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NYSNYS NEWS INSIDE THE LCA: The show is a success. Gannett/NYT win writing awards. AP loses a reporter. Times Union cutting its staff. LCA archives update.
By Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 23, 2019) -- The reboot of the LCA show proves to be a big success. Gannett and the NY Times win the writing awards. The AP loses a veteran reporter. The Times Union seeks its second staff reduction in less than a year. The LCA archives are now indexed at SUNY Library.

LCA show a success

The 119th LCA show proved to be a big success this week, a year after the event's future looked bleak.

About 200 people turned out for Tuesday's show, called "Amazonked! Amateur Hour at Albany Public Access TV." The one-act show featured 11 songs, Newsbreak, and one skit that portrayed former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top aide Joe Percoco making morning announcements to other inmates in the federal prison in Otisville.

Other than the cast, everyone attending brought a ticket, in contrast to the prior practice of comping dozens of guests. The change was part of a belt-tightening intended to drastically lower costs that had spiraled in recent years. Many of the changes were decided upon at a brainstorming session of LCA leaders and alumni in December on how to keep the show going.

The reboot was spearheaded by show co-chairs Susan Arbetter and Tim Williams of WCNY's "Capitol Pressroom." The script committee chair once again was Jon Campbell of USA Today Network (the new name for the old Gannett).

The show was held in the State Room, a banquet hall in the Albany City Savings Bank Building, a 1901 landmark that was the first skyscraper to be built in the city. Guests and cast assembled in the ornate former bank lobby, framed by dramatic vaulted ceilings, marble walls, and Corinthian columns.

LCA president Dan Clark of the NY Law Journal called it the "the new, re-imagined LCA Show" when he announced the production in January. The show's future was in doubt after a lackluster couple of years when it was produced in the lobby of the Egg.

To debut the new format, former Times Union reporter Cathy Woodruff appeared as herself to sing the show's meta-opening called "These Corny Skits," whose lyrics explained what the audience was about to see. It was set to the tune of "The Brady Bunch" TV show theme song.

"So we're trying a little something new here," she sang. "Keep tradition from dying on its own/So we thank you for coming out here/Please silence all your phones."

The show ended with well received rebuttals from newly elected GOP Chair Nick Langworthy and Senators Alessandra Biaggi and Jessica Ramos. They introduced themselves as the "fucking idiots," which is how Cuomo's "senior advisor" Rich Azzopardi described them to a New York Times reporter.

Cuomo did not attend, but Azzopardi was there. Giving the cast a taste of their own medicine, he heckled former TV reporter (and ex-Cuomo aide) Bryan Jackson during his "Capitol Gift Shop" skit during Newsbreak.

[CLICK HERE] to see former WNYT anchor Phil Bayly's showstopper about the Amazon HQ2 debacle. The penultimate song was set to the tune of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina."


Spector, Wang win reporting awards

Joe Spector of USA Today Network and Vivian Wang of The New York Times won the two reporting awards given out on show night.

Spector won the Jay Gallagher award, which is given out by the LCA and decided by judges outside the LCA. Wang won the Walter Brown award, given out and decided by members of the LCA Alumni group, the LCAA.

Spector has been in the LCA for the past 12 years. [CLICK HERE] to read a selection of his stories on the Rochester Democratic & Chronicle website.

Wang has been in the LCA for two years. [CLICK HERE] to read her entry.


AP reporter heads to PR

Chris Carola, an AP session reporter for the past few years, is leaving to go into public relations. The veteran reporter is joining Ed Lewi Associates, a well established public relations firm whose flagship client is NYRA and Saratoga Race Course.

No word on who will replace him at the Capitol Bureau, which has devolved into a one-person operation staffed by David Klepper when the Legislature is not in session.


News industry contraction continues

The Times Union announced its second staff reduction in less than a year this week, seeking buyouts across the board and potential layoffs.

"The company informed the Guild on Monday that it seeks an unspecified reduction in staffing during the middle of 2019," the union told members in a memo. "Under the terms of the current contract, that step requires the company first make a buyout offer to workers who are willing to leave prior to pursuing potential layoffs. The offer is similar to that made in 2016 and late last year when the company last sought staffing cuts. It calls for two weeks pay per year of service, starting at a minimum of 4 weeks pay to a maximum of 52 weeks pay."

The union has yet to vote on the buyout offer. The paper has one of the most robust Capitol coverage teams in the state, with three reporters working out of the LCA and a fourth, Chris Bragg, doing investigative reporting out of the main newsroom.

Newspapers have steadily downsized in New York as advertising moved online, gutting ad revenues.

"Their economic model is gone," New York Times Editor Dean Baquet said last week, as reported by The Hill. "I think most local newspapers in America are going to die in the next five years, except for the ones that have been bought by a local billionaire."

The Times remains relatively healthy due to its national and international subscriber base, but it too has cut back. Coverage of state and metro news has shrunk as more of its resources are devoted to covering the national scene and President Donald Trump.


LCA archives are indexed

Records and material from LCA history have been archived and indexed by the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives at the SUNY Albany Library.

Cataloged as "The Legislative Correspondents' Association of the State of New York Records, 1892-2014," the collection includes 10.41 cubic feet of records about the LCA administration, the LCA show and other materials relating to its long history.

The material were transferred 3 years ago and indexed in 2018. Several more boxes of materials remain in the pressroom under lock and key, for eventual transfer. The leftovers include more than a century of programs to the LCA show and a large number of extremely old photos and paper records of the show and the pressroom.

None of it is online, but all of it is open to researchers. [CLICK HERE] to go to the page on the SUNY Albany website where the collection is cataloged.