How the Harrisburg bureau of the Philadelphia Inquirer tricked me

I believe there is some line of thought that only those who like you enough will take the time to prank you. If this is true, it is entirely possible that the Harrisburg bureau of the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the largest and oldest metro dailies in the country, loves me.

Late last month, I was working on a large story for the Inquirer when influential Harrisburg correspondent and noted… prankster (the kindest way to put this, I think) Mario Cattabiani told me to drop everything and get on an assignment. He and his fellow Inqy Harrisburg staffers were launching a state government blog at the behest of their editors – which I already knew – and it was going live that day – news to me.

The editors didn’t want to seem to be biting off on the series of already established Harrisburg government blogs so they wanted to profile one of the more respected bloggers and suggested John L. Micek of the Allentown Morning Call, who hosted the popular Capitol Ideas.

I thought this was patently ridiculous but was obliged to listen to a distinguished and irritable reporter who couldn’t be bothered. “You’re into this new media bull shit, aren’t you?” he asked. All very convincing. Oh, he added, I need it in no more than a half hour.

Well, I approached Micek, scored an interview and went to it. Midway through, he got a call, answered it and, in answering my question that followed his hanging up, he told me the Morning Call was shuttering their bureau and, thusly, closing down his blog. This was also concinving, considering the state of newspapers in general and recent announced layoffs by the Call specifically.

Turns out that Cattabiani calling Micek and their ensuing argument – and the thrusting of me in it – about whether I could post the inside information about the (fictional) closing of the Call’s Harrisburg bureau was entirely fabricated. …For fun.

I did write that profile in 10 minutes, and decided no work should go to waste with the unlimited space of the Internet. Enjoy if you’d like, but, remember, the entire interview was a joke to Micek, almost all of what he told me was fictional. This is not real…

By Christopher Wink | July 23, 2008
This is from a mock interview. The information is not true.

With the industry in flux, blogging is on the rise, for some.

For others, like John Micek of the Allentown Morning Call, who has led the way in state government blogging with his popular Capitol Ideas, it’s on the way out.

Amid cutbacks at the northeastern Pennsylvania daily, their Harrisburg bureau, which features Micek and his blogging, will be cut, though no timeline has yet been set.

The married father of one has toed the line between objective newsman and snarky online personality since 2005 when Capitol Ideas began and thinks he’s seen the future – though his remains uncertain.

“In 10 years, Hell, in five years, we’re all going to be doing this,” Micek said of journalist-bloggers.

It’s a clear trend.

On Monday, PolitickerPA, a state politics blog, ranked the 10 most influential journalists in Pennsylvania. Of the 10, all of whom were from newspapers, two were active bloggers: Micek, who was ranked fifth, and Brett Lieberman of the Harrisburg Patriot-News and another hailed from an online-only news service, Pete DeCoursey of Capitolwire.com.

Micek’s blogging career started in 2004, when he was covering the 2004 National Democratic Convention in Boston. Morning Call editors asked him to giving blogging a try at the event, which he did. It stuck and after nearly a year of management wrangling, Capitol Ideas was born, and his audience, whom Micek calls “fellow seekers” had their guide.

Micek has spent the past seven years with the Morning Call‘s Harrisburg bureau. He covered the Capitol for Calkins Media for two years prior.

His journalism career comes after growing up on the road, cared for by his mother and an “itinerant” father, who was a traveling jazz musician.

“My father wasn’t home a lot,” Micek said. “I think by the time I was eight, I had been as many places as years I was alive.”

He met a lot of unusual people and developed three things: a love for music – which he continues by playing in local bands – and a voice and a love for writing. Blogging has helped that, he said.

“I think it’s made me a better writer,” Micek said. “It’s made my work more interesting.”

Again, the text of this piece is entirely fictionalized as a prank – on me.

Photo courtesy of Onemansblog.