dear friend Al Terzi.    As many of you know, Al’s son Michael died unexpectedly on Thursday.  He was only 40 years old.  When we got the call early in the  morning we were stunned and our thoughts immediately turned to the man who is always there for everyone in our newsroom.  Al. 

To the younger generations at Channel 3, Al is a mentor.  To everyone he is an invaluable resource of knowledge and history, not just about journalism and news stories, but about life.

Since 1995 Denise, Al and I have been a team on the evening news.  After Gayle left in ’99, it was just the three of us.  For years we have been three peas in a pod…literally, sitting together at the same pod in our newsroom in the legendary Broadcast House in downtown Hartford and here at our new newsroom in suburbia.    The three of us are good friends and we have shared the ups and downs of our lives for a long time.    We always have a good laugh at work talking about the silliest of things, and we never tire talking and hearing about each other’s families.   

The close proximity of our desks allows us to know a good deal about each other and both Denise and I can tell you thanks to unavoidable eavesdropping, Al is a wonderful father, grandfather, husband, son and friend.  We know how much Michael meant to him, and we feel Al’s  loss deeply.    

Michael’s wake and funeral brought out in my estimation more than a thousand people, perhaps even two thousand.  Mourners waited two and half hours to pay their respects.   It was a testament to how many friends and loved ones the Terzi family has.     There were people from walks of life, from all over the state, and from all four television stations in the state, ESPN, newspapers and radio. 

When Al comes back to work we will be there for him, and his family is in our prayers tonight.

also read about Al’s career:

Is An Intervention Ahead For Senator Dodd?
November 13, 2009

At the bar at the Red Rock,  the cafeteria at the Legislative Office Building, and while jogging through the New Haven Green Democrats are having private,  candid conversations about a man they love and respect, Senator Chris Dodd.   They’re talking about a subject they dare not speak of publicly:  that he should not seek re-election.    Those whispers though are growing louder, as one Democrat put it “the groans becoming more audible.”

Since February they have been wincing at polls that show the state’s de facto leader of the state Democratic party in danger of losing a seat he has held since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980.   They were hopeful in September when polls showed Dodd making slight progress but felt ill earlier this week when new polls came out painting a grim picture.   

State Democrats love Chris Dodd, the man who has guided their party to success in 5 straight senate elections and has helped them control the congressional delegation for decades.  He goes to their fundraisers, campaigns for them, and they return the loyalty.  Many traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire to campaign for Dodd when he was running for president.

For them, Chris Dodd is family, and that’s the problem for 2010.

I’ve spoken to several Democrats who are very afraid Dodd will lose re-election next year and take the party down with him,  namely costing them the governorship, something they last won in 1986.        All spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, for fear they would taken out to the wood shed.    One told me Dodd was like “the alcoholic in the family.”    “We are all pretending nothing is wrong, but it is.”   Some Democrats have gone public, like Pat Scully who said on Face the State that by spring if the numbers aren’t better,  the party should turn to Attorney General Dick Blumenthal.    Former party chair Ed Marcus, who admittedly has had issues with Dodd, echoed those sentiments earlier this year. 

The next round of polls expected in January or February will be crucial for Dodd.  If the numbers do not go up, I’m told Democrats may have an intervention where they sit him down and tell him ” maybe he shouldn’t run for re-election.”    I’m told there are two camps among state Democrats:  those who  believe Dodd is in real political danger, and those fierce loyalists who  scoff at the suggestion,  retorting that  this is a Democratic state and he will be re-elected.   The polls are nonsense, they argue.   Those close to Dodd are blindly loyal, and as one Democrat put it, “they’re also blind that they can’t see what’s going on.” 

The latter group argues that Dodd is a fighter.  I would agree, but not when it comes to elections.    He got out of the only tough race he faced on the night it began.  The Senator bowed out of the 2008 race for the White House the night of the Iowa caucuses.    The first primary in his native New England was a week away, yet he still got out.  He saw the writing on the wall.    He is a realist. 

The writing on the wall this week, and for most of 2009 shows Senator Dodd losing t0 just about every Republican opponent.  Even against fellow Democrat Merrick Alpert he got only 55% in the recent QU poll.  45% of Democrats either don’t want to support him or aren’t yet sure if they do. 

So how would Dodd get out gracefully?  President Obama would offer him a cabinet position, or an ambassadorship.  One key democratic operative in the state suggested Venezuela.   That same Democrat told me Dodd wants to go out on top, not with an L next to his name on November 2.   

There is time for Dodd to improve in the polls, but not much.  One Democrat told me a replacement candidate would be at a disadvantage if he or she started any later than March. 

There will be much discussion among Democrats over the holidays,  and maybe some soul searching in East Haddam. 

Look for January to be a big month for Campaign 2010.

Is Blumenthal Reconsidering Running for Governor?
November 10, 2009

As soon as Governor Rell announced she wasn’t running I called Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to ask him if he was.      Blumenthal announced early this year he wasn’t running, so I expected him to say “no, I am still running for re-election as attorney general.”    Instead, I got a “no comment. ”     It wasn’t verbatim, “no comment,”  but rather something along the lines of  “I will not make any comment on that tonight.”   He did praise Governor Rell for her service. 

Hmmm.  This could get interesting.

Does Lamont Really Want to be Governor?
November 5, 2009

I was a little surprised when I got a call late this morning that Ned Lamont was creating an exploratory committee to look into running for governor.   I had heard the rumors, but didn’t give them much credence on the assumption he was waiting until 2012 for a rematch with Senator Joe Lieberman.    However,  perhaps showing interest in the big office at the state capitol is his new route to Washington.

I can’t help but wonder with the election only a year away, why didn’t Lamont simply announce today that in fact, he is running for governor?    Why a committee?  He can’t seriously be worried about raising money or getting support from his enthusiastic supporters and fans from ’06.   Also, the timing seems odd: a day after Democrats got their clocks cleaned in New Jersey and Virginia and on the same week he appeared on MSNBC criticizing  his nemesis Senator Joe Lieberman.    

I think Lamont wants to be in the right place at the right time if Senator Chris Dodd should announce he has changed his mind and won’t run for re-election after all.   If a new round of polling shows Dodd still trailing Rob Simmons, Tom Foley and maybe even Linda McMahon, that would mean for most of 2009, Dodd has been on the losing end.   This,  for a 5 term incumbent in a Democratic state.    The situation is not good, and after seeing what happened to Democrats in New Jersey and Virginia, Connecticut Democrats may want to go with a candidate with a better chance of fighting what could be a wave of anger and a desire for change from the electorate.    On “Face the State” this summer, former Democratic Party chairman Ed Marcus said if Dodd hadn’t reversed  the poll numbers by the fall,  Democrats should go with a plan B, as in a new candidate.   I’ve spoken with many Democrats who support Dodd, but are very concerned the party could lose the seat if Dodd is the nominee.  

Enter Ned Lamont.     With Dodd out of the way, Lamont could easily become the frontrunner in the race, and instantly eliminate the raison d’etre of the McMahon, Simmons and  other Republican senate campaigns.     What would their argument be for running?  They are all focused on Dodd and his troubles.    I can’t recall a release or campaign appearance from any Republican candidate that doesn’t mention Chris Dodd.   

I asked Lamont today if Dodd did drop out,  would he be interested.   He could have answered “no.  I am committed to pursuing the governorship,” but he didn’t.  I couldn’t get him to rule out the senate possibility, instead he said he was focused on the exploratory committee.    “Does this mean you are giving up any dream of becoming a senator?” I asked.  Lamont could have said, I’m not interested in the senate.  He didn’t..

Despite the enormous amount of personal wealth Lamont could pour into a race for governor, Governor Rell could still be tough to beat.   The most recent poll shows Rell with a 59 percent approval rating, higher than President Obama’s here in Connecticut, and 57 percent of those polled in the September QU survey would vote to re-elect her.   

The senate race seems a much easier challenge for  Lamont and he would be able to focus on one of his top priorities:  improving health care.   I don’t think he wants his party to hand over  that issue to a Senator McMahon-Simmons-Caligiuri-Foley-Schiff.


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