20 Questions: A new generation of journalism

SYDNEY SCHAEFER/NNY BUSINESS
Alec Johnson, managing editor for Johnson Newspaper Corporation and the Watertown Daily Times (NNY360), stands in front of the Watertown Daily Times building on Washington Street, Watertown.

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Strength in Local Journalism

Bob Gorman

Nineteen years ago during my previous career in journalism, an applicant for a reporter’s job at the Watertown Daily Times was in my office, outlining his background.

    He was the son of a former U.S. diplomat. He grew up in Japan and once wrote – in Japanese – a magazine article on Japanese architecture.  Over the previous year he kayaked from the St. Lawrence River through the Great Lakes, down the Illinois & Michigan Canal and Mississippi River to New Orleans because, well, he lived in Vermont at the time and it was something he thought would be interesting.

    He had been a reporter at other newspapers. So I had to ask: Of all the gin joints and newspapers in the world, why Watertown?

     “Because my dad worked here as a reporter for a short time after he got out of college,” he explained. “He once told me about this story he did that caused a lot of commotion. He was on a train from Albany to Watertown and there was a huge delay because of a snow storm. And the mayor of Watertown was on the train as well and started berating the crew because he had to get back to something important in Watertown. He didn’t know my dad was there and so the next day there was a story in the paper about the mayor yelling at everyone on the train.”

    When my interview was over, I took the applicant into the office of the late and great John Johnson, who had been the editor and publisher of the newspaper since 1949. I wanted to see if he would remember the applicant’s father, even though he had only briefly worked at the Watertown Daily Times more than 40 years earlier.

    Johnson eyed the applicant for a few moments and said, “You look like your father.”

    He then started to chuckle and added, “I remember this story he wrote about being on a train in a snowstorm with the mayor of Watertown…”

    Old journalists are like that. They remember the good stories, even the ones they didn’t write.

    For instance:

    In 2007 Alec Johnson was a college-aged intern at the Watertown Daily Times assigned to writing feature stories.  One afternoon I heard a call over the police scanner about a man and his dog missing in Lake Ontario at Wehle State Park. We were short-staffed in the newsroom that day so I sent Alec.

    What would he end up writing about? Who knows? All I ever told reporters was “If you don’t go you won’t know.”

    Johnson arrived on the scene soon after to find a lot of confusion. The woman who called for help was on a cliff looking down, but could not see any evidence of her boyfriend and his dog. The waters were becoming increasingly choppy. Had the man and his dog been crushed on the rocks, pulled under or dragged by the current to another place on shore? Law officers couldn’t tell either.

    An hour later, Johnson called me and said there no evidence of a body. Since it looked like a shear wall of rock down to the water, searchers along the cliff were about to leave the area to go see if the body was someplace else along the shore.

    I told Alec he could head home. He had already worked a full day as a features intern. Since I had a night reporter coming in soon, I told Alec I would have that person follow up with police as the evening wore on.

    “I think I’ll hang out here a little longer,” replied Alec.  “Something might happen.”

    Good call. Within the next hour a rescue boat saw the man and his dog in an indentation in the wall of rock, directly below where his girlfriend was looking. And Alec was there to watch the rescue unfold. The newspaper the next day printed Alec’s pictures of the man and his dog pulled to safety and our story included Alec’s on-the-scene quotes from the very lucky survivor and those who rescued him.

    After completing his undergraduate degree at Dickinson College and then getting a master’s degree at Columbia University, Alec spent eight years as a reporter and editor at the Waterbury (Conn.) Republican-American. Now, he has returned to the Watertown Daily Times as managing editor.

    (The Johnson family avoids hiring its own blood right out of college. They prefer the pups make their early career mistakes on someone else’s dime.)

    While the Johnsons made no hiring exception for Alec when he finished college, maybe they should have as he quickly became an award-winning journalist in Connecticut. He once tracked the police records of a drunk driver who had killed another driver. It was the reprobate’s seventh DWI but because his previous crimes occurred just across the borders of New York and Massachusetts – and nobody was sharing police records — he was still driving and killing another driver instead of being in jail.

    For those of us dependent on a free press to tell us about our local businesses, hospitals, schools, nonprofits, etc., we must be willing to acknowledge some cold truths. Johnson works in a world where our President refers to journalists as “the enemy of the people,” a term preferred by totalitarians who are about to round up the opposition for execution. Combine that with a growing population that thinks their Facebook “news feed” is actual journalism and you end up with the sorry mess of news coverage we find ourselves in today.

    Similar to the view he had on the cliff at Wehle State Park many years ago, Alec Johnson now navigates these choppy waters of news gathering. Fortunately, the new managing editor – who now stands on the bridge were his family has stood for more than 100 years — has the patience, fortitude and competence to guide the Times’ newsroom in service to our community.

 

Connecting Countries and Commerce for Decades

WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES ARCHIVE PHOTO
During the Thousand Islands Bridge opening in August 1938 cars lined up to travel across to Wellesley Island for the first time.

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Telemedicine use spreading in NNY

Charles Wainwright – Wainwright Photo
A doctor at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse communicates in 2016 with a patient using telemedicine technology.Use of the technology in the north country has grown exponentially over the past three years.

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Cape Air, Boutique Air make final pitch for Massena’s essential air service contract

Cape Air

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Ogdensburg unveils new airport as Allegiant Air touches down

JASON HUNTER n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES Patricia Arduine, Potsdam, waits to board the first Allegiant Air outbound flight from Ogdensburg to Sanford, Florida Wednesday at the Ogdensburg International Airport. (Robinson's story)

JASON HUNTER n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES
Patricia Arduine, Potsdam, waits to board the first Allegiant Air outbound flight from Ogdensburg to Sanford, Florida Wednesday at the Ogdensburg International Airport.

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Caprara Honda holds grand opening ceremony

Bill and Jan Cratsenberg look at cars in the showroom of the new F.X. Caprara Honda dealership during grand opening ceremonies Thursday afternoon in Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, Watertown Daily Times.

Bill and Jan Cratsenberg look at cars in the showroom of the new F.X. Caprara Honda dealership during grand opening ceremonies Thursday afternoon in Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, Watertown Daily Times.

The newly opened F.X. Caprara Honda dealership on outer Bradley Street held its grand opening and ribbon-cutting event throughout the day Thursday. [Read more…]

City engineer: Factory Street project is ‘on schedule’

The Factory Street project is finally on schedule and is expected to be completed in October, despite delays and problems with excavating and other issues that have driven the project cost up to $13.5 million. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

The Factory Street project is finally on schedule and is expected to be completed in October, despite delays and problems with excavating and other issues that have driven the project cost up to $13.5 million. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

Manager Christopher L. Turck was relieved to hear that the brunt of the $13.5 million Factory Street construction project in front of Mo’s Place should be finished in October. [Read more…]

Long-term growth strategy for Seaway system could include longer shipping season

A $3.8 billion strategy to double maritime trade on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system over the next 10 years includes a proposal to lengthen the shipping season, a situation Save the River will monitor closely. [Read more…]

August 2016 Feature Story: Hospital Networks

A push for ‘balance’

Dr. John Poggi, a board-certified hematologist and oncologist and director of medical oncology at Samaritan Medical Center, moved his private practice under Samaritan’s umbrella in 2014, having previously worked for Samaritan from 1984 to 1999. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Business.

Dr. John Poggi, a board-certified hematologist and oncologist and director of medical oncology at Samaritan Medical Center, moved his private practice under Samaritan’s umbrella in 2014, having previously worked for Samaritan from 1984 to 1999. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Business.

Doctors who leave private practice for hospitals, networks on rise

By Gabrielle Hovendon, NNY Business

To be in private practice, or not to be? That is the question — and it’s an increasingly common one for north country physicians. [Read more…]