As a child, I didn't know much about science, but I did know how to rig two full-length mirrors in my family's upstairs hall to direct a shaft of light from the bathroom into my bedroom late at night. Why did I want to do such a thing? Very simple: So I could keep reading when I was supposed to be asleep.
I loved books -- loved being blissfully lost in the world of Man O' War's challenge race, Bilbo Baggins' discovery of a powerful ring or the trials and triumphs of the March sisters from "Little Women." That love has stayed with me as an adult, provided great pleasure and helped me immeasurably in my life and career.
It has been one of the most important gifts I've ever experienced, and it's the kind of gift I'd like to see every child receive. I'm not alone in that wish. It's the whole idea behind The News' "Books for Kids" campaign, now in its 12th year.
The effort asks people to donate new or gently used children's books for distribution to needy children in the Buffalo area. Because Buffalo is the eighth-poorest city in the United States, the need is great. The effort is run by Project Flight, an organization that promotes literacy, based at Buffalo State College, and gets help from a number of local businesses and community organizations.
Those who would like to help can donate books at any Wegmans store, any Buffalo and Erie County library branch, Barnes and Noble or the Junior League Headquarters at 45 Elmwood Ave. Monetary donations, used to buy braille or special-needs books, may be sent to The News or Project Flight.
It has been less than two months since The News dramatically changed its presence on the Internet, becoming much more dynamic and interactive. Here's a taste of what we have learned in our daily venture into journalism on the Web:
Nothing attracts interest like news and commentary about the Buffalo Sabres. Our "Sabres Edge" blog has been, by far, the most popular of the 12 blogs we now offer. And stories about the Sabres have been the most-viewed by far.
Breaking news from the Buffalo area is the most important thing we do, according to viewership figures. The daily list on the home page, titled "Latest Local News," is most popular with those who come to www.buffalonews.com. In addition to the breaking local news, blogs and opportunities for reader interactivity, we have now begun adding photo galleries and, in a few cases, links to videos.
The biggest surprise has been the reaction, this week, to a short blog item on a conflict at Amherst's Pepsi Center posted in our "Inside the News" blog. The item, which invited readers to respond with their opinion about a man who took the discipline of a misbehaving 10-year-old skater into his own hands, was linked from the story at noon on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, more than 2,000 people had read it, with many posting passionate comments, and they were still coming.
One of the most important jobs at any newspaper is that of managing editor -- the newsroom's second-in-command, who deals with many day-to-day news decisions, personnel issues and administrative matters. He or she is the duty officer who makes things work the way they're supposed to.
The News will have a new managing editor on May 21 -- Howard Smith, who for many years has been the executive sports editor here and has a well-deserved reputation as a tough but fair newsman and a well-organized manager. He replaces Jerry Goldberg, who after a stint as editorial page editor, became managing editor in 2005. Goldberg, after 30 outstanding years at The News, is retiring to Arizona. He will be missed, but I have every confidence that Smith will help The News meet the challenges that every newspaper is facing in the 21st century.