Here is this morning’s news as the AP is reporting it:
Jerry Sandusky was convicted Friday of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years, accusations that shattered the Happy Valley image of Penn State football and led to the firing of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno.
Sandusky, a 68-year-old retired defensive coach who was once Paterno’s heir apparent, was found guilty of 45 of 48 counts.
Yep, that’s what happened yesterday. The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Altoona Mirror, the Allentown Morning Call, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review reported it similarly. (Lancaster’s newspaper, which I suppose I’m supposed to call the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal Lancaster New Era, reprinted the Inquirer‘s coverage.)
But look how other Pennsylvania papers just got sloppy in what they chose to place on their front pages.
The Patriot-News front page includes two stories. The first begins this way:
Had Jerry Sandusky died in 2008, we all would have thought differently. Thousands would have come from around the state and across the country to mourn him. Former player after former player would have proudly said that “Sandusky made me a man.”
Nittany Lions fans in sweatshirts from bowl games played long ago would have said Sandusky did it the right way, and mumbled that their team was never really the same after he left.
At his memorial service, a man would have leaned over the lectern and cried as he told the masses how Sandusky and The Second Mile plucked him from a broken home and saved him.
That’s your lead? You’re going to put us on Mr. Roger’s train to the neighborhood of Make-Believe? You’re going to report the news by printing a detailed description of an event that never happened and never will?
The second story on the front page is color commentary, beginning:
BELLEFONTE — After the jury found Jerry Sandusky to be a serial pedophile, the mother of the young man known as Victim 6 embraced her son.
Despite the cheers outside the Centre County Courthouse that accompanied the announcement that Sandusky was headed to prison, quite probably for the rest of his life, she couldn’t celebrate.
Wait, what? A jury found Sandusky to be a serial pedophile? You’re just going to mention that off-hand, when it’s not reported elsewhere on the front page, except broadly in the headline?
Why they didn’t put Matthew Kemeny’s actual news story, brief though it is, on the front page is beyond me.
This is the coverage the Patriot-News offers its readers this morning. This from the team that created an awesome op-ed front page in November. This from the team that won a Pulitzer for its coverage of the ongoing story. The central character, the villain, is found guilty, and there’s not a full sentence about the verdict on the front page?
The Centre Daily Times did better, but the opening sentence is still a ridiculous choice:
Jerry Sandusky looked down, his left hand resting in his pants pocket.
So the most important thing you have to tell us is that Sandusky was seen shoe-gazing with a hand in his pocket?
Or take the Scranton Times-Tribune‘s opening sentences:
Jerry Sandusky arrived at the courthouse Friday night in the back of a black sport utility vehicle.
He left in handcuffs.
You’re going to take the first sentence of your coverage to tell me the color of the SUV Sandusky was driven around in? And who cares about the handcuffs? Since when do the words “he was wearing handcuffs” tell readers “a jury found him guilty”?
Why Do I Care?
Newspapers are fretting about going out of business. They keep pointing out that their contributions to their communities are super important, and that the kind of quality, in-depth, ongoing reportage they provide can never be offered by amateur bloggers like me.
Guess what: I haven’t followed the Sandusky trial, and I could have easily written the sentences the Patriot-News and Centre Daily Times dialed in to lead off their coverage of the verdict.
A word to newspapers: If you need to be needed, lead with the news. Stop trying to be cute. Stop calling attention to your cleverness as writers and storytellers. Stop putting the color commentary before the play-by-play. Leave that to the amateur bloggers. Offer your readers what they can’t get anywhere else: The facts of the news, right away, with clear explanations of why those facts are significant and how they fit into a broader narrative.
Imagine a Dallas newspaper, on the day Lee Harvey Oswald was shot, putting a story on its front page about what would have happened if Oswald had died four years earlier. Then imagine that they didn’t even put the real news story on the front page. Ridiculous, right? That’s sort of what the Patriot-News did this morning.
A bad man was brought to justice yesterday (and properly, unlike with Oswald). That’s the news. It’s good news. Tell us about it, and tell us about it right away.
February 28, 2012
According to data collected throughout 2011 for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Lancaster County, PA is the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) where well-being is highest, compared to all other U.S. metro areas.
My Facebook newsfeed has been overtaken by a photo of a USA Today sidebar listing the top and bottom 10 in this ranking. Big thanks to Michael McCrea for seeing the story and sharing a photo.
Gallup and Healthways interviewed 1,000 people a day over the course of last year to collect this data. Every person they interviewed is given a composite score of well-being, which is based on factors in six categories:
- Life evaluation
- Emotional health
- Physical health
- Healthy behavior
- Work environment
- Basic access
Together, these six categories contain 55 individual factors. A breakdown is available on the project’s methodology page.
In the case of Lancaster County, they interviewed 781 individuals, or 0.15% of our population. They then used the composite scores of those individuals to create a composite score for Lancaster County. (Read the overview report in PDF format.)
Metropolitan Statistical Areas are often not apples-to-apples comparisons. Lancaster County is a rarity among the country’s 361 MSAs in that the Lancaster MSA and Lancaster County are the same thing. York County for instance, is bundled with Adams County. The Philadelphia MSA includes both Camden, NJ and Wilmington, DE.
As an alternate way of breaking down the data, the 2011 Well-Being Index report also ranks the results by U.S. congressional district. By that measure, Lancaster ranks 7th. (Chester County must be dragging us down!)
What I find most impressive is that Lancaster managed to reach the #1 slot while being surrounded by bad influences. The 2009 version of this same study revealed that the York-Hanover MSA was the 4th most obese in the nation, and that area shares a large border with the Lancaster MSA. (The obesity statistics for 2011 have not yet been released.)
In fact, while Lancaster ranks at the very top of the list for the overall Well-Being Index, York-Hanover is down at 120th. Allentown-Bethlehem is 169th. Harrisburg-Carlisle and Reading look better, at 49th and 56th, respectively. (That info is found in the Pennsylvania-specific report, also a PDF.)
It is worth noting that compared to the year prior, Lancaster’s Well-Being numbers improved in each of the 6 categories listed above, except one:
That’s right: healthy behavior. The bad news is it appears our behavior isn’t as healthy as it should be. The good news is that our behavior is the thing we have the greatest ability to change.
I’m sure our local business champions will be proud of the fact that our best-performing category is work environment.
For those interested, here are the top ten MSAs on the 2011 Well-Being Index:
- Lancaster, PA
- Charlottesville, VA
- Ann Arbor, MI
- Provo-Orem, UT
- Boulder, CO
- Honolulu, HI
- Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
- Fort Collins-Loveland, CO
- Appleton, WI
What are your thoughts and reactions?
January 27, 2012
In the coming months, I would like to begin spying on towns that are a lot like Lancaster.
I want to monitor them remotely over the Web, to get a sense of what is going on in those cities that might inspire us here in Lancaster, or cause us to think differently about ourselves.
What cities do you consider to be comparable to Lacaster? Ideal cities will be of similar size, age, and climate.
I think there are a fair number of people in Lancaster with a sense of what is going on in Philadelphia, New York, and even more distant cultural centers like Los Angeles and Austin. Those people are thinking about how some of the things that are done in those cities might be done here.
I would like to contribute to the conversation by looking at what is going on in less well-known cities that are more similar to ours. Any suggestions of towns to use as that sort of benchmark?
The Harrisburg Patriot-News published an extraordinary front page today:
The entire front page is an editorial. It stands up for the thousands of Penn State alumni and supporters who live in Central Pennsylvania. It stands up for the rule of law. And it stands up for children who are the victims of sexual crimes.
To the editorial board of the Patriot-News, bravo.
The most famous coach in college football history must be held to a higher standard.
A man who has spoken with such affection for 46 years about “his kids” failed real kids when they needed him most.
It might always be honor with an asterisk, admiration with a shake of the head. Joe will have to live with that.
The Patriot-News wasn’t alone. The newspapers of Central Pennsylvania stepped up today. They put their communities, and their responsibilities to them, first. They collectively mounted the kind of pressure necessary to oust an iconic figure who long ago aged past his ability to control his organization, his staff, and his team.
The York Daily Record reminds us all that whenever anyone even suspects that a child is being abused, “…the first call, the most important call, must be to the authorities.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer wants Paterno to step down at the end of this season, too, saying his “oft-discussed retirement would be timelier than ever – even though leaving amid this scandal will provide a sad coda to an otherwise stellar career for the man who, until now, served as the reassuring public face of Penn State.”
The Williamsport Sun-Gazette underscores that no one did the right thing: “It’s clear no one at the university acted aggressively enough as they were being informed of these allegations. There was one call to be made when they were informed. Immediately. To state police.”
The Scranton Times-Tribune echoed the point that “Penn State’s obligation hardly ends with the legal process.”
There are a couple exceptions to this set of newspapers who stepped up and addressed our state’s highest and mightiest public university, though—as of this writing, there’s not a peep about PSU amongst the editorials in the Lancaster or Reading newspapers.
If you so much as suspect that a Pennsylvania child is being abused, call ChildLine at 800-932-0313.
More about Penn State football on LancasterPaBlog.com:
In the Middle of College Football Season, Injustices of the NCAA Revealed
September 28, 2011
Watch out. There’s a new Lancaster events calendar.
And it’s on this site.
It’s powered by event organizers.
When you create a Facebook Event, invite the Facebook user Lancaster Event-Calendar.
Voila! Your event is now listed on this public Lancaster events calendar.
Your event should be open to the public and take place within Lancaster County. That’s all I ask.
If you’re an event goer looking for something to do, bookmark the events calendar on this site.
And if you’re an event organizer, jump on Facebook and send a friend request to Lancaster Event-Calendar then invite “him” to your upcoming Lancaster County events.
I expect this calendar to get a little cluttered and chaotic, since it’s aim is to be easy and democratic. If you’d like something with a little bit of curation to it, the MOOSE/JSID/DID calendar is a good resource.
Where’d this event calendar idea come from?
I say no to nearly all of them, and I feel bad doing it. I feel like I’m saying, “Not only can I not come, but I don’t support what you’re doing, and I’m OK with all the other people you’ve invited and all my friends seeing that I’ve personally decided not to attend your event.”
That’s the opposite of the message I want to send.
So instead of RSVPing “Yes” or “Maybe” to tons of events I have no intention of being a part of, and instead of complaining about getting invited to every last event taking place, I decided to try something new.
It struck me that when seen as a whole, the list of my pending invitations on Facebook looked like a pretty full community events calendar. I thought about all the event organizers who spend a couple hours for each event making sure all the right people, websites, and publications get the information about their event.
The rest was straightforward. Facebook creates a feed of all your events. Google Calendar displays such feeds, and lets you embed a calendar on a website. I have a website.
I don’t plan on policing or curating the calendar very much, and I hope I won’t have to. If push comes to shove, I expect that unfriending anyone who takes advantage of this resource (by inviting Lancaster Event-Calendar to every last silly event) will keep this calendar useful and relevant.
I’d love to hear your reactions, advice, or questions in the comments.