Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Say It Ain't So, Joe.

 Say it ain't so Joe.
 Please tell me and your legion of fans that you thought you had no obligation to a 10-year old child who was raped beyond telling your boss.
 Say it ain't so Joe.
 Truth be told, at most colleges the Athletic Director would be your boss.
 Everyone knows that at Penn State you are his boss.
 Tell us that you didn't just wash your hands of the matter.
 Say it ain't so Joe.
 The 23-page presentment by a grand jury is vile and chilling. I won't quote it here. I know you've read it.
 For years we all looked to you as a paragon of virtue, an example of what collegiate sports was supposed to be.
 "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
 Really Coach?
 This isn't about you.
 Say it ain't so.
 I have a couple of questions.
 Did you tell your assistant coaches, including your son Jay, about what you knew?
 When was the last time you spoke to child rape suspect Jerry Sandusky?
 Was it within the last few weeks when he visited the weight room?
 After all Coach, you knew you had appeared before a grand jury and testified against him.
 He knew it.
 You knew it.
 And yet no one, NO ONE, stopped him from visiting campus.
 Say it ain't so.
 Your farewell home game will be this Saturday against Nebraska. There will be a few more games and maybe even a Bowl Game before you "retire."
 When the thunder of applause rains down on you Coach, will you cry tears for you or tears for the perhaps dozens of boys, young boys, victimized by your decision not to "do more?"
 We all so want to believe that your actions were those of an 84 year old man from another generation who was so consumed with a vaunted football program that you just didn't realize you were turning your back on the most heinous of crimes.
 I want to believe you. We want to believe you.
 Say it ain't so Joe.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Flood Czar

I wrote last year about the need for President Obama to appoint a "czar" to oversee the recovery after the Gulf Coast oil spill.
 The President has a penchant for appointing czars to oversee many of his initiatives.
 Well, here I go again.
 Mr. President please appoint a czar to be your point man as Northeastern Pennsylvania recovers from the flood caused by Tropical Storm Lee.
 It only makes sense. 
 In 1972, President Richard Nixon appointed Wyoming Valley native Frank Carlucci to this job after the Agnes Flood. He is given high marks for the work he did.
 And Mr. President may I be so bold as to suggest the right man for this job; Paul E. Kanjorski.
 It was Mr. Kanjorski who shepherded the Wyoming Valley Levee raising through Congress. Without the levee raising, I shudder to think what this region would look like today. Whether you like Kanjorski or not, he got the job done. His public service began during the aftermath of the 1972 Agnes flood. He served thirteen terms in Congress. 
 This is the man for this job. 
 This is a role he was born to play.
 I don't want to hear that he is a former Congressman. I don't want to hear that he may be a candidate again.
 There is a monumental task ahead of us. The amount of water dumped on the region can only be dwarfed by the mountain of red tape that comes with recovery.
 Kanjorski can get this done.
 Mr. Kanjorski, I beg you; take this job when it's offered.
 Wyoming Valley and Northeastern Pennsylvania need you, AGAIN!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

George Herbert Walker Bush

I'm often asked about the "important" people you get a chance to meet as a reporter.
I was blessed to have a 25 year career as a broadcast journalist and was very fortunate to meet some of those "important" people.
Who was the nicest? This one's easy.
But I'll start at the bottom of the list.
As mentioned in this blog previously, I interviewed Senator Edward M. Kennedy in Wilkes-Barre in 1980 when he challenged President Jimmy Carter. Kennedy didn't like my questions. Toughest interview I ever did.
And I'll throw in another candidate for President; Rick Santorum. I interviewed him when he challenged Senator Harris Wofford. Santorum loves to answer the question he thinks you should be asking. Another tough interview.
By far the nicest presidential candidate I ever interviewed was George Herbert Walker Bush, our 41st President.
I interviewed Mr. Bush (please note the respect) at the Sheraton Hotel on Meadow Avenue in Scranton in 1980 when he was running for President.
He was being trailed by a group of Japanese journalists who spoke little English.
It was a one-on-one interview and Mr. Bush could not have been nicer.
I'd like to think that I have pretty good radar on these things.
Mr. Bush greeted me warmly, gave me more time than I thought he would and went out of his way to make me feel comfortable.
I left knowing that this was not just a candidate angling for some good publicity. This was a man who was genuinely, well a gentleman, in every sense of the word.
It is my favorite interview...ever, and not influenced by the fact that Mr. Bush went on to serve as Vice-President and President of the United States.
The former President turned 87 this past Sunday.
Happy Birthday Mr. President.
You are the best!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Great Reporter

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I'm a huge Andy Palumbo fan.
In fact, you can find a link to his blog on the right.
Please read today's post by Andy.
It deals with the huge fire that wrecked a house on Sullivan Street in Wilkes-Barre.
Read it now.
I'll wait.

If you read his post, you aren't the least bit surprised that the bodies of two men were found in the rubble.
The discovery was made a day after the fire.
Andy practically told you something like this was going to happen.
And it did.
Andy had photos of a fire next door...FOUR YEARS AGO!

A reporter reports.
A good reporter remembers.
A great reporter pulls it all together.

My post today is going to generate an email that will start something like, "I wish you hadn't..."
Sorry APal.
I had to.
Great job!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Primary Post Mortem

Voter turnout in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties hovered around 33% in Tuesday's Primary.
That's woeful.
Remember only Democrats and Republicans could vote.
If my proposed runoff primary was used in the Court of Common Pleas race in Luzerne County, these would be the results when you combine the total vote:
Blazick, DeLuca, Ross and McMonagle would have been eliminated.
Those top twelve candidates would run again in November. No double nominations.
But, of course if the runoff primary was used, all voters could have voted not just Democrats and Republicans. That would have pushed turnout up.
Only one Republican scored his party's nomination in the judicial race. That was Dick Hughes. The county GOP still has a lot of work to do.
In the Lackawanna County Commissioners' race, Democrats nominated two guys, Jim Wansacz and incumbent Corey O'Brien who couldn't carry their own running mates to victory. Trouble in November? We'll see. The contest did see the best television commercials of the campaign.
With such a crowded field, it's difficult to analyze the contests for the Luzerne County Council. If there was a trend here, I don't see it yet.
I think a change to the charter is already in order. Split the council into two election cycles with six and five seats to be filled every two years.
And the U.S Attorney's announcement of a prostitution bust on Primary Day? That was a separate story.

Friday, May 13, 2011

With the primary less than a week away, It's time to re-float an idea I proposed two years ago.
Democrats and Republicans will pick their nominees for state, county, school board and municipal offices on Tuesday.
In judicial and school board races, candidates can cross file; that is seek the nomination of both the Republican and Democratic parties. The system was designed to take the politics out of the process. But it's not NON-PARTISAN. It's BI-PARTISAN. That's a huge difference. 
Thousands of voters who don't belong to either of the major parties cannot vote in the primary. 
To make the process truly non-partisan I propose the following; a  non-partisan runoff primary in which all registered voters can participate.
Here's how it would work in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas race.
All sixteen (16) candidates would appear on a single ballot. Each candidate would be listed along with their party of registration. For example; John Aciukewicz (D) Richard Hughes (R). 
There would not be a Democratic ballot and a Republican ballot. 
The number of nominations available would be twice the number of vacancies. In Luzerne County's case, the field would be narrowed to the top twelve (12) candidates since there are six (6) vacancies. Voters could cast their ballots for up to six (6) candidates.
Candidates who do not belong to either of the major parties could also file nominating petitions for the Primary runoff. A candidate from the Green Party could be on the ballot providing she or he obtained the signatures of Green Party registered voters. The number of signatures would be the same for all candidates. The big difference in a runoff primary, ALL voters, not just Democrats and Republicans could vote.
The runoff Primary could and should be used in School Board and Magisterial District Judge races as well. Double the number of vacancies to get the number of candidates who would square off in the November Election. Five School Board vacancies? Ten top finishers in the runoff move on. In November, the candidates would again appear on one ballot listed in their order of finish in the primary runoff.
The runoff could even be used in municipal races for Mayor, Council and Township Supervisor. The argument would be made that in towns where one party dominates the registration, you could see all Democrats or all Republicans squaring off in November's election. Sure that possibility exists, but in all likelihood the process would open up for the minority party and even third party candidates.
Those seeking office would have to seek the popular vote and not just speak to the voters of their party. That takes the partisan politics out of the race.
If we truly want to encourage participation in primaries and elections, give voters a reason to go the polls in May and November.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


No picture today friends. I can't.
I have very few regrets about my time as a reporter. I enjoyed almost every minute of a 25 year career.
But there is one story that has haunted me for years.
I'm going to try to be as vague as possible. I hope that you'll understand why.
Decades ago I met a man I came to really like. He was a local businessman and I was at his business a lot. We shared many a laugh.
Then came one tragic morning.
The man's son was killed. He was murdered by someone he knew. But he was an innocent. He was not the intended target. He was just in the wrong place, wrong time. Another man was shot and wounded. The gunman, who had a history of mental problems, turned the gun on himself.
I had to cover the story. My photographer and I were at the scene early enough to capture the scene and the removal of the bodies. Those are important pictures for television news.
The senselessness of the killing kept that story in the news for weeks, months and even years.
The victim's family later filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania charging the state was negligent in releasing the gunman from a mental hospital.
Each time I reported the story, my station aired those pictures of a young man's body being carried out of his home for the last time.
Each time, I forced his family to relive that terrible moment.
Because of that decision, the decision to show those pictures, I lost a friend.
Our paths would cross occasionally, but I did everything I could to avoid him. Because every time he saw me, he saw his son.
My friend died recently. I did not go to the viewing. Doing so would only bring more heartache to a family already overwhelmed with grief. I couldn't do that to them. again.
I said good-bye in my own way.
Perhaps his family can take comfort knowing that a father was reunited with a son he lost too soon.
I've told this story to a few colleagues. None of us has been able to figure out how to balance the right of the public to know and see what happened with the feelings of a family trying to come to grips with a tragedy.
I did my job differently after that.
The song says, "regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention."
This regret is worth mentioning, one last time.

Monday, May 9, 2011

60 Minutes

Like many Americans I watched, "60 Minutes" last night on CBS.
For the first time, to me, Barack Obama looked like he was the President of the United States.
It was a great example of what TV can be.
There weren't a lot of pictures.
Just words.
But those words were a first hand account of what happened at the White House when our second long national nightmare ended with the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Steve Kroft did a wonderful job of asking the questions for which Americans want answers.
It was a masterful piece of television.

Monday, May 2, 2011

On The Battlefield

Some thoughts on the death of Osama bin Laden.
He was not assassinated. He was killed on the battlefield. This time that battlefield was in Pakistan. It is true the United States has not declared war on Pakistan. In fact, the U.S. considers Pakistan an ally. We are at war with terrorism. The first act of that war came on September 11, 2001 when Al Queda terrorists used airliners as weapons and killed more than three thousand Americans on our soil.
Bin Laden vowed not to be taken alive. Mission accomplished.
Our military, acting with surgical precision, took out the enemy. It did so without the loss of an American life.
President Obama, in announcing bin Laden's death, paid tribute to the courageous men who carried out the attack and in the best speech of his presidency, tipped his hat to President George W. Bush and even called the former Commander-in-Chief.
I watched with some interest the pictures of celebrations in New York and Washington. I understand it. Still I was bothered by how much it resembled those third world demonstrations against the USA.
This is a war that sadly will never end.
For now, we have taken the war to our enemies.
Our enemies killed innocents.
We killed their leader.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I cannot believe that President Barack Obama took the bait and released his long form birth certificate, hoping to bury once and for all suggestions that he wasn't born in the United States and therefore ineligible to serve as President.
Mr. Obama had been under attack for two weeks by Donald Trump. Trump, who says he is a Republican, is said to be considering a run for the presidency.
As soon as the announcement was made at the White House, Trump, in New Hampshire, told reporters he was, "proud of himself" for having forced the President to release the document.
And just as quickly, Trump seemed to move on. Now he's questioning the President's college transcripts. He wants to know how Mr. Obama went from Occidental to Columbia to Harvard.
Trump may actually have scored some points with the public on the birth certificate issue. But he'll lose credibility if he keeps advancing the causes of the "conspiracy" crowd.
I think the Donald has been "trumped."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Haley Barbour

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said today he will not run for President because he doesn't have the. "fire in the belly."
Let's face it, Barbour is a white Republican, A white Republican from Mississippi.
Mississippi is a state that consistently finishes at the bottom of the list of states, unless the list is: name the worst state.
And Barbour's got a southern drawl that's thicker than molasses.
An old White Southern governor running against a young black incumbent President.
Yeah, that's a formula for victory.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cable TV

I don't have cable television. I'm not home enough to make it economically feasible. Which is just a fancy way of saying, it's just too darned expensive.
But the advent of digital television transmission got me thinking; what if the most watched cable channels were available over the air.
WNEP offers Antenna TV on 16.2. I find myself watching it often.  But what if ABC affiliates were able to transmit other ABC properties like ESPN on its sub-channels. What if WYOU, a CBS affiliate could offer CNN. WBRE, the local NBC affiliate could offer MSNBC. Fox 56 could offer FOX News.
WVIA offers CreateTV on channel 44.3. It's a network dedicated to cooking, travel and how-to shows. It's not bad.With Congress threatening funding for PBS, why couldn't WVIA offer a popular cable channel on one of its sub-channels. Sell the local commercial availabilities and that could help pay the bills.
Why couldn't a local entrepreneur put a station on the air that simply ran popular channels that are currently only available on cable or satellite franchises.
There's plenty of space on the broadcast spectrum. It's time that some of it gets used to offer programming free of a cable or a dish.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness

(circa 2007, Courtesy:The Mountaintop Eagle)
The Diocese of Scranton has removed Rev. Mark Honhart from active ministry. The priest was named as a defendant in a child sex abuse civil suit in Kansas City, Missouri after a credible allegation.
The Diocese made the announcement on its website on February 8th. It did so in a news release announcing clergy appointments and indicated Honhart was granted a Leave of Absence for reasons of health. Here's the link:
A month later, the diocese issued a statement on its website concerning Honhart in which it acknowledged, the allegation and seemingly grandstanded its swift action. Here's the link:
The diocesan statement came only after the story broke in Kansas City.
Here's the problem. Must the faithful now assume that all priests granted a leave of absence are suspected child molesters? The answer of course is, "no." But by failing to deal accurately with this priest's removal, the Diocese has only created confusion and suspicion.
According to the Bishop Accountability Project, nineteen priests in the Diocese of Scranton have been accused of sexual molestation.
In fairness, Father Honhart is accused civilly, not criminally charged and innocent until proven guilty.
It seems the accused (and yes they are only accused) are protected by a quickly closing circle of collegiality. This is destroying any credibility the Diocese of Scranton has left in dealing with a most egregious sin.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The News Business

When I awoke this morning, I checked my Facebook page and noticed a post, "Charlie Sheen Dead!"
It turned out to be not true. It was a virus.
But also today I saw (on legitimate news sites) that 13 people were killed in a bus crash in New York.
On almost any other day, this would be the top story in the world.
But not today.
Today we are still watching the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. There is also a threat of nuclear meltdown at a Japanese nuclear power plant.
Hundreds, if not thousands, are dead. The potential nuclear disaster threatens not only Japan, but the world.
But it got me to thinking.
If Charlie Sheen really did die, where would the story be placed in the daily news budget?
I fear I know the answer.
And so do you.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jack Smith 1924-2011

 Jack Smith has died. 

I've known Jack for over 30 years. From retired prizefighter to bail bondsman, I covered it all. Jack was known as the , "Mayor of South Main Street." in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Late in life he would sit in his office directly across from The Max Rosenn U.S. District Courthouse and hold "court."

I don't know how this started but every time I would encounter Jack, he would swear up a storm. There was not a single bit of malice in it. But it was intense. And Jack did it for one reason only; it would make me roar. And they weren't your run-of-the-mill swear words, not for Jack. He marched out the big-leaguers. 

The longer it took me to laugh, the worse it got.

I remember covering a proceeding at Federal Court. Jack was sitting in his office watching everything and uttered not a word. I knew something was wrong. I ran over and said, "Hello," and checked on him. He said he wasn't feeling well. He then told me to, "get out."

Jack added an extra couple of words I won't use here.

With his passing, another of the colorful figures in Wilkes-Barre is gone. He won't be forgotten.

So readers, forgive me as I say good-bye to an old friend, the only way I know how.

"Rest in Peace, Jack and $#*!@%&!"