The 10 journalists I respect, admire the most

I am working in Harrisburg. State government reporting is, you might say, the junior varsity of Capitol reporting. Pennsylvania does feature the largest full time state legislature in the country, but Harrisburg is not D.C., even I can admit this.

So, there are those who point to Washington D.C. as the home of the world’s greatest reporters – covering the most powerful force in the world certainly requires a deal of talent and influence. Even those in Harrisburg take covering this big State Legislature very seriously, understandably so.

But there are elements to journalism that I can’t help but think matter more to me, interest me more, that serve a great value, particularly as the newspaper industry needs to move towards community stories.

Government oversight is a fundamental, but here, in no particular order, is a list of the journalists I respect and admire most outside of the pressure cooker of U.S. Capitol coverage.

Continue reading

Number of Views:19368

Column inches: words to inches [Updated]

So maybe if you don’t involve yourself with newspapers and aren’t buying advertising space, you haven’t come across “column inches,” which is one inch of space in a column of a newspaper. People love reviewing a newspaper by its use of spaces, in available inches, like this report on the New York Times by Vanity Fair.

Editors at newspapers almost always deal in inches, telling writers to give them 11 inches, or 15 inches, or 25 inches. Us younger folks, with our word processors, are all about word counts. It’s super easy to get a word count today, so college newspapers and I are used to that.

Continue reading

Number of Views:125216

Philadelphia Weekly: Father Figure

Pick up a copy of today’s Philadelphia Weekly. My first freelanced article makes an appearance.

There are saints and prophets on all corners of Philadelphia, but on the 1400 block of North 11th Street few are Catholic and even fewer are Irish. So 50-year-old Father Kevin Lawrence, with a hardy laugh and soft, precise speech, might seem out of place—if he weren’t taking over for another Irish Catholic.

In fact, the future of one of the most dynamic and independent parishes in the Philadelphia Archdiocese rests in Lawrence’s hands. Yet the only thing anyone seems concerned about is that Lawrence doesn’t write poetry. That’s because Lawrence is replacing St. Malachy’s Father John McNamee, a North Philadelphia icon.

Read the rest on Philadelphia Weekly.com.

See two other photos of the pair after the jump.

Continue reading

Number of Views:4050

Post-Gazette: Democrats hate electric deregulation

HARRISBURG — Deregulation of electric rates in 2010 in many areas of the state could constitute “the biggest tax increase in Pennsylvania history,” state Senate Democrats said yesterday.

Since 1996, the rate at which many Pennsylvania energy companies have been able to recoup power plant construction costs from consumers has been capped.

But by 2010, the rate caps will expire for customers in parts of western Pennsylvania served by West Penn Power, plus many residential and business customers in northeast and central Pennsylvania, along with the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia areas. Rate caps for Duquesne Light already have ended.

“Nobody is going out of business” in the state’s electricity industry, said Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia, noting high profit margins and well-salaried executive of electric utilities. “[Allowing these caps to expire] would be the biggest tax increase in the history of the Commonwealth since Ben Franklin.”

He was joined in his criticism by Democratic Sens. Jim Ferlo of Highland Park, Wayne Fontana of Brookline and Sean Logan of Monroeville.

“Utility shutoffs have already risen 37 percent compared to last year,” said Mr. Logan. “Unless we take decisive steps soon, I fear for how many people will be unable to pay and will have their electricity shut off when deregulation hits its statewide peak in 2010.”

Read the rest on Post-Gazette.com. Read some of the color interjected by Sen. Vince Fumo here. Image courtesy of The Cobb School.

Number of Views:2631

Post-Gazette: Towns to pay for state police

This as appearing in the July 2, 2008 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.This is part of a post-graduate internship with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association (PLCA).

HARRISBURG — Tax rates would quadruple in Westmoreland County’s Unity under proposed legislation that would require some municipalities to pay for their state police protection, a township supervisor said.

House Bill 2563, introduced by Rep. John E. Pallone, D-New Kensington, would require all communities with more than 10,000 people that don’t have a municipal law enforcement agency to either establish a local police force or pay an annual fee of $100 per resident for state police protection. There are 21 such towns in the state.

The Pallone bill would be “an unfunded mandate,” objected Unity Supervisor Jacob M. Blank.

To pay for state police coverage under the plan, Unity’s 21,000 residents would watch their municipal tax rates balloon by perhaps more than four times, Mr. Blank said.

Read the rest on Post-Gazette.com.

Image of Westmoreland County, courtesy of Wikipedia. See the breaking news Web item I wrote on this story yesterday.

Number of Views:2133

History will tell: the great newspaper bubble of the 20th century

When our grandchildren read about newspapers, 2006 will be the bellwether year, when daily circulation dropped by nearly 3 percent and 3.5 percent for Sunday papers, the worst fall in the modern era.

Because, of course, in 50 years, beyond novelty, nobody will be chopping down trees and shipping them to be processed, milled, refined, shipped, designed, cut, printed and shipped to be read and then thrown out.

Of course, newspaper circulation was slipping for more than 20 years before then, but history forgets the details.

Look, the reality is that Baby Boomers will really be remembered in history books as the generation that lived through the great newspaper bubble of the 20th century. The dot.com bubble blew and burst awfully quick; newspapers are just seeing a slow-cooked version.

Continue reading

Number of Views:12030

Vince Fumo at his best

HARRISBURG — Today state Senate Democrats held a press conference warning of impending utility deregulation that they say will cause electric bills to jump as much as 65 percent per month for some.

I have a story on the subject coming out tomorrow in the Post-Gazette, but it won’t include some of Sen. Vince Fumo’s finer moments.

After a heart attack in March and a looming trial in November, Fumo announced his retirement, surely freeing up the Prince of Darkness to speak even freer than he had in the past.

Continue reading

Number of Views:3820

Post-Gazette: Municipalities to pay for state police under bill

Breaking news Web item for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, full story in tomorrow’s paper.

HARRISBURG – Municipalities with more than 10,000 residents that rely on state police for law enforcement would have to dig deeper into their pockets under legislation proposed today by two Democratic state legislators from Westmoreland County.

House Bill 2563, introduced by Rep. John E. Pallone, would require all communities with more than 10,000 people to either establish a local police force or pay an annual fee of $100 per resident for state police protection.

“This is a basic issue of safety,” Mr. Pallone said at a news conference. “State police are stretched way too thin.”

State police now provide police protection for hundreds of smaller towns around the state that don’t have their own municipal police forces.

Read the rest on Post-Gazette.com. Image courtesy.

Number of Views:5086

Sean Blanda launches Consumer Whore, changes the balance of commerce forever

It was sometime in the summer of 2008, history books will one day read, that media mogul, Internet Jesus and a hetero-life mate of mine, Sean Blanda launched another in a long line of his Web-savvy projects, Consumer Whore.net.

Every day the site features something strange and moderately accessible fiscally for you to buy. Already, I imagine, Blanda is being overrun with ideas and fodder.

Now if only he can turn a buck on the product. I suggested selling a spot on the blog to the highest bidder, but, you see, Blanda has far higher ethical standards than I realized even exist. Good for him and his dad.

He announced his role in Consumer Whore on his popular media blog on Saturday.

Number of Views:2093