The Week: What Caught Our Eye

April 25, 2020

Good Morning, Colleagues and Friends:

Photo Montage of health care workers.Those kindly, smiling eyes belie nerves of steel and hearts full of determination. They are the courageous few fighting for the grateful many, healthcare heroes all, at Glens Falls Hospital.

WE ARE THE 518: You know him as an evening news anchor at WNYT NewsChannel 13, but since childhood Jerry Gretzinger has also lived a life in the footlights: He’s an accomplished actor (over 200 stage appearances) and Big Band singer. Some years ago, he and his colleagues Benita Zahn and Jessica Layton formed the “The Singing Anchors.’’ Their loyal following brought big crowds to many Capital Region benefits. Lately, as Jerry’s watched a world apart struggle to be together, he’s been thinking about what he could do to inspire hope. He reached out to folks in the local performing arts community and asked them to record themselves singing at home. Then, after he put the kids to bed at night, Jerry got to work, producing a video that is now a local masterpiece: The Capital Region’s own version of “We are The World,’’ featuring more than 90 voices, including many people who’ve never met but who came together as one — the very picture of diversity, good will and hope. Isn’t that The Voice star Sawyer Fredericks? And American Idol finalist Madison Vandenburg? Yes. And, of course, there’s Benita Zahn, a singer and actress in her own right. The video already has attracted more than a half-million views.

AND HERE’S A BONUS: About 10 years ago, the Singing Anchors produced a memorable “Rainbow Medley.” They’ve just updated it to feature rainbows and smiles across the Capital Region. Their welcome message: Better days will come.

HOW WAS YOUR FIRST DAY? It was a smooth, orderly transition – until the pandemic struck. Albany Medical Center announced last summer that Dr. Dennis McKenna, a military combat veteran, experienced health care executive, and emergency physician by training, would succeed longtime CEO James Barba as leader of the regional healthcare system. McKenna’s first day as CEO was April 1. It’s a far different job than he could ever have expected.

THE FIGHT OF HIS LIFE: Michael Powers is a tough guy who’s seen his share of scrapes as the longtime president of the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association and a corrections sergeant, but nothing comes close to his battle to survive COVID-19, which stripped 36 pounds off his former football player frame and gave him visions of friends long past. “You’re thinking, ‘do I have my affairs in order in case this goes south?’”

WHAT MUST WE DO TODAY: The COVID-19 pandemic has us thinking about the late Clay Christensen, the magnificent scholar, writer and business consultant who was called “the most influential management thinker of his time” by no less an authority than The Economist. The world could use his wisdom in these trying times. He and a team of colleagues published an influential essay in 2016 arguing that what businesses and organizations must focus on is “the progress that the customer is trying to make in a given circumstance — what the customer hopes to accomplish,” which they distilled into the jobs to be done. The jobs to be done today are defined much differently than they were two months ago. Harry M. Kraemer, a Clinical Professor of Leadership at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, urges leaders to establish “a war room” with perspectives from across the organization, as well as from trusted external sources, so that no important vantage points are being overlooked when key decisions are considered. “I would argue that no leader, if they’re honest, is bright enough to figure out all of that” on their own, he says. A Kellogg School colleague, Jeff Hyman, has sound advice on managing through crisis when the work force is scattered. Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former Surgeon General of the United States, talks with the HBR IdeaCast about another, less-visible workplace crisis: Loneliness. And Joan Garry, who teaches at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and writes about non-profit leadership, has advice for how leaders of those organizations can keep them afloat during the crisis.

WE CAN DO BETTER. WE MUST: Marc Andreessen, who in 2009 co-founded a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that today has more $10 billion in assets under management, ignited a buzz across the business landscape with a blog post that argues the nation’s uneven response to the COVID-19 pandemic is a result of a systematic failure to think, plan and build. “You don’t just see this smug complacency, this satisfaction with the status quo and the unwillingness to build, in the pandemic, or in healthcare generally,” he writes. “You see it throughout Western life, and specifically throughout American life. … When the producers of HBO’s ‘Westworld’ wanted to portray the American city of the future, they didn’t film in Seattle or Los Angeles or Austin — they went to Singapore. We should have gleaming skyscrapers and spectacular living environments in all our best cities at levels way beyond what we have now; where are they?”

Firehouse.jpgFirefighters at Saratoga Springs’ Lake Avenue Station join the #518rainbow hunt and spray a little joy around.

HELP IS ON THE WAY: Each day of the pandemic brings new examples of people stepping forward to offer help to those in need. Warren County government leaders are coordinating a broad community effort to make and deliver fabric masks to those in need, working with retired Glens Falls-area physician Dr. Richard Leach, who calls his donors “Masketeers” because “It calls up chivalry and altruism and protecting the community against a marauding and sneaky enemy!”  Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple has a team of people making masks for county employees and the public. The Glens Falls school district is putting its 3D printers to use to make face shields that it’s donating to Glens Falls Hospital. The Sheetmetal Workers Union and local contractors are teaming up to make aluminum strips for use as flexible nose pieces inside masks. Stewart’s shops have invited local non-profits to reach out for financial help. And  Seasons Catering in Colonie, its business severely disrupted by the pandemic, donated 4,000 meals to thank the health care workers and staff at Albany Med.

MORE PEANUTS, PLEASE: Stephen King’s latest book, “If it Bleeds,” comprising four novellas, is getting a lot of press because, well, it’s Stephen King’s latest (he’s published 61 and had more than 30 best sellers) and, locally, because it makes a brief mention of the Albany Times Union: “These days I work for the Times Union, a newspaper that serves Albany and the surrounding area. The salary is peanuts.” “Peanuts” is a little salty. The Times Union’s owner, the Hearst Corp., has promised no layoffs, furloughs or pay cuts in light of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — and pledged a 1% bonus to all employees. Hearst also is spending with other media organizations, purchasing television ads in some markets to promote its newspapers – including the Times Union. And on April 15, The Hearst Foundation announced grants of more than $50 million in emergency funding to more than 100 U.S. medical, humanitarian and cultural organizations affected by the pandemic, including $1 million to the St. Peter’s Hospital Foundation in Albany.

Fountain statues of two fictional characters in a pool shooting water at each other.Saratoga’s Spit and Spat show proper social distancing (Skip Dickstein)

WHAT’S OLD IS NEW: Social distancing and flattening the curve are phrases that didn’t exist two months ago, but not all of the vocabulary surrounding the coronavirus is new. Victory Gardens were a staple of World War I and, especially, World War II, a movement that encouraged Americans toward self-sufficiency by growing and preserving their own produce. They’re making a comeback.

LIFE IMMITATES ART: The world-renowned J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles found an innovative way to stay engaged with lovers of fine art while its doors remain closed. It challenged people to post photos of themselves recreating their favorite masterpieces from home. The response has been massive, and the re-creations amazing.

A VOICE OF CHEER: The ballparks may be dark, but Mets public address announcer Colin Cosell — grandson of the late broadcasting legend Howard Cosell — is determined to bring light to healthcare workers and others involved in the coronavirus fight. As of earlier in the week, he had recorded nearly 600 customized, 30-second audio clips for fans who reach him on Twitter, mimicking the familiar style and inflections of a batter being announced to the crowd. “A few stories have brought tears to my eyes,” he told The Associated Press. “I heard from someone working in an ER who said it was pretty tough in there, and that he broke away and listened for a few seconds and it helped calm him down.”

CHASING THE STORY: Mike Waters, a veteran sports reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard, used the release of ESPN’s 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s to recount the time that Waters, as a North Carolina student journalist, got a heads-up that Jordan was about to tee off at the UNC golf course. Ride along for a piece that says as much about Waters’ enterprising ingenuity as it does about his subject.

TIME TRAVELING: It only seems like the coronavirus has been with us forever. For a little perspective, we turn to David Levine, who since 2007 has written a column focused on history for Hudson Valley Magazine and earlier this year published Hudson Valley: The First 250 Million Years.

FOREBODING IN THE BERKSHIRES: Merchants and arts organizations in the Berkshires, like tourism-dependent pockets everywhere, are eying the coming season with trepidation, uncertain when restrictions will be lifted and whether people will feel safe gathering regardless. Tourism accounts for more than $1 billion in economic activity annually in the Berkshires. The president of the local economic development agency told the Boston Globe, “it’s without any shred of doubt that the visitor economy is the backbone of our economy, and that it’s critical to our economic health. That’s why this is so scary.”

THE SUMMER AHEAD: Americade, one of motorcycling’s most popular touring rallies and a signature vacation season event for the Lake George region for nearly 40 years, will be held in 2020 but pushed back until the week of July 21-25, as long as there are no federal, state or local prohibitions against group gatherings at that time. New York City is planning its Fourth of July Fireworks extravaganza, one way or the other. And at least for now, The New York State Fair is still on.

TIME FOR THEIR CLOSEUP: The Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium are closed, of course, but thanks to the Wildlife Conservation Society, you can still visit between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can watch here. Looking for a little variety? — rebranded Time In for now — has a list of zoos that are live-streaming their feeding times, as well where to find live bird-feeder cams across the U.S. and Europe.

THE MOTHER OF INVENTION: Little Clark Spagnuolo loves fish, so much so that his parents planned to take him to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to celebrate his 2nd birthday. Becky Spagnuolo wasn’t about to let the fact the Shedd is closed now deprive her baby boy of a trip to the aquarium.

BROKEN BATS: Say the words Louisville Slugger and every baseball fan will instantly know what you’re talking about. The brand is synonymous with the game, the weapon of choice for generations of hitters. Babe Ruth swung a Louisville Slugger. So did Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter and countless other legends of the game. But the Louisville Slugger has fallen out of favor with today’s major leaguers. Now the world’s oldest baseball bat manufacturer has been idled by the coronavirus, and faces an uncertain future.

GOOD NEIGHBOR: Leave it to Tom Hanks to do the most Tom Hanks thing ever for an Australian boy who was bullied because his name is Corona.

YOU HAVE TO SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT: A French school for stunt performers is breaking the internet with an astounding mash-up video that we promise you will not regret watching.


Those of you who have been to the Mansion on O Street in Washington, D.C., know it’s a delightfully eclectic, funky labyrinth of secret doors and interconnected rooms, each with a theme, and all of the items in it are for sale. It has several instruments signed and donated by music legends, and one its guest rooms was where Rosa Parks slept when she was in Washington. Its founder, H.H. Leonards, wrote to museum supporters with an update on “emerging from captivity,” and ended it with five ideas worth embracing:

1.     Raise your expectations. Say yes to your dreams.
2.     Clean, dance, and exercise off your doubts — and fears.
3.     There is no more "normal.” Accept this, and let it go.
4.     Pace yourself. Have more compassion for others for sure, but don't forget yourself.
5.     Smile more. If you smile before eating, your food always tastes better. 


We leave you this week with kudos to the Ohio Department of Health for this powerful 30-second video that says it all without saying much. Stay safe, be well, be strong.

PLEASE SHARE: Feel free to pass this along to your friends and colleagues.

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Troy Burns, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Colleen Potter, Tina Suhocki, Tara Hutchins, Emily Behan, Matt Behan, John Behan, Claire P. Tuttle and Katelyn Jensen and her Glens Falls Hospital colleagues.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

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