Tag Archive | journalism

More photos: Shamokin fire

It doesn’t matter how many fires you go to as a reporter, it doesn’t matter how many deaths you write about, each one affects you.

I remember the faces of the people I’ve written about posthumously. I still feel the emotion.

And yesterday was no different. I went to a fire in Shamokin, where a young girl died. It was wrenching to think that she was just 13-years-old.

But you still have a job to do and information to get out.

Part of my job yesterday was to take photos, and here’s some of them.


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AP reporter remembers serving as Oswald pallbearer

The 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination is tomorrow and many people are stepping back to remember what happened – the good, the bad and the ugly.

We all the major highlights of the story: how the young and vibrant Kennedy was gunned down as his wife looked on and how she showed such grace and beauty in the eye of tragedy.

But some points of the story are less well-known and many of the reports this week have helped some of us, including myself, learn about them.

Like I had never given a thought to Oswald’s family. I just never put it together that he would have left behind a family.

I also never thought about his funeral and the role reporters – like myself – served: pallbearers.

And now, one of those Associated Press reporters – Mike Cochran –  writes about his unique relationship to the tragedy, serving as  pallbearer at Oswald’s funeral.460x

You can read his full story here, and it’s one of traveling with the story through time.

(I think Mike is the reporter holding a notebook and leaning slightly out there in front).

This passage was particularly powerful for me – it showed just how much emotion was tied to Kennedy’s death – even among those of us who were supposed to remain neutral:

No one else would follow; even the minister failed to show. Shaking his head ever so slightly, Jerry Flemmons of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram turned to me and said, “Cochran, if we’re gonna write a story about the burial of Lee Harvey Oswald, we’re gonna have to bury the son of a bitch ourselves.”

Sure enough, officials asked the gathered reporters to serve as pallbearers. I was among the first they asked, my reply not just “No!” but “Hell no!” Then Preston McGraw of United Press International stepped forward and volunteered, and with my top competition for scoops accepting the duty, I realized my error and joined McGraw and other reporters.

Some very powerful stuff from a witness to history – with a bit of the journalism twists I can appreciate.

What do you remember most about the Kennedy assassination? What have you learned this week?

Hollywood publicist completely disses reporter – on camera

Next time I ever contemplate complaining about publicists or public relations person, I’ll have to remember this viral video of Marion Cotillard’s publicist completely dissing a reporter on the red carpet.

Since it was a red-carpet event, the cameras were rolling and caught the whole thing:


I think the sentiment is OK – I mean, she’s busy, whatever, but the tone was just KILLLLER.

Look, everyone’s just trying to do their jobs, you, me, the reporter, etc. There’s no need to be rude about it. That’s the only thing I will say.

Any reporters out there with similar horror stories?

Ka-yaking on the Suquehanna

The view from my kayak.

The view from my kayak.

Last week, I did a first person account of my trip down the Susquehanna for the paper.

It was quite a doozy, and I wanted to share it with you here.

HUMMELS WHARF — Knowing myself, I wasn’t all that surprised that my adventure down the Susquehanna ended early, escorted back to the Shady Nook Boat Launch after losing my lunch on a river island.

I tend to somehow get myself into these conundrums.

But one thing really stands out to me about my ill-fated trip: I really had a good time. And that photographer Rob Inglis and I are much stronger on our right sides than our left.

When we heard about the opportunity to take part in the legislative and media kayak trip down the Susquehanna in a two-person floating vessel, we were ecstatic.

It was my first time in a kayak and the first time in a long time for Rob.

Our fellow kayakers included state Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108, of Sunbury, who said that if she went overboard, she was taking as many people as possible with her, and Kurt Masser, R-107, of Elysburg, and his son, who just took his bar exam, but told anyone who got injured on the trip to give him a call.

Immediately, the first thing we noticed was that we were pulling hard to the left. Like every 15 seconds or so we would noticeably headed left.

“You can tell we’re both right-handed,” Rob joked.

But we weren’t laughing when we had to make a hard right to go around some rapids and ended up stuck in the shallow water, needing to be rescued by the very helpful and friendly Jim Charles, of the Isle of Que River Guides in Selinsgrove. We were the only people to get stuck, but we kept in good spirits.

As we made it to the first stop, on a rocky river island, I was feeling good. Not too tired, not too hot.

That changed when, as our guides were talking about the river’s history, the sun came out. And I was hot.

That’s when it happened. I lost it — or, more accurately, my stomach contents.

Everyone was so nice about it, giving me water and a snack to calm my stomach. But I was embarrassed.

And that’s when our river adventure ended. Charles took us back in his motorboat and we went back to the office to cool down.

But I swear, I only have fond memories of the trip.

Though maybe next time, I’m making sure that I’m able to take a dip in the river to cool down if need be. Hopefully that will add up to a little more “ka” a little less “yak.”

Now Trending on Facebook: Week of August 25

This week has been big for our Facebook community, with numerous posts lighting up the page over the past week.

Here’s a couple that seemed to draw the most response, but be sure to check out the full Facebook page to see what else has been big this week.

  • The largest thing to draw response this week is a photo. We posted a photo of a car involved in an accident this week, with the victims still as yet unidentified. And that brought about the old debate about what should papers run and not run. Here’s the photo:1175303_10151792463311168_1920321683_n I know where I stand on this: News isn’t pretty, and it can be tough, but it’s got to get out there – we deal with that fact every single day. Literally – this was in my afternoon yesterday. As long as there aren’t bodies in the vehicle or a large amount of blood and gore, it’s OK by me for publication. But not everyone agrees, as evidence by our long comment thread.
  • Another big debate continues to swirl around Hartleton Police Chief Donald Zerbe, who I talked about little while ago. The debate continues with many people still standing by Zerbe: Paul Phillips: “So what? Id rather pat the donation than get the ticket,points,and insurance raised!”
  • Another big debate: The always controversial Gov. Tom Corbett re-affirming his commitment to trying to sell the state lottery. People are fired up about that.

Don’t forget to check out our Facebook page for more and to join the conversation!

Conquering a fear of heights?

Yesterday, Daily Item photographer Rob Inglis and I went to Knoebels in search of people to talk about what makes the park one of the best in the nation, as documented on the Travel Channel’s new rankings which puts the park at #2 in the country.

We were having fun and enjoying a day out of the office when it came down to crunch time, aka when Rob was force to confront his fear of heights on the Ferris Wheel in order to get an arial shot of the park.

It wasn’t pretty for a minute there.

Here’s the journey, which of course I had to capture on film:

Here he is preparing for ascent;


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Readers remember: More memories of Officer Attig

Monday I told you about the story of Shamokin Dam Officer Charles Attig Jr.

I wrote a story about the 30th anniversary of his murder – a story that really affected me and made me think.

Since then, I’ve received some feedback from readers, including one I want to share from a pathologist who worked on the Attig case.

Here’s his account:

Your article on Charlie Attig brought back memories.  I along with many others in the prosecution of the murderer, was part of the back story.  I was the pathologist tasked with the autopsy, something that occurs in deaths of forensic interest even when the cause of death seems obvious.  This is to exclude other unexpected causes of death …  I had been in practice a little less than a year at Sunbury and was within a few weeks of moving to a new position in Huntingdon when the request came.  Although capable of performing the duties, I would not have easily been able to support the legal case from my new hospital, and since it was a policeman, I asked Dr. Hal Fillinger, the Assistant Philadelphia Medical Examiner, a man with (at that time) 20,000+ autopsies to his credit to come to Sunbury and perform the task.  At that time there were only three medical examiners in the Commonwealth – two in Philadelphia (Drs. Aronson and Fillinger) and one in Pittsburgh (Dr. Wecht).  All pathologists were exposed to forensic pathology in residency back then, and most of us performed forensic autopsies, but genuine forensic pathologists were rare.  Dr. Fillinger readily accepted the request to travel the three plus hours to Sunbury.
I was present at the autopsy along with Jim Rodenhaver who I had called to assist Dr. Fillinger.  Mr. Rodenhaver was the autopsy assistant at Geisinger and very skilled at his job.  He later was to become the Montour County coroner.  Dr. Fillinger, a colorful story teller and educator with a constant stream of patter was briefly confused by the appearance of one of the wounds since it didn’t match his expectation based on the reported direction of fire. He stood quietly pondering for awhile and looked back and forth at the wounds until he determined that the unusual appearance was a result of support from the back of the car seat.  Charlie had been shot in cold blood in his patrol car and had never had an opportunity to take cover.  He had been wearing a bullet proof vest, taking the best precautions he could at the time, but the vest was designed only for pistol rounds and was no match for a rifle bullet – a 30-30 Winchester if I remember correctly.  Even if it had been designed for rifle bullets, one of the shots had come in at an angle just under the side of the vest near the left shoulder, the “Achilles heel” as it were of the bullet proof vest.
I performed many autopsies in my career including a number of forensic cases.  Pathologists were usually never named directly in newspaper articles;  the text typically read ” according to an informed source.”   The need for (medical) autopsies has declined markedly, primarily as a result of non-invasive imaging studies such as CT scans and MRIs.    New pathologists have comparatively little autopsy experience and many do not have the ongoing forensic experience during residency training that my generation had.  Gradually autopsies are becoming centralized to regional centers rather than being part of the fabric of every hospital.  Those of us who did forensic cases are now the dinosaurs.
It is ironic that the Charlie Attig case came within the first few months of the beginning of my career and the sad event is remembered in the newspaper in the last few months of the end of my career.

Stories that touch you – Charles Attig

Rosa Attig holds up a photo of her son, Charles Attig Jr., who died while serving as a Shamokin Dam Police officer on June 10, 1983 after being shot.

Rosa Attig holds up a photo of her son, Charles Attig Jr., who died while serving as a Shamokin Dam Police officer on June 10, 1983 after being shot.

Every once in awhile as a reporter, you do stories that really touch you and really move you.

For me last week, it was the story of Shamokin Dam police officer Charles Attig Jr, who was shot in the line of duty in 1983, 30 years ago today.

Here’s the story I ended up with.

But what the story doesn’t tell you is that this story was one that just gripped me from the beginning. It is tragic, but the hero, “Charlie” as he was known, was a great guy and deserves to have his life celebrated for the great thing it was.

As you can see from the comments on the story, he touched just about everyone he came into contact with, acting as not only a good police officer, but as one of the people I talked to said, “a good neighbor too.”

His family and friends remember him as a great guy who only wanted to help others. It really affected me, in a way I can’t explain.

Please read the story and let me know what you think.


Newspapers – Preserving family history for posterity. Just ask my dad.

Recently, my father brought home an old copy of the News Item he found in his childhood home. It was pretty cool to see how wide old newspapers were and how much things were back in the 1970s – I believe bananas were 9 cents per pound.

Here’s the front page to get a sample of how big that is:wpid-20130531_104448.jpg

That’s eight columns. Most papers today are six, and a skinny six at that in some cases.

But even though that is cool, we wondered why the newspaper had been preserved. Something special had to have happened that would cause my Mam and Pap to save the paper.

After we flipped the front page over – we didn’t have to guess any longer.

wpid-20130531_104440.jpgSee that handsome devil to the far right? That’s none other than Greg – in his about 16-year-old glory. He was newspaper boy of the year.

And he still looks exactly like that. Just with more gray hair.

So there it is, newspaper preserving these precious memories that would have been lost for all eternity – so that your kids can look back and laugh at you.

Just kidding – we only laughed a little bit…..OK, a lot.

Love you dad!

Election night and pizzas go together like PB&J

Yesterday was election night. Check out the results for the Valley’s elections here.

For journalists, that means a late-night shift including the newsroom staple: the election night pizza.

Pizza is cheap, most people like it and low-paid journalists will do just about anything for free food.

The Daily Item had them, and so did a lot of other newsrooms, as evidenced by tweets coming out of newsrooms from across the state. Here’s just a small sample.