Tagged with " The Saratogian"
Jul 16, 2020 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Local newsrooms ‘operating on fumes and idealism’ while hedge fund profits

This is the image on the Twitter account for a reporter who cares about local news, even though his hedge fund owners don’t.

Dan Barry’s recent New York Times piece about the lone reporter for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa., struck home.

The Mercury is owned by the same hedge fund, Alden Global Capital, that gutted The Saratogian, where I worked for 38 years, along with The Record in nearby Troy, and virtually every other newspaper it’s acquired, large and small. Alden   also owns significant shares in big newspaper chains and is salivating for more.

Newspapers are distressed properties that vultures like Alden will mercilessly squeeze to death. Alden’s newspaper division made $160 million in the 2017 fiscal year, with double-digit profit margins from some of its newspapers, Barry reported, while the hedge fund continues to strip its newspapers bare. Its motto could be: All the news we print’s for profit.

The focus of Barry’s story is reporter Evan Brandt, whose beat in Pottstown includes more than a dozen local governments and school districts.

Sounds familiar.

Here, a handful of writers and editors are attempting to cover an impossible number of communities in and around Saratoga Springs, Troy, and southern Saratoga County for online and print editions. It’s tempting to call this a fool’s errand, but the journalists are no fools, just people who believe that knowing what’s going on in your town is important — even though their bosses could not care less.

These and other local newspapers, as Barry writes, are “operating on fumes and the idealism” of their own Evan Brandt.

This may not convince you to pay for your local news, but I hope it will help you to understand and appreciate what the less than barebones staff is up against.

Dec 26, 2019 - Uncategorized    No Comments

The Saratogian 1902 building morphs from news to brews

Superhorse has apparently been put out to pasture.

Superhorse gets a hug from longtime sports writer and editor Stan Hudy in this 2009 photo in the lobby of what was The Saratogian for more than 100 years and is now Walt and Whitman Brewing. Hudy moved with the newspaper to smaller offices, while Superhorse was put out to pasture.

The eight-foot-tall sculpture, which was commissioned during a 2007 citywide equine arts project, graced the lobby of The Saratogian. Unofficially named Superhorse, he is a four-legged fiberglass Clark Kent with a reporter’s notebook in his breast pocket and a suitcoat spread open to reveal Superman’s “S”.

I’d have bet that Superhorse would’ve been kept in the building that had been home to the daily local newspaper for more than a century. Turns out my bets on fiberglass horses aren’t any better than my wagers at the track.

What did I expect? The quaint redbrick building at Lake and Maple avenues where I worked for 38 years no longer houses The Saratogian, its name above the corner doorway notwithstanding. The considerably smaller newspaper operation relocated a few blocks away.

The corner of the redbrick circa 1902 building at 20 Lake Ave. still carries The Saratogian nameplate.

The new incarnation for 20 Lake Ave. is Walt and Whitman, a modern brewery, bar, eatery and coffeehouse that opened last week. The owners have said they were inspired by the great American poet Walt Whitman. They’re branding their coffee Walt and their beer Whitman, thus Walt and Whitman.  

When I stopped in last Friday night the downstairs was hopping with more people in the building than … ever. Patrons mingled as waitstaff scurried to deliver drinks and eats where the press used to rumble (and I once got to yell “Stop the press!”). The area used for decades to store giant rolls of newsprint and piles of Sunday advertising inserts now boasts shiny equipment for producing beer. I haven’t been yet to the café upstairs, where the newsroom and other offices were located.

Brewing equipment glistens where newspaper inserts used to be piled.

Did I feel a pang of The Saratogian nostalgia in the Walt and Whitman? Not a whit, even though the only nod to the newspaper is the restroom wallpaper, old editions of the Pink Sheet, which is still published daily during racing season. That said, I would have liked to see the local newspaper and its 100-plus years at the location acknowledged with photos from over the years of things like the pressmen at work or kids hawking the paper.

Bottom line, though, it was great to see the circa 1902 building bustling with new life. I’d had enough of the hedge fund owners when I left The Saratogian four years ago, even though I loved the newspaper and my job (most of the time), working a block from Broadway, and having a downtown parking spot (oh, how I miss that perk), and I still give credit to the dedicated staffers who remain.

And let me clarify about calling the building quaint: Reporters typed stories wearing gloves to fend off wintry drafts; never-washed windows were caulked shut; editors for years were crammed into a noisy space that layoffs ultimately morphed into a ghostly roomful of abandoned desks.  

It’s wonderful that the building has been repurposed into a lively place for people to get together, eat, drink, and have a good time. I confess that as an editor, I’m itching to strike the “and” separating Walt from Whitman, but I truly wish them well – even with Superhorse scratched from the lobby.