Lake Avenue Confidential
While the aforementioned reporter apparently to take what is likely a more lucrative job at Palio Communications down the street, there is no real understanding why his replacement, Matthew Rabin, a summer import from the newly established Saratoga News who abruptly disappeared from the position after less than two months on the job.
There’s little reason in publicly vetting why Rabin or any reporter left The Saratogian, as employment there is often a quick stop for journalists and public relations flack on their way to making more money. However, what is to be noted is that this paper has seen five reporters shifted in and out of a complicated and crucial beat that is now vacant for all intents and purposes.
What is also worth mentioning is that the average duration for the city beat position is hovering just below 11 months, which isn’t very much time a reporter to cultivate the sources necessary for sensible and meaningful journalism. In comparison, both the Times Union’s and the Daily Gazette’s Spa City reporters can measure their stay at their papers respective Saratoga bureaus in terms of years if not decades; this fact often shows in the depth of their reporting.
Now, some people would argue that The Saratogian is a small market newspaper, with far fewer resources at their disposal to create and maintain a staff of decent reporters. But given the more than credible stories relayed by former employees of the Journal Register Company –The Saratogian’s corporate overlord –it seems like this organization is more obsessed with shoving dollars in their pockets than bringing news to the door step. And given the earnings report released this month, it doesn't appear they'll be shoveling any more cash toward generating news.
One former reporter who left in disgust last year said The Saratogian was hiring college-educated reporters for what amounted to roughly $300 per week after taxes, which is less than the average clerk at Stewart’s takes home after 40 hours. Keep in mind, this salary includes no health insurance, no vacation time for the first year, no anything other than three C-notes at the end of the week. There’s a chance this has changed, but not a likely one.
So if the reporters aren't making any money, then where the hell is it going?
Perhaps one could look to Barbara Lombardo, the recalcitrant managing editor who’s rapidly approaching three decades manning the helm of a ship that just seems to take on more water every year. If there’s one reason the flimsy Saratogian is the way it is today, it’s got a lot to do with Lombardo, the person in charge of hiring reporters and keeping them on the straight and narrow.
From all accounts about Lombardo’s performance in the news room, she’s a nine-to-five absentee editor more concerned about her afternoon hair appointment than ensuring that the day’s news gets to the printing press. This is especially the case when a veteran reporter is bringing home a 400-word story about a kindergartener getting her head caught in a plywood cut-out of Daphne from the Scooby Doo gang. Meanwhile, the competition wrote about the demolition project and impending construction of a 123-room hotel located just across the street from The Saratogian’s main office.
As both Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County continue to grow exponentially, the supposed hometown newspaper remains the same: inept, undermanned and outdated. And much of this void has to do with the person sitting at the top of the pile, none other than Lombardo herself, who should do local journalism a favor and retire, so an editor with both vision and fire can revitalize this flailing publication.