Saturday, June 9, 2012


I was shocked this week that The New York Times denied that President Barack H. Obama was the source of recent national security leaks, judged so serious that  Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed two independent Special Prosecutors.
For a moment let's forget the leaked information and its potential harmful effects on our nation's safety.
Time to go to school. Old School. Listen up journalism students , you don't talk about confidentially-sourced information.
Once you start eliminating sources, you start narrowing the field of sources. If you invoke the privilege of protecting your source, you cannot and must not identify whether a source was, or was not, the source of your story.
For example...a reporter is asked if Mr. Smith is the source for a story. The reporter responds, "No."
Next a reporter is asked if Mr. Jones is the source. The reporter invokes his constitutional right not to reveal a source.
Well guess what. You just gave up a source. Hand in your journalism card. You're fired.
That's why I never agreed to talk to a source, "off the  record."
A source once gave me information he said was, "off the record." The information was something I already had been given by another source. The second source confirmed the story and served as confirmation. I aired the story.
I received an almost immediate phone call from the second source screaming that I had betrayed him. I engaged in a long conversation in which I tried to explain that I had not.
From that day forward I never talked to a source, "Off The Record."
Sources talk to a reporter because they want to.
When asked if I would hold information, "off the record," I always said, "no." Instead I told sources that the information they were offering up was, "Not For Attribution."
I used to engage in camouflage. I would call or visit sources who could have information about my story with the sole purpose of protecting my primary source.
Any source had to trust me and know that I would not give them up. But if a source was willing to talk, that source had to know they had some exposure.
That is why the New York Times decision to eliminate the President as a source is so disturbing. The Times made it easier to identify the real source. A really bad decision from one of the bastions of American journalism.
If you choose to share this information, please know this story is not, off the record.
It's, "not for attribution."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Solution in Search of a Problem.

Pennsylvania's 2012 General Primary (that is the proper name) will be held next Tuesday and election officials will begin asking voters for proof-of identification. A lack of proof will not result in a voter not voting. It's just a test for what will happen in November's General Election. The General assembly passed and Governor Tom Corbett signed into law tough new standards requiring voters, especially first time voters to prove they have the right to vote at a particular polling place.
 Republican supporters say it will cut down on voter fraud. Democratic detractors say it will disenfranchise minority and senior citizen electors.
 More and more this is beginning to look like a circular firing squad.
 Here's why.
 Under the Motor Voter law, citizens can register to vote when they apply for or renew a driver's license. You simply answer "yes" when asked if you want to use your information to register to vote. You then pick a party.
The information is then transmitted to the 67 county Boards of Election. After a series of mailings to determine the accuracy of your information and conducting a verification of your address, your application is approved or rejected. 99% of all Motor Voter Applications are approved.
 Here's my problem; come November you will need to bring your photo driver's license to verify your identity and right to vote. But by applying for a license, "YOU'VE ALREADY COMPLETED THIS STEP."
  When I first worked for the Board of Election in Luzerne County, I was determined to stamp out voter fraud, insisting that every regulation be followed before a voter registration was approved. My much wiser staff promptly told me to "knock it off." While filling out a registration form is not brain surgery, voters make mistakes. Some are dumb. Some are really dumb. They aren't criminal and a trained election professional can quickly determine if a voter registration application is valid. The goal is always to get the voter to vote.
 In a dispute over voter registration that occurs on the day of a primary or election, a voter can vote a provisional ballot. It won't be counted unless the voter furnishes proof, within six days, of their right to vote. The ballot is counted after all the other votes are counted. What does this mean for the voter? Everyone will know how that person voted. So much for a secret ballot.
 One election, our office presented a voter to the Court of Common Pleas. Acting as both advocate and adversary we presented the facts to a County Judge. The facts showed the voter was not registered and ineligible to vote. Three minutes later the voter left that Judge's chambers with a court order allowing her to vote.
 For years, the gold standard for identifying voters at the polls was the voter's signature. The signature you use is immediately compared to the signature on file. It's not perfect, but it is pretty darned good. It's quicker. You lose more voters who won't stand in long lines than you will by requiring them to produce a voter identification.
 We'll see how the new system works.
 Right now it's a regulation right out of the the Department of Redundancy Department.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Know When You're "Holden..."

As a former Sheriff of Schuylkill County and a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights, Congressman Tim Holden has done the unthinkable. He's shot himself in the foot.
Holden represents the newly configured 17th Congressional District which now includes large portions of Luzerne and Lackawanna counties. The ten term incumbent faces a primary challenge from Attorney Matt Cartwright of Moosic.
Holden is immensely popular in the southern throes of the new 17th. He's a "blue dog" Democrat, a Democrat  who can get Republican votes. In 2004 Holden defeated Scott Paterno (yes that Scott Paterno) to win re-election.

Cartwright enters the race as a well funded challenger. He has used an almost nightly, "The Law and You" segment on television to make this a close contest.
Holden needs to hang onto his base in the southern portions of the 17th and chip away at Cartwright's popularity in the north.
The easiest way to do this is to debate Cartwright. But Holden says, "no."
He didn't just decline a debate invitation. He didn't even respond to the League of Women Voters request.
Holden was a virtual unknown in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when the gerrymandered 17th became law earlier this year. His best hope was to introduce himself and appear as a strong legislator ready to help his new constituents. One of the easiest ways to do that; debate.
Holden's refusal makes him appear weak.
I think it will cost him re-election.
With apologies to Kenny Rogers, "you've got to know when to "hold-en" and know when to "fold em."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bone of Contention

Let's start this way. Before Monday morning, I didn't know who M.I.A. was.
Now I do.
M.I.A. is Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam. She is a 36-year old British rapper who decided to twist the arm of fate in an effort to get more than her allotted fifteen minutes of fame.
Yes America M.I.A. is the artist (really?) who flipped America the bird during the televised halftime show of Super Bowl  XLVI.
(Yes Roger Goodell, I said, "Super Bowl." Come arrest me.)
That's what got me thinking.
If you use the phrase, Super Bowl while advertising your business without the expressed written consent of the NFL, a flock of angry lawyers will descend upon you like white on rice.
Expect litigation.
But if an "artist" uses the longest of digits to substitute for the two most heinous words in American culture, expect feigned shock and awe. "why, how could she do this?"
After all M.I.A. was just expressing her right of free speech; her creative energy.
We just cannot interfere with that.
As Colonel Potter used to say, "mule fritters!"
This wasn't the first time this has happened.
Remember Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction?"
It is not the last time it has happened because I'm pretty sure that Clint Eastwood's commercial for Chrysler was a big old middle finger at someone.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

State of the Union

9:00 PM-President Obama arrives at the U.S. Capitol to deliver his State of the Union address.
9:05-The President is introduced by the Sergent-at-Arms.
9:10-The President takes his spot at the podium.
9:11-The President announces he's taking requests, but will begin with Barry White's, "Can't Get Enough of Your Love."
He's backed up by the Supremes (Court).
Film at 11.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


What a study in contrast.
On the same day that legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona announced she would resign from Congress.
Love him or not, a large part of the Joe Paterno narrative includes this question, "did he stay too long?"
Did the party pass him by?
You can count the list of major college football coaches still coaching at 85 on one finger.
Some have concluded Paterno's age was the reason he did not act more decisively in the child sex abuse scandal. A singular focus on football blacked out everything else. By the time he realized the magnitude of the controversy it was too late.
His offer to retire at season's end was met with a, "thanks but no thanks," from the University's Board of Trustees. Paterno was fired on November 9, 2011. "Get your stuff and leave," they said. "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."
A lung cancer diagnosis followed.
He died today. Some say it was a broken heart.
Flip the coin over and witness Gabby Giffords.
Just a little more than a year after she was shot in the head at point-blank range by a lunatic would-be assassin, Giffords announced today that not only will she not stand for re-election, she is resigning her seat. In a message posted on her website, the Democrat said, "I have more work to do on my recovery so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week."
Her action clears the way for a Special Election to fill the remainder of her term.
Giffords' story is one of true inspiration.
I have little doubt that had she stayed and run for re-election she would have won.
Voters would find it distasteful to throw her out of office for something that was not her fault, despite her difficulties.
In the end she put those voters and their needs ahead of her own. I will grant you she says she needs to focus on recovery. She could have stayed, could have run, could have won.
It's just a remarkable study in contrast.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Perp Walk

As I watch television news these days, I'm a little jealous.
Almost every crime story has a photo of a suspect.
The photos are mugshots.
Law enforcement agencies routinely release them these days. Back in my day they did not.
Of course in my day, reporters walked to work and home in ten foot snow drifts, uphill, both ways.
We prayed for footage of suspects. We wanted the , "Perp Walk."
There's nothing fair about a perp walk.  It's part public humiliation and part public relations. But it made my job easier. In a perp walk, law enforcement walks a suspect publicly so the media can get the much sought after picture. The media is tipped in advance.
Toward the end of my television career, I took my son KC (Kevin Christopher) to work with me. I was scheduled to do an interview with NASCAR Driver Bill Elliott. Awesome Bill from Dawsonville was my son's favorite driver.
In what was more rule than exception I got pulled off that story in Dunmore and instead was assigned to cover the arrest of an arson suspect in Lewisburg. Forget that it was a 90-mile drive. I had to disappoint my boy.
But he went along for the ride and witnessed a little known secret of the news business that we still laugh about.
The preliminary arraignment of the suspect was held at a Magistrate's Office in a strip mall. While we were set up to get pictures of the alleged arsonist, the trip from police cruiser to the front door was less than ten feet.
That was not enough time to get the pictures needed to do a full story. If the walk out of the Magistrate's office to police cruiser was the same few seconds, we faced a serious problem in trying to tell the story.
So here's the secret:
That's right when the police are inside, reporters or photographers routinely locked the doors of police cruisers with the sole purpose of getting the extra time for the pictures we needed.
When the Lewisburg officers led the arson suspect out of Court and back into their cruiser, they couldn't get in. For some reason the cruiser doors were locked. They were so unsuspecting, they had to scramble to find the keys to unlock the door. All that time, the cameras rolled.
Now reporters and photographers never let on. But a young boy couldn't help but smile and maybe even laugh.
His innocence almost proved our guilt.
What's the penalty for felonious mopery with intent to gawk?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Paper Clip

This was not one of my prouder moments.
After having a few drinks with friends after work I headed home.
I was still living with my parents.
I parked in front of the house, got out of my car and standing, teetering really, on the curb swung my arm backwards to close the driver's side door.
I need to quickly point out two facts. I was not three sheets to the wind. (at best or worst, I was a sheet and a half.) And I drove a Mustang with what I now consider a major design flaw. There was no frame around the window. The window closed at the roof of the car.
You may have figured this out by now. As I closed the door I fell backwards off the curb and proceeded to lock my index finger in the car.
Making matters worse, I had already LOCKED the car door.
Extricating my finger was not going to be easy. I had to use my other hand to retrieve my keys which were already in my coat pocket, find the right key, unlock and open the door and remove my heavily injured finger.
After several minutes and tries; success.
I went inside and examined the damage. The tip of my finger was pretty mangled.
So I came up with what I though was a good plan.
I put some ice in a soup pot and headed upstairs to bed. I placed the pot on the bedroom floor, slipped into bed and placed my hand in the pot.
Ice will prevent swelling. Gravity however would prove to be my damaged digit's undoing.
By the time I awoke the next morning, blood had pooled beneath my nail.
It looked like a small ham hock.
I met my Father at the breakfast table and explained what happened. He took a look at it and told me what I had to do.
"Turn on the stove, get a paper clip, unbend it, heat the end and hold your hand steady," he said. "When the end of the paper clip is red hot push it into your nail. That will release the blood that has built up under your nail. You'll lose the nail, but you'll also lose the pain."
Now the Chief was pretty knowledgeable about home remedies but there was NO WAY I was going to plunge a white hot poker through my nail.
I decided to head to the Emergency Room at Nesbitt Hospital.
As luck would have it, my family Doctor William Boyle was on duty. I got to see him quickly and related the details of my prior evening's mishap.
He examined my finger and said he knew what to do.
This is great I thought professional, state of the art medical treatment.
"Nurse, get me a bunsen burner, " he said.
The nurse was back in just a few minutes and lit the burner.
"Probably going to sterilize some delicate instruments," I thought.
And that's when Dr. Boyle pulled back his white lab coat and reached for the paper clip slipped on his shirt pocket....

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Saturday Night Massacre

The day was Sunday October 21, 1973.
I was working the Sunday morning news shift at WILK-AM in Wilkes-Barre. This was not the shift that WILK's premier news anchors worked. I was 17 years old and working my first real news job. I worked that shift.
The morning deejay opened the intercom and said, "There's a guy on line one who wants to know what happened last night."
What happened the night before would soon become history.
And the guy on the phone wasn't just some guy.
In what would become known as the "Saturday Night Massacre," President Richard Nixon ordered his Attorney General to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. AG Elliot Richardson refused and resigned. His deputy William Ruckleshaus also refused and resigned. Nixon finally found someone (Robert Bork) to do his bidding and Cox was fired. An incensed Congress ramped up it's investigation and less than a year later, Nixon would resign.
These days I can relate those events easily from memory.
In those days, I was still having difficulty in discerning first base from the back of my front.
I answered the phone and the caller identified himself and asked if I could relate to him what happened.
In those days there was no internet or cable news channels. I had to rely on the Associated Press teletype.
I still have some difficulty explaining to young people the concept of teletype.
The man on the phone said he was in town visiting family. He needed to know as much as he could about what was going on. He might have to return to his job in Washington D.C.
Now you might think that I would be caught up in the event.
I wasn't.
Instead I was mesmerized by the voice.
Deep and confident.
I knew the name and shook with a little nervousness.
I was talking to a legend.
I related as much as I could.
He was professional and generous in his appreciation for my help. (What help? I was just reading wire copy.)
The voice on the phone was a Mutual Broadcasting anchorman, a Washington D.C news anchor, a local radio icon.
Today he's still on the air. And he's still a legend.
Nowadays, I have been fortunate to add another title; my friend.
Tom Woods.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Here's what I think of on Martin Luther King Day.
The least bigoted and most bigoted people I've ever known were all family members.
The most bigoted; I'm not going to say.
The least bigoted is probably the wrong way to put it. No prejudice whatsoever; my Mom and Dad.
Growing up as Navy brats we just didn't see color. In fact, two of my parents closest friends were a couple of mixed race.
I remember Beeville, Texas (c. 1967) as my brother and I walked to school, two fellow students who were black crossed the street...away from us. They weren't allowed  to walk on the same side of the street as us.
I remember my brother and I racing ahead of the rest of our family and holding the door of the local five-and-dime store for my mother and two sisters and the next group, a black woman and her children.
They said, "thank you."
We said, "you're welcome,"  never giving it a second thought.
I remember two men, true Texans wearing boots and cowboy hats making a remark.
Yes it was "that" word.
It might have been mumbled under their breath.
It was loud enough for my Old Man to hear.
He told us to go inside.
We did.
The Old Man lit them up.
I remember watching the new bulletins in 1968 announcing Martin Luther King's death and the expression on the Old Man's face.
Forty four years ago.
So much has changed.
We have so far to go.