Summits, stadiums and teachers

April 2, 2009 1:59:36 PM PDT
The announcement came as a throw-away line during French President Sarkozy's news conference at the G20 Summit in London.

The next G20 Summit would be in September - either right before or after the United Nations General Assembly.

In New York City.

You want gridlock? You want thousands of protestors? Ah -- autumn in New York.

The Summit itself in London produced consensus about how to battle the global recession. It was, apparently, more difficult to get all the heads of state together for a group photo (I think there were three different attempts) than it was to get them to commit $1.1 trillion in additional loans and guarantees to boost trade and help troubled nations.

And the White House spin is that President Obama played a crucial role at the Summit -- his debut on the world stage -- especially ironing out a compromise between China and some Western countries about tax havens.

We'll have a wrap up of today's Summit, tonight at 11.

And a strange scene on Long Island tonight - at Comsewogue High School, where administrators are passing out home drug-testing kits to parents, as part of a substance abuse workshop. But not everyone thinks this is a great idea - including some experts, who generally frown on parents conducting drug tests on their kids at home. We're at the school, at 11.

We're also on Staten Island, where some parents are now worried about some new cell phone towers that they say may be sending low-level radiation into their kids' classrooms.

The Yankees opened their new stadium to fans this afternoon for the team's first workout in the Bronx this year. And Hal Steinbrenner, the team's general partner, let loose with a revealing bit of Yankee business: Some of the team's tickets might be overpriced, given the recession.

The prices for the super snazzy Legends Suites seats were set more than a year ago - for $500 to $2,500 per game. "I think if anybody in any business had known where this economy was going to go, they would have done things differently," Steinbrenner said. "Look, there's no doubt small amounts of our tickets might be overpriced."

Overpriced? Ya think?

Consider this: the Yankees average ticket price - which includes the expensive seats and the seats where you need a GPS to figure out where home plate is - now reaches nearly $73 - up 76% from last year, and by far the highest in baseball. Second highest is Boston, at $50 a ticket, then the Cubs at nearly $48 and then the Mets, at $37.

The lowest priced is Arizona, at $14 a ticket, followed by Pittsburgh at $15 and Atlanta at $17.

I'm reminded of when I first fell in love with baseball- 1958, the year the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Because my brother and I were so committed to making sure our parents had a good time on their anniversary, we saved all year to buy them box seats to the Dodgers game in late September. We also took them to a diner for their anniversary dinner before the game. It was a huge deal for us - and I'm sure for them as well.

The cost of the best seat in the house at the L.A. Coliseum and then, later, Dodger Stadium? $3.50 each.

And finally, we remember in this space today Lilyan Wilder. She was the grand dame of broadcast "coaching" - a feisty, honest, no-nonsense and insightful communicator, who worked with me and so many others. Actually, "worked with" may not be entirely accurate. Grabbed by the shoulders and taught how to try to communicate effectively - that's a more accurate description.

I remember vividly - in my first few months at ABC - going to Lilyan's apartment on the Upper East Side, tapes of Good Morning America/Sunday in hand. I'd put them in the machine and watched with Lilyan the shows I hosted. She'd take notes, not saying much, until the end. Then she'd rewind the tape, and let me have it.

She was quick with praise, and faster with critiques. She'd tell me what I did right, and what I did wrong. The latter always outnumbered and outweighed the former.

Everyone needs an editor, and, for a spell in the early 90s, Lilyan was mine.

What she said, I remembered. And when I expanded my workload from 20/20 to Eyewitness News, Lilyan would occasionally call or write, always with a suggestion -- always right on the mark.

Some friends of hers told me late last year that she was ill - in a nursing home. They told me she might not recognize me and to be prepared for that. I walked in one day as she was having lunch. Lilyan looked up, and a huge smile crossed her face. She spoke my name, and we hugged. We talked for a while; her nurse seemed surprised, because she apparently wasn't doing much talking anymore.

She asked about the station, and about the TV news business, and about ABC News, where she consulted for many years. She may have been suffering -- but she seemed sharp as ever.

And then we hugged again. I told her I loved her -- which I had never done before. And I said goodbye.

Lilyan was 84 when she died a week ago Monday here in New York. She was buried at the Har Hamenuhot cemetery in the hills of Jerusalem a day later. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also one of Lilyan's "students," wrote that, "I consider myself lucky to have had such a teacher. I will miss her greatly."

The statement was read at her funeral.

She had a huge impact on me -- and if it hadn't been for Lilyan Wilder, I'm not sure I'd have made it at ABC News and, by extension, here at Eyewitness News.

She taught me so much - but perhaps the most lasting lesson is that we all need someone who can speak to us honestly-- and offer candid and constructive criticism.

I've learned that lesson; I still have a "coach" - someone who regularly watches my tapes and lets me have it.

And for that, I thank Lilyan, and remember her tonight.

I hope you can join me, Liz Cho, Lee Goldberg with his AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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