My experience with newspaper reporters goes back to 1969, when I became human relations coordinator for the Bristol Township schools in Levittown, Pennsylvania. It was my job to work in the communities, both white and black, to forestall racial tensions and stop racial fights within the school district. I could say that I was eminently successful in my two years in that job, but I was not. The tensions cooled when the last of the battlers graduated and either went to college or got a job.
It was during that time that I got to know the reporter who covered the education beat for the Bucks County Courier Times. His name, I do believe, was Mike Renshaw. He was a young man first beginning in reporting and was anxious to get to know the characters in the play called Bristol Township. I can say, without equivocation, that his insights into the situations were accurate and sometimes damning.
To get any story, he would accost many players and piece together what actually did occur. He even interviewed some of the kids and got his insights there. I guess he was young enough to be able to get a feel for the kids and their problems. He let me in on some things that were going on, especially the drug situation in our schools. Yes, he did go out for a drink with us once in a while, but it never seemed to interfere with his objectivity.
My next job in Kutztown introduced me to one of the most fascinating characters that I have ever met, Ade Rolfe Floreen. He was the editor of the local Kutztown Patriot. He was beyond irascible and intrusive. Ade would never believe anyone, unless you could somehow prove what you were saying. He also spent a bunch of time at the Red Velvet Saloon. I must admit that I spent many hours there too, mostly after Rotary meetings.
Ade was a particularly insistent person. Even during those moments when he seemed to be inebriated, he would always ask incisive questions. One afternoon when I was in my office, a messenger delivered a manila envelope filled with a report from the Auditor General’s office detailing the mishandling of money during my predecessor’s tenure. However, the report did not really go into the kind of detail that would have allowed one to understand that.
The auditor general, by chance, was opening a new office in Reading along with a potential Lt. Governor candidate. He handed out the report to all of the reporters, most of whom never checked with me or my office about the contents of the report. There was only one person who was interested enough to call me. Ade Rolfe came to my office early the next morning and asked if he could spend the day going over all of the material in our files related to the auditor general’s report. We certainly could not let him see any confidential documents, but all others were really public.
He marched out of the office at the end of his research and I did not hear from him until his article appeared in the Kutztown Patriot at the end of the week. His article was bombastic. He criticized the auditor general up and down, including the obvious political handling of the report. He went over each of the sections of the report and laid waste to its findings. I wasn’t sure if it did me or the district any good. However, the auditor general asked Ade to apologize. You can guess what Ade said.
The conclusion to the story was that a number of years later, the auditor general was sent to jail for a number of illegal dealings. I am not sure exactly what happened to him after that. The article that Ade wrote must have had some effect on the situation, I never heard from the Auditor General again in Kutztown after that.
In 1982, I got the job as the Executive Director at the Riverview (nee Clarion) Intermediate Unit. I have described Paul Hambke, the editor of the Clarion News to you in an earlier blog. Even though Paul and I have not seen each other in over 20 years, we still communicate with each other and he is a regular reader of this blog.
When I came to Harrisburg in 1992 to pursue our suit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I was in a whole new newspaper venue. This was the capitol city of Pennsylvania. Stories about education took second fiddle to happenings in the city of Harrisburg and what went on with state government.
I was lucky enough to hook on with a reporter from the Harrisburg Patriot, Jan Murphy. Jan was more of an investigative reporter. She worked on some huge stories, while I have been here. She was very interested in our case, as well as some things that she could get from me as background information.
Some things that she extracted from me related to school finance and who might be the best source for an education or political source. She was also a fount of information for some of the things that I was doing in my new role as a lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools. Once in a while, when she had some space she would quote me. Those always resulted in some phone calls and emails, some good and some not so good.
I find Jan to be as honest as the day is long. She is truly interested in getting the story right and checks with many sources (and she has them) to get her story straight. Unfortunately, as with all newspapers, these are hard times. Jan’s paper puts out only three editions each week. However, they do have a Pennlive website that is on every day. It is through those means that she keeps up to date with her stories.
It’s not like the small towns that I am used to, where you really get to know the reporters and they get to know you. However, there isn’t enough time, or enough bars and saloons in Harrisburg for me to hang out in to meet and get to know all of the reporters.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s