Interesting stories to cover 2014

that was 2014 interesting stories composite

With 2014 wrapping up, we thought it'd be fun to ask a bunch of people about some of their favorite/most interesting things from the past year.

Next up: We asked a handful of local reporters about which stories were most interesting to cover this year...

A quick note about what "interesting" means for this question. As we said to the journalists, we weren't looking for the "biggest" or "most important" story that they covered, but rather one that, for whatever reason, ended up being especially interesting to them personally as they covered it.

Michael DeMasi - Business Review

Story: Poverty in Saratoga Springs
This story about poverty in Saratoga Springs interested me because downtown is thriving, making it the envy of mayors across upstate New York, yet relatively little is written or said about those living on the margins, except when there is a tragedy such as what happened to Nancy Pitts, a homeless woman who died a year ago after spending the night outside in subfreezing weather

The story is familiar: one city, two Americas. This was my opportunity to delve into it at Albany Business Review.

Michael DeMasi is a reporter with the Albany Business Review | @AlbBizMikeD

Danielle Sanzone - Troy Record

Story: Villa Valenti fire
While Joe Bruno being acquitted, the casino decisions, all the local craft beer-related stories, and the Ghetto Chopper T-shirt are all on my "most interesting" stories list from 2014, the topic that tops my list is the Villa Valenti fire in January.

There were various elements of the story which made it particularly interesting to me: 1) It was a huge fire and required a lot of work to put out. 2) It destroyed an iconic establishment in Rensselaer County which had been around since 1950 but had a history dating back to the early 1900s. 3) The business was in foreclosure and the owners initially said they would rebuild but are now in the process of selling the property. 4) I've had people coming out of the woodwork to tell me various pieces of information about the business before the fire. A lot of people seem to be interested in the story. And 5) It's still an open case. Most fires are pretty open and shut but this investigation by the local police has been ongoing since January.

Overall, some things are just not quite adding up. And I'm very interested in seeing what the police investigation eventually finds as the one year anniversary draws closer.

Danielle Sanzone is a report for the Troy Record | @DanielleSanzone

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist - Times Union

Story: The unprecedented fight within the Albany County Democratic Party for the nomination to state Supreme Court
On its face, this one seems kinda like paint drying. I get that. But to the extent that the insurgent campaign run by Albany County Family Court Judge Margaret "Peggy" Walsh laid bare the insider-y, hyper-political ways trial court judges are elected in New York, this story was a goldmine. All the more so because judicial candidates are barred by ethics rules from doing much politicking in public. Yet behind the scenes there is more horse-trading for these judgeships among party bosses than at the Fasig-Tipton auction. It's a side of the process the public seldom sees.

For those who didn't follow it, Walsh challenged the party's pick, County Legislator Justin Corcoran, by running a rival slate of delegates in a bid to swipe the Democratic nomination from Corcoran at September's convention. Her campaign centered on the criticism that Albany Democrats have continually failed to advance women and minorities to high-level judgeships. While Walsh lost, that criticism dogged Corcoran and the Democrats throughout the general election. And, in what amounted to stunning upset, Corcoran lost to Republican Lisa Fisher of New Baltimore despite a very large Democratic enrollment edge.

This race was a central factor in the ouster of Albany County Democratic Chairman Matthew Clyne. But beyond that, when people's eyes glaze over at the mention of politics, I try to convince them that if they care about policy -- fracking, backyard chickens, oil trains or red-light cameras, just to name a few that could theoretically end up before a state Supreme Court justice -- you should care about the process by which the people making those policies get elected. It's just as important and, more often than not, largely invisible.

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist covers the city and county of Albany for the Times Union | @JCEvangelist_TU

Bethany Bump - Daily Gazette

Story: Schenectady Instagram
I grew up about an hour from Schenectady, but when I was young and my family would pass through the city or spend any amount of time there, the visits inevitably included some trash talk about the city.

Schenectady sucks. That mindset was ingrained in me from a young age, and I never really knew why. Nobody could ever point to any specific reasons, aside from blanket statements about the Hamilton Hill neighborhood, prostitution, drugs, murder.

When I moved here after college and found the city not just tolerable, but lovely in surprising, interesting, historic ways -- I quickly became a Schenectady apologist. It had its downsides, of course, and it's my job as a reporter to chronicle them. But this summer I got to write about one of its upsides.

In August, I profiled two young women who had gained a huge following on Instagram chronicling their love of Schenectady on the social media site. The accounts, @SchenectadyDoesntSuck and @LongLiveSchenectady, popped up in the spring with just a few followers here and there. They began posting photos of the city's beautiful neighborhoods, favorite attractions, iconic buildings around town, and bits of trivia about the city. Today, they have nearly 2,000 and 1,000 followers, respectively, and attract dozens of comments each day from nostalgic expats and current residents who also choose to see the city in a positive light.

Positivity is rare around these parts. Schenectady struggles with very real issues: poverty, hunger, homelessness, blight, crime and, of course, the lingering despair from the loss of tens of thousands of General Electric jobs. But all the trash talk over the years hasn't helped. It was a treat to write about people (not politicians, not high-paid county officials) who seem to genuinely like the place.

Bethany Bump is a reporter for The Daily Gazette | @BethanyBump

Chris Churchill - Times Union

Story: Ark Community Charter School
I¹d have to say the story that interested me the most was the closing of the Ark Community Charter School in Troy¹s North Central neighborhood. Anybody who visited the school quickly realized it was a very special place, and it was incredibly important to many parents in its troubled neighborhood -- so important that it had more than a hundred children on its waiting list. But the school fell victim to the tyranny of test scores (although there was a lot of debate over whether its scores actually failed to meet required standard) and, to me, its closure showed that New York's charter school movement has no soul.

Chris Churchill is a columnist for the Times Union | @chris_churchill

Haley Viccaro - Daily Gazette

Story: SCCC marks 90th birthday of former hotel
I'll be celebrating one year at the Daily Gazette soon, and during my time here I have learned so much about the history of Schenectady. The most interesting story I covered this year would have to be the 45th anniversary of Schenectady County Community College, and the 90th anniversary of the former Hotel Van Curler. I knew that the college used to be a hotel during the city's heyday, but I never knew the fascinating things that happened there and tokens of the past that the building still holds. An archaeology professor at SCCC took me on a tour of the college, which I have seen many times, but she opened my eyes to what used to be there and it was like I was walking through the building in the 1920s.

Haley Viccaro is a reporter for The Daily Gazette | @HRViccaro

Jimmy Vielkind - Capital New York

Story: The left-flank challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo
To me the most interesting political story of 2014 was the rise of a left-flank challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo. Even though Cuomo is a lifelong Democrat who championed same-sex marriage and strict gun controls, progressives and several unions have been agitated by his fiscal policies, support for charter schools and inaction on a public campaign finance system. The tensions nearly split the Working Families Party, which only agreed to back Cuomo over Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout after some last-minute arm twisting and Cuomo's promise to help elect Democrats in the State Senate. (He could have done much, much more to fulfill it.)

Teachout challenged Cuomo anyway in a Democratic primary, criticizing him relentlessly and and drawing a better-than-expected 34 percent of the vote. In the general election, some of those disaffected progressives propelled Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins to a personal best, and more just stayed home, leaving Cuomo with a margin of victory that lagged his ticket-mates.

Jimmy Vielkind heads up the the Capitol bureau for Capital New York | @JimmyVielkind


That was 2014:
+ Favorite local foods 2014

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For a decade All Over Albany was a place for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. It was kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who could help you find out what's up. AOA stopped publishing at the end of 2018.

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