February 08, 2008


Newspapers face changing landscape

National correspondents reflect on industry at SUNY Cortland talk


Bob Ellis/staff photographer         
National Public Radio correspondent Tom Bowman and his wife Brigid Schulte, a reporter for the Washington Post, speak to SUNY Cortland students at the Sperry Center Thursday night on the challenges of today’s press.

Staff Reporter

There’s no easy way to say it — newspapers are in trouble.
The news comes faster, harder and from farther away than ever before and competition is everywhere, from the television to the radio to the Internet to, well, even cellular phones now.
At least 80 people, many of them future journalists, packed into a classroom on the SUNY Cortland campus to hear about the future of journalism from two well-established practitioners.
Tom Bowman, a correspondent for National Public Radio, and his wife, Washington Post metro reporter Brigid Schulte, participated in a “Meet the Press”-type event at the Sperry Learning Resources Center.
The event was entitled “Washington, Iraq and Beyond: Journalism in an Age of Pack Reporting, Cutbacks, and Limited Attention Spans.”
Both Schulte and Bowman have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, but Schulte pointed out what most journalists already know, that it is not a profession to go into if your motivation is accolades and money.
“We’re still part of this great experiment called ‘democracy’ and democracy only works if the public is informed and educated,” Schulte said.
Over the course of the two and a half hour event, Bowman and Schulte talked about their experiences in the field, especially in regards to the effects of the information age upon journalists and journalism. They took questions from a panel of SUNY Cortland professors as well as the audience, who filled the room until some had to stand in the back throughout.
Bowman expected that he would “drop dead at his desk on deadline” at the Baltimore Sun, his previous job.
“I really thought I’d be in newspapers for my whole life,” he said.
But over the years, he said, the industry began to atrophy and was “cutting back all the time.”
Eventually, the paper fired a Pulitzer Prize-winning editor, a friend of Bowman’s, and he followed his friend to National Public Radio.
The bottom line, rather than effective and responsible coverage of the news, became the driving force at most corporate newspapers.
Bowman and Schulte talked about the difficulty some reporters in Iraq had in getting their stories to print when the news media has blitzkrieg coverage of Natalee Holloway or Britney Spears.
Foreign news bureaus were cut at a time when Americans needed to be well informed about what went on beyond their borders. Bowman offered some advice to the eager writers in the audience — learn a foreign language and head overseas to freelance and pick up the loose ends that the big news media outlets have started to let slide.
The nonprofit NPR had money at its disposal and Bowman found the atmosphere was what it should be — centered on the news, not profits.
“Not enough news organizations are spending money anymore,” Bowman said, with the exception of well-respected family-owned newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times.
The one area that the successful news outlets have embraced is the Internet, and today’s news reporters need to learn to use Web sites and familiarize themselves with video equipment and other technology that the Internet relies upon.
“Newspapers are grappling with how to deal with the Internet. Who the hell wants to buy it if you can pick it up for free off the Internet?” Bowman asked.
Although Schulte herself is now going on assignments with a video camera on her shoulder, and having a good time learning how to use it, she knows that there will still be a place for print journalists in the field.
“I think great writing is going to save the newspaper,” Schulte said.
Questions ranged from military spending and the war in Iraq to the importance of telling a good story and pulling people into lengthy narrative pieces.
As the attendees scattered after the meeting, Vicky Paz, a junior from Staten Island with a journalism concentration, and her friend Janina Mizhquiri, a junior from Queens majoring in communications, talked a little worriedly about their future in journalism.
“I had always pictured myself writing for a newspaper,” said Paz, a veteran of her high school newspaper and the entertainment editor for SUNY Cortland’s Dragon Chronicle.
“I hope that the speech that they made really didn’t shatter journalists’ hopes and dreams,” Mizhquiri said.
Paz does not want to enter a war zone overseas to make a name for herself, but she does want to write about people’s everyday lives. The Internet is something she won’t overlook.
“I think as long as you’re dedicated and have a love for what you do, you’ll find a way,” Paz said.




Manos found guilty on two counts of murder

Staff Reporter

ITHACA — After deliberating for about eight hours, jurors delivered a guilty verdict Thursday night for the Dryden woman accused of drowning and sexually abusing her 2-year-old niece.
Marie Manos, 34, was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder.
Specified in one of the murder charges was the additional charge of second-degree aggravated sexual abuse. Tompkins County Judge John Sherman told the jury not to consider the sexual abuse as a separate charge if it found her guilty of the murder charge that included sexual abuse.
Sherman set sentencing for March 12, and sent Marie Manos back to Tompkins County Jail. She has been held there without bail since she was arrested May 15, the day she caused the injuries that killed Grace Manos. Grace died the following day when she was removed from life support.
After hearing the sentence, Grace’s parents, Michael and Jennifer Manos, tearfully hugged as Jennifer held a photograph of Grace in her hand.
Marie Manos sat quietly at the defense table, her head bowed, until the courtroom cleared of spectators. Once the courtroom was empty, she began to sob.
Manos faces 15 years to life in prison for the crimes, but her father, Angelo Manos, said she has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he expects she will live for perhaps one more year.
Sherman removed three of the six charges in the original indictment before giving the jury its instructions after closing arguments Thursday.
The dismissed charges were the first charge of second-degree murder, the fourth charge of second-degree aggravated sexual abuse, felonies; and the sixth charge, endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor. Sherman said he dismissed them due to redundancy.
The deliberations and verdict came after passionate closing arguments from Marie Manos’ defense attorney, William Sellers IV, and Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson.



Libraries receive money for computers

Staff Reporter

Every day after school’s out, Mary Frank has to limit Marathon residents to a half hour on the five computers at Peck Memorial Library.
“We only have five computers but have eight to 10 people wanting a computer,” said Frank, the librarian at Peck Memorial Library.
Now, with a grant from the from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, seven area libraries, including the Peck Memorial Library, will receive a total of $88,400 to buy new computers.
Frank said the library was originally given more than $18,000 in 2001 from the Gates Foundation to purchase computers and then had them updated two to three years ago.
“It was really good but technology is always advancing,” she added.
Four out of five public libraries say they do not have enough computers to meet their community’s needs, according to a Feb. 7 news release from the state Education Department.
The Peck Memorial Library received $10,400 to buy four computers. Frank is deciding whether to use the money to replace two of the computers and add a couple of new ones, or just add four new ones and use the old ones until they break.
Priscilla Berggren-Thomas, librarian at the Phillips Free Library in Homer, will receive $13,000 for five computers, but Thomas is hoping to buy more.
“We are hoping to afford six or seven with the money,” she said.
Of the seven local libraries, Cortland Free Library received the most money — $31,200 for 12 computers.
Kay Zaharis, director of the Cortland Free Library, said with the money she is looking to replace four computers, add two computers to the youth services area and buy six laptops.
The two additional computers in the youth services area will bring the number of computers to four. The six laptops will increase the number of computers upstairs to a total of 12.
 A total of 421 libraries throughout the state in high need communities were granted money for more than 2,000 computers.




Local Clinton delegate elected

Staff Reporter

In the race for president, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain were clear winners in Cortland County.
Another winner was Martin Mack of Cortlandville, who was elected a delegate to represent Clinton Aug. 25-28 at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Mack, a former mayor of the city of Cortland, is deputy secretary for intergovernmental affairs for Gov. Spitzer.
In the Republican race, the winner in the state takes all the delegates and there is no delegate vote. On the Democratic side, voters select individual delegates and they can split their vote among delegates for any presidential candidate running.
Cortland County Republican Election Commissioner Bob Howe said he did not know how the Democratic state committee selects the delegates that will go to the convention.
State election officials could not be reached by deadline this morning.
The complicated process is posted on the New York State Democratic Committee site.
It says 281 delegates will represent New York at the convention in Denver. Out of these delegates, 151 are selected, based on the proportion of the vote their candidate received, in the primaries of New York’s 29 congressional districts.
Each district votes for five or six delegates. The additional 130 delegates are made up of 45 “superdelegates” comprised of members of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic members of Congress (including Hillary Clinton), Gov. Eliot Spitzer and former President Bill Clinton.
An additional 85 are elected at the Democratic State Convention in May, 81 of which will be allocated based on the candidate’s statewide vote.
In Cortland County, Clinton’s five delegates in the 24th Congressional District received the most votes, and the most votes went to Democrat Martin Mack of Cortlandville. He received 1,848 votes. The other four top vote-getters were: RoAnn M. Destito with 1,548 votes, Kim K. Muller with 1,539 votes, Ashok Malhotra with 1,337 votes and Sugwon Kang with 1,299 votes.



McGraw BOE delays vote on counselor position

Board will discuss feasibility of adding a half-time position at meeting in March

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — The Board of Education’s vice president objected Thursday to an addition to the board’s agenda that would have discussed the feasibility of adding a half-time school counselor position.
Vice President Tony Opera objected saying, “This board has said, ‘Let’s not do things like that.’” Opera asked to have the item deleted.
Superintendent of Schools Maria S. Fragnoli-Ryan said she had added it at the request of board member Dave Bordwell, and had only intended it to be discussed Thursday night.
“It got moved around because of finances,” said Bordwell. He said a lot of people had been asking about the position and that is why he wanted it settled, but he was willing to discuss it at another board meeting.
The board agreed to do that and add it to the agenda of the next meeting.
The next regular meeting will be held in March.
The board meets Saturday to work on the budget and will have another budget work session at 7 p.m. Feb. 20.
Opera noted that the board started the year with a negative fund balance and is just starting to look at the budget for the next school year. “I think we’re in big trouble this year, too,” he said.
The position was proposed last year but was not added to the budget for the 2007-08 school year.
In another issue, McGraw Faculty Association Co-president Robert Schlicht said there was concern about the calendar and the placement of the spring superintendent conference day on a Friday in the 2008-09 year. This issue had come up with a November date in the current year.
The spring date is April 24, which would be used for elementary parent-teacher conferences.
Teachers do not like the Friday date because parents are not as likely to attend. Elementary students have the day off; there is no change in the high school schedule. 
“We have ample time to head that stuff off,” said Bordwell, recalling the heated controversy in the fall.
Schlicht said besides being compensated for the time with an equal amount of time off, there were additional concerns raised at a recent faculty association meeting. He said another meeting with the principals and Fragnoli-Ryan would be needed.