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.