The offbeat side of the news - The Buffalo News
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The offbeat side of the news

The man behind the story

Viewers of NBC’s “Today” on Friday might have caught the anchors discussing a Radio Shack “flier” from 23 years ago, and joking about how it contained items that were once clunky and expensive but are now part of many phones.

What was left out was that Buffalo writer Steve Cichon discovered the ad in a stack of front sections of The Buffalo News that he bought for $3 and wrote about his find for the website Trending Buffalo.

“It is kind of frustrating and different to see them presenting your information as their own,” Cichon said Friday after he had caught the morning show segment. “They used all my numbers, all my math.”

The former radio reporter wrote how the ad, which appeared on the back page Feb. 16, 1991, contained 15 items, 13 of which perform functions now available on smartphones, things like camcorders and answering machines. He calculated that it would have cost $3,054.82 in 1991 to buy the gadgets featured in the ad that we now carry in our pockets.

Cichon marveled at how quickly the story spread. The piece was published Tuesday, and Thursday evening the Huffington Post asked him if it could use it. By early Friday morning, Cichon’s friends and relatives recognized the ad during promos “Today” was running for an upcoming segment and urged him to tune in. (“Today” credited the Huffington Post, but did not mention Cichon).

Having your work go viral is not all it’s cracked up to be.

“You lose control of it,” he said.

“For me, that’s the world of media now,” he said, making some exceptions. “It’s beg, borrow and steal.”

Lance Diamond is cool

The news that CBS Sunday correspondent Mo Rocca (known to NPR listeners as a frequent panelist on the weekly news quiz show “Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me!”) was coming to Buffalo in search of the city’s coolest person brought nominations on Twitter for WGRZ’s John Beard, better known nationally for his appearances on “Arrested Development,” and for JoAnn Falletta, conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

But Rocca went in a different direction for his upcoming segment, selecting as one of his three coolest people lounge singer Lance Diamond, who had a special show Friday night in Milkie’s on Elmwood.

“Lance is calling for all the Coolest Cats and all the Diamond Girls to join him and the band,” the Facebook invitation read, “to show this national television audience what it means to Lancified.”

Prior to his Lancification, Rocca tweeted pictures of himself with other fun Buffalo things, including a chicken-wing winter hat and less well-known items, including a Millard Fillmore Pez dispenser, a lock of the late president’s hair and Fillmore’s noodle roller.

We don’t know what that is either.

Betting on Trader Joe’s

Melissa Foster, president of the Kenmore Village Improvement Society, was certain in September 2012 that Trader Joe’s was coming to Western New York. Her group had waged a fierce campaign to lure the popular California-based specialty grocery to the village that included a 6-foot-tall mascot named “Kenmore Joe.”

Tom Ragan, morning co-host on WEDG-FM 103.3, was equally certain that, like many ideas in this area, it was a pipe dream.

They placed a $20 bet when Foster was interviewed for the radio show.

When the company announced last January that it would open a store in Amherst, Foster followed up.

“We’ll make sure to put the money to good work in helping to make our small part of the world the best it can possibly be,” Foster wrote to Ragan.

But Ragan was still skeptical after years of failed promises. Sure enough, though, the store opened in October, and Ragan made good on the bet this month in a letter to Foster congratulating her on helping bring Trader Joe’s here.

“The doors are open and indeed I bet you $20 the project would fall through,” he wrote. “I’m happy to pay off this bet.”

Written by Jill Terreri, with a contribution from Joseph Popiolkowski. email:

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