With the end of the year coming up, we thought it'd be fun to ask a bunch of people about some of their favorite/most interesting things from the 2013.
Next up: A bunch of local journalists on the stories that were most interesting to cover this year...
As we mentioned when asking people for their answers, we weren't looking for the biggest or most important story this year -- we wanted to know which story the reporters personally found most interesting to cover. It could be big, could be small, could be whatever.
Michael DeMasi - Business Review
Story: Angelo Maddox
I first heard about Angelo Maddox when Mayor Jerry Jennings mentioned him during his State of the City speech last January.Maddox owns a small business on South Pearl Street, a block from Times Union Center, where he sells hip-hop-styled clothing, shoes and accessories. I wound up talking to Maddox several times over the course of a few months. The more I learned about his upbringing and obstacles he overcame, including losing his father at a young age and serving time in state prison, the more interested I grew.
The end result was a cover story that ran in August.
Michael DeMasi is a reporter with the Albany Business Review | @AlbBizMikeD
Jordan Carleo-Evangelist - Times Union
Story: The end of Jerry Jennings' two-decade tenure as mayor
While I've spent most of the last five years writing about politics in Albany, I don't see this so much as a political story as an institutional one. Love him or don't, Jerry Jennings has been -- and I say this in a nice way -- Albany's mascot and No. 1 booster for twenty years. He is the most high-profile politician in the entire region and I'd venture to say a lot more popular around these parts than even the governor. The way people react to him -- honking their horns and shouting from moving cars when he's standing on a street corner -- is hard to believe until you see it again and again again. People may have begun to grow tired of the Jennings Administration, but many of them they still love Jerry the former vice principal from North Albany. And the one thing I'd feel comfortable saying definitively about Jennings is that it was obvious he loved the job of being mayor -- not just the power (though he did!), but the public persona. It's almost as if he was acting like the city's big brother at times.
Albany's election of its first female mayor in Kathy Sheehan, a non-Albany native to boot, is rightly a really big story in its own right for what it means symbolically and for the new direction Sheehan will no doubt take the city. But losing Jennings also means losing what he represented as this well-tanned, shoulder-slapping, joke-lobbing, room-working outsized bridge between an older version of Albany that is fading and the 21st-century. I got a similar vibe when Assemblyman Jack McEneny retired at the end of last year.
Change is constant, obviously, and in the present we mostly dwell on what's wrong with the institutions we have because that's just human nature and the nature of the daily news business. There is ample fodder for debate over Jennings' policies and how they served Albany. But from time to time it's good to notice these institutions for what they are and what they say about the history of the place we live. And I say this as a person who isn't even from here.
All that said, the story I enjoyed writing the most this year was not even about Jerry but his longtime secretary, Thelma Dooley, who retired last month after four decades serving three mayors. In my mind, Thelma Dooley's retirement symbolizes the same kind of institutional turnover as Jennings' departure. And, as an added bonus, she was hands-down the most fun person I interviewed all year.
Jordan Carleo-Evangelist now covers state politics and government out of the Times Union's Capitol bureau | @JCEvangelist_TU
Sara Foss - Daily Gazette
Story: Richard Russo
My favorite story of the year was probably a feature article on the writer Richard Russo, and how people in his hometown of Gloversville view his work. Russo wouldn't speak to me for the story, but I felt I learned a lot talking to his relatives and people in town. I like Russo's writing, and the story gave me an opportunity to learn how it was shaped by growing up in a factory town in upstate New York.
Sara Foss is a columnist for The Daily Gazette | @saraafoss
Chris Churchill - Times Union
Story: Brian Holloway's house
For me, the most interesting story I covered was the crazy circus that followed the party at Brian Holloway's house in Stephentown. That's mostly because the story involved so many broader issues -- social media; NFL concussions; celebrity; even divisions between the rich and poor in rural New York. It was also a fascinating (and pretty disturbing) window into how news travels in the cable news and Internet age, and the consequences for people who get caught up in whatever happens to be the national outrage of the moment.
Chris Churchill is a columnist for the Times Union | @chris_churchill
Adam Sichko - Business Review
Story: The Remington Arms factory in Ilion, New York
The most interesting story I covered this year has to be our special report from Ilion, New York, where Remington Arms employs some 1,300 people at a gun factory. I made three trips there in the months after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School (Adam Lanza used a semiautomatic rifle that today is made exclusively in Ilion, although authorities have not said where Lanza's gun was made).
In New York, tougher gun laws sped through the Capitol, banning the sale of some of what's made in Ilion. At their core, those laws raised concerns in Ilion about a way of life that has been endangered across upstate by the loss of manufacturing over the past three or four decades. While the story of the day was gun control, I found it ran much deeper.
(On a personal note, it was a unique challenge to step into that scene as a suburbanite; I've never held a gun or heard one go off.)
Adam Sichko is a reporter with the Albany Business Review | @AlbBizAdam
Steve Flamisch - NewsChannel 13 WNYT-TV
Story: Josephine Smith
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting, interviewing, and telling the story of Josephine Smith, a Troy woman who served in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) during World War II.
We first met at a military picnic in October. My story that day was about the government shutdown, and how veterans were reacting to the closure of the World War II Memorial. I was only able to include little bit of her personal story in my report that night, but I was so intrigued, I pushed to do a longer feature. It finally came together on November 10.
During our interview, Josephine explained that she joined the WAC after her brother was killed in action in 1943. His sacrifice, she said, inspired her military service. Josephine talked about what it was like to be one of the first -- and few -- women in the U.S. Army Military Police. And she was animated when reliving certain moments. She wagged her finger when quoting an officer's directive, and later formed the same hand into a pistol when demonstrating how she once pulled her gun to break up a fight.
In the end, the entire interview lasted more than a half-hour. My job, then, was to condense her life story into three minutes. The finished product looked great thanks to the superb lighting, shooting, and editing work of NewsChannel 13 photographer Justin Wambach.
I also owe a great debt of gratitude to Josephine's son, John Ostwald, who first approached me at that picnic in October -- and helped arrange the November sit-down.
Josephine is a remarkable woman, not to mention being one of the sweetest people I've met. Looking back on the hundreds of stories I told in 2013, hers stands out.
Steve Flamisch is a general assignment reporter at NewsChannel 13 WNYT-TV, Albany's NBC affiliate.
Jimmy Vielkind - Capital New York
Story: The SAFE Act
There was lots of debate this year over New York's new gun control law, the SAFE Act, which among other things broadened the definition of banned assault weapons. As I was covering legal challenges, legislative debates and activist backlash against the January law, I was struck at how stark the divide was between people who own and use guns as part of their everyday lives, and people (like me) who don't.
So I went to a shooting range in rural Monroe County, where opposition to the new law is quite strong. I hadn't shot a gun since Boy Scout camp, but was handed two semi-automatic rifles. They used the same ammunition, but had different features. One was restricted by the SAFE Act, the other one wasn't. I spoke for a while with a firearms instructor about the pros and cons of each gun, and chatted with some of the hundreds of people who came out for a forum on the new law the previous night. By dint of pure personal preference, I actually preferred shooting the SAFE-Act compliant gun, but the experience of shooting it was roughly the same as the rifle that must now be registered and can't be sold.
Jimmy Vielkind reported for the Times Union's state Capitol bureau this year before moving to Capital New York to head up its Capitol bureau | @JimmyVielkind
Caitlin Morris - The Saratogian
Story: The death of Nancy Pitts
The most interesting story I wrote was about Nancy Pitts, the homeless woman who died while sleeping outside in freezing temperatures in Saratoga Springs.
Most people don't know this, but I actually found out about her death because I was scanning the police blotter from the week before and spotted an unattended death of a homeless woman and made some calls to the city police about it. They had an attitude of, why is her death any more important than anyone else, and that concerned me.
Nancy's story touched people and now, in place of her life, is a Code Blue program to save other people from dying of exposure. I hope it continues.
Caitlin Morris is a reporter for The Saratogian | @CMsaratogian
Danielle Sanzone - The Record
Story: Sangamon Mills Eventually Sued by NYS Attorney General
As my editors could tell you, I've started to rue the day that the name "Sangamon Mills" came into my life. The business closed in Cohoes earlier this year and, weirdly enough, I was initially alerted to this by a reporter in the Midwest doing a story about a community group that had not yet gotten their dish towels to sell for a fundraiser.
What I've come to realize is that there were hundreds and hundreds of these church, school, and community groups around the country and as soon as I wrote a story in April I became one of their only sources of information on if their order was coming, if the business was still open, and how they might get a refund (since the 800 phone number once used for the business had apparently become a porn line). Many times they would confuse me as being a representative for the business itself. For months, I referred the upwards of 50 calls from Washington, Oregon, Montana, Indiana, etc to the NYS Attorney General, who eventually gathered enough information to go after the business. An announcement was made this past fall.
While there were many other interesting stories -- St. Patrick's church, the 50th anniversary of the Citizens Party in Cohoes, the emerging green initiatives that have resulted in me composting on a regular basis, and education through video games as done through a few college courses including at RPI -- I found Sangamon Mills interesting because I was amazed at how an 80-something-year-old business had made such an impact on so many lives and the lengths that these little old ladies would go to to get their quality dish cloths or their refunds.
Danielle Sanzone is a report for the Troy Record | @DanielleSanzone
Innae Park - Time Warner Cable News
More than being the most interesting story, this news day was unforgettable. On March 13, Kurt Myers went on a shooting rampage in the villages of Mohawk and Herkimer. Due to the statewide nature of YNN (now Time Warner Cable), I was on the anchor desk for our wall-to-wall live coverage. So little was known, but what information we had we tried to release safely and carefully.
An hour or two later, white smoke was seen from the Sistine Chapel.
Within seconds, we transitioned from live breaking news coverage from Herkimer County to the Vatican. Within seconds, the tone changed from solemn and reassuring to one of celebration and wonder. As I grappled with making that change, the breadth and scope of news became very real. In a moment, a family is fearfully holed up in a town of a few thousand. And in the next, millions across the world could be cheering their newest leader. And neither diminishes the importance of the other.
Innae Park is fill-in anchor/general assignment reporter for Time Warner Cable News, Albany | @innaepark
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