10-12-2008 Outlook on Northeast PA without Shadoe Steele

I worked a ton this week. A ton. A half-ton too much. Something like that.

A few days ago, I was invited to make a guest appearance on “Outlook on Northeast PA with Shadoe Steele,” along with fellow internet bloggers David Yonki and Gort. After some internalized debate, I declined the invite.

Truth be told, I like Shadoe Steele, or whatever the hell his real name is. Last I heard, his real name was Rusty Denameland-Fender. Er, some such thing. Got me.

The way I figure it, he’s slumming it with internet bloggers because his usual guests, Thom Greco and Carl Romanelli, are suddenly unavailable. Whatever.

Carl wants us to believe that he’s the smartest, most well-read underachiever ever born. And Thom wants us to believe that thousands upon thousands upon thousands of well-paying jobs would be created in an instant if only our city, county, state and federal governments would invest countless millions upon millions upon millions in rundown properties recently acquired by him.

After further review, when compared to the usual “Outlook” guests, perhaps a couple of lowly bloggers will come off as sounding smart. Or, at least, less desperate sounding.

Anywho, the following questions were sent to me as some sort of “show prep,” or whatever it is that the radio talk host shows call it when they prep novices for a radio appearance.

Since I’ve got nothing better to do, here goes.

1. What impact has blogging had on the Presidential race this year as opposed to other years?

None. I’m of the opinion that blogging has never had any impact at all on any political race on the national stage. Zip. Nada. None.

2. Can anyone give us a historical perspective on blogging as it relates to government issues?

What blogging did was to expose people to the rarely before heard of , the minutia, the inner-workings of government and made it all understandable in common parlance. House Bill 2700 became, “The clueless dork wants to…”

3. Blogs have a reputation as being self serving but it appears to me that you three try to be quasi reporters? True or not?

There was a time when I was a reporter first, and a writer second. When my city, Wilkes-Barre, was floundering on the ropes, I was far, far, far beyond overzealous as far as getting to the nuts and bolts of the local issues was concerned. What I wanted was a new mayor. What I wanted was responsible, financially prudent leadership. What I wanted was a vibrant city in which to live. And in those respects, I succeeded.

These days, this is little more than a hobby.

4. Readers, how do you select and edit what you want to say?

Readers? Are you asking how I handle the forwarded comments of those who read my site?

Unlike the vast, vast majority of those bloggers who blog for free on the most recognized of blogging magnets, I do not and will not allow unfettered access to my site by the cowardly, vitriolic and slanderous anonymous.

If the e-mailer is known to me, chances are, their unedited comments will appear on my pages. And I do reserve the right to protect their identities after they have made their identities known to me.

My site, my rules.

5. Do you have a particular market that you tend to, go after, a particular ideology?

Once upon a time, my efforts were completely Wilkes-Barre and Luzerne County specific. These days, with that former mayor of mine having been unceremoniously dispatched to the political graveyard, my site has become an unpredictable locale. My site is exactly what I want it to be whenever I get around to making it whatever it is.

I will say this, blogging is becoming repugnant and irrelevant in that it has become so hopelessly partisan in scope. Preaching the virtues of one political party versus the other is nothing more than preaching to a receptive choir with a collective, well-lubed prehensile mouth.

And this “Blogging for Dummies” phenomenon, in which haplessly and hopelessly partisan myrmidons read the work of fellow myrmidons and then link to their favorite myrmidons and other party apparatchiks amounts to repeating the same well-worn talking points delivered from on high, only in a slightly different way…from a very minutely separate perspective.

6. Have you all been born writers or did you have to develop that skill? And when, why and how did you start your blogs?

Writer? I was a total slacker in high school. I recognized college as the total waste that it was. And any “skill” I have must be the direct result of being a voracious reader almost from the get-go.

When, why and how did I start my site?

When: December 2, 2000.

Why: I wanted a new mayor. I wanted a rejuvenated Wilkes-Barre. I wanted to stay where I always wanted to be when I was a little kid.

How: The newspapers kept heavily editing the stuff I sent to them, if they published it at all. So, one day, I decided that I could and would publish whatever it was that I wanted and on a daily basis, no less. And without an editor and without any limit on how many words I could publish.

Too long-winded? Too acerbic? That’s what a reporter from the Times Leader told me when my site was in it’s infancy. Yep. That would be me. And as I said from day one, sue me if you don’t like it.

7. By melding your skills along with what you report, do you think it changes public opinion in any way?

I know for certain that my efforts at changing the political landscape in Wilkes-Barre had an effect. With that said, the higher you go on the political food chain, the lower the impact blogging can have on any of it. Can a blogger damage the chances of a local candidate? Hell yes. Can a blogger make a dent in a state-wide contest? Perhaps. But only if said blogger has way too much time on their hands. Can a blogger affect a national race? Nope, not unless he’s got a stash of nudie pics ready to publish.

8. Are blogs an annoyance to other media or do they complement the mainstream media?

It sure seems like it at times. I’ll say this, I have received nothing but encouragement and quite a few kudos from the employees at both of our two local newspapers. I even had a deal with a city beat reporter, in which he would pay me in beer for every “scoop” or front page story above the fold exclusive he gleaned from my site. He now works out of state, and the way I remember it, he still owes me 8 cases of beer.

Many of the talk show hosts at WILK, on which you occasionally appear, have had many interactions with myself, as well as both Dave and Gort.

Sue Henry tries to include local polibloggers on her election night shows. Other than providing her with totals from Wilkes-Barre’s voting precincts, I have never called in. Both Dave and Gort have, and gave good accountings of themselves.

But we did have that incident in May, the one where Steve Corbett went out of his way to attack and embarrass Gort, who, by the way, was invited to chime in. Oh, and Nancy Kman once posted her infamous “Blog this!” rant on her WILK Web page, in which she accused bloggers of being spineless losers who were outcasts in high school. (?) I’m not exactly sure who set her off. But I’d love to take the credit for it.

I once got into an on-air shouting match with Kevin Lynn that resulted in my spelling my last name for him at the very top of my lungs. Anonymous blogger? Me? Irresponsible and cowardly? Me? Like Nancy before you, I know you don’t mean me, champ.

I was supposed to accompany Nancy on a bus trip to New York City, a day I was really looking forward to. I thought it’d be fun to gab with her at length about politics and talk radio, two things I love. Unfortunately, a colony of termites invaded a local bank and I was forced to cancel.

Interestingly enough, after Fred Williams was given his walking papers, Nancy and Joe Thomas spent a week or two asking listeners to suggest a new talk show host, somebody from the local ranks. And, somehow, my name kept coming up until Nancy sent an e-mail encouraging me to audition.

Sadly, I told her that since alcohol and Kevin Lynn were both included in the company Christmas party mix, I’d get myself fired after having had too much of both.

I used to taunt Steve Corbett via the e-mail inbox during his show. And he’d taunt me right back. He once referred to my messages as being “wild and crazy e-mails.” He called me a Flat Earther, he threatened to throw me around at his dojo and promised me I’d grow out of it one day. And that pretty much sums up what Steve Rodham-Corbett thinks of bloggers.

In review, it seems the local print media encourages blogging by locals. But other than Sue Henry, the radio talk show hosts do not.

9. When you sit down to write your issues, what formula do you file in your head or do you let it fly?

Being far less prolific than I once was, I just kind of make mental notes to myself while wading through yet another work week. And when I finally find the time to write, it just flows. Whatever it is, it just comes.

10. Have you had any controversy regarding your blogs and has anyone made your life miserable because of it?

Whoa boy!

Let’s see, after the twin towers collapsed, I wrote nothing for three days. Thing is, I didn’t know what to write. And when I finally did, I said something about, Okay, they hate us? So let’s hate ‘em right back. And then some local girl complained to the site’s internet host, resulting in it’s deletion due to “hate speech.” And then the Times Leader produced a Page 3 story about it and how it was a free speech issue. I had a new version of the site up and running in 45 minutes flat.

During the run-up to the McGroarty-Leighton election night showdown, I was chased by an angry man in an SUV. Fun as all hell, I might add. A truck trying to chase down a mountain bike in downtown Wilkes-Barre? Not going to happen. I toyed with him.

I’ve been threatened, cursed at, thrown the finger in traffic, spit at and even had my block party permit denied by the City. I had a high-ranking city official tour my house while I was at work. And I was told by a police officer that the former mayor had my criminal history researched.

But the thing that kept me going early on was the fact that so many city employees, city residents and downtown businessman cheered me on. Funny though, a lot of those city employees would shake my hand, tell me to press on, but scurry away because they didn’t want to be seen with me.

When my employer, apolitical animal himself, discovered what was going on, a local resident turning local political writer/editorialist extraordinaire, he gave me a wry grin and told me the former mayor would figure out a way to have me arrested yet.

11. Have you broken stories newspapers or TV might have missed?

Plenty. Too many to even recall at this point. I published the picture of McGroarty’s ill-fated parade float that the Times Leader had reported looking like a trailer with an outhouse in the middle.

I published the picture of the mayor pointing a 45 at a fellow soldier’s face. And city employees building his new home.

Oh, the Wendy’s story. That one turned out badly. After checking on a lease, I wrote that the downtown Wendy’s would close in August 2002. So, some enterprising reporter runs in there and asks the manager if it was true? He responded with a sheepish, “What? We’re closing?” The district manager denied it. The franchisee denied it. And in early August, the place was shuttered.

I once spent months figuring out just how many police officers Wilkes-Barre had on it’s payroll. Basically, what I knew and meant to prove was that our police department was desperately understaffed and that we had as few as three patrol cars on the streets at certain times of certain days. I think the title of that piece was “Crunching the Numbers.” Anyway, a couple of days later, there it was in the newspaper, the Voice, I think. Anyway, there it was, city council people berating the mayor for allowing the ranks of the police department to get so frighteningly low. Mission accomplished.

I broke the story that the parking authority funds were getting lower and lower and lower with each passing year. The point being, the downtown was on life support during the previous administration. And when I posted as much, I provided one of the most troubling pictures I ever took, that of the first block of South Main Street as far as the shudder could see, completely devoid of human beings. Scary.

I did the pictorial tour of Coal Street Park some years ago, the graffiti, the clear lack of maintenance, the utter devastation. And three days later, front page, Citizens’ Voice: Coal Street Park Blows! Er, something like that.

I took the picture of the collapsed garage that had been laying there collapsed on the sidewalk and the house next door for many months. Right after the January ‘01 Super Bowl. My question was, why would the administration of the city allow that dangerous heap to languish like that? A day or two later, same story, Times Leader.

In all honesty, I was just annoyed because the Giants got thoroughly clubbed to death in that aforementioned Super Bowl.

I know there are more examples, but I’m moving on.

12. What about the criticism that bloggers take other people's work, like newspaper stories and then use them on your sites and just comment on them without doing your own work?

I think you just described what talk radio hosts do day-in and day-out. Yet, they have the temerity to criticize bloggers?

I reserve the right to comment on whatever I see fit. But I have done more than my fair share of research over the years, as well as original reporting.

13. Has there been an instance when one of you disagreed violently with each other and posted so?

I’ve gotten into quite a few pissing matches with local bloggers, but never with Dave or Gort.

Dave is hard to get mad at, even when you disagree with him. Gort is of the hopelessly partisan variety, and there’s no changing his mind. So why bother? I’ll say this, out of all of the bloggers that have come and gone on the local scene in the last few years, these two guys, no matter the content, have been responsible, fair, and try to get discussions going with their readers. And there‘s nothing wrong with hashing things out.

14. Comments that come in are anonymous. Does this not give license to people to slander someone? And how do you prevent that?

I will not post any comments from anyone unless the sender has identified themselves to me. That’s the way I operate. My site, my rules. Since day one, I have attached not only a name to my comments, but a face. An ugly one, but a face nonetheless. And I think anything less is objectionable.

The old SAYSO column published by the Times Leader was a nonstop collection of unsubstantiated slandering, and it always annoyed me to no end. Actually, my name used to surface on those slimy pages every now and again. Used to crack me up. So, if I were to publish on my own, why would I want to become that?

15. If you do source a story, what are your guidelines?

I have none. I write whatever I want and whenever I want. I try not to get myself sued. And other than that, I let it rip.

I’ve had three different versions of this site over the years, and well over 1 million separate front page visits. Being an overly opinionated sumbitch, the question is not how many readers I’ve had, but, how many I’ve annoyed and scared away with my commentary.

16. Moral question, you know something that will break yet you promised to keep it under wraps, do you go for the scoop or play by the requested rules?

The “off the record” thing? Jeez, if I had a plug nickel for every time I didn’t publish a scoop, I would own most of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Take the recent issue of City Administrator J.J. Murphy being deployed to Djibouti. I knew about that for some time, but it was not mine to publish. Or, so I felt. His life, his family. So, when we did that interview that he agreed to, I asked him if he wanted to disclose that he was being deployed to Africa. And he did as much. A couple days later, the deployment story “broke” in the Citizens’ Voice.

The thing is, the politicians and the movers and shakers will not talk honestly and openly if they feel they can’t trust you. So when Mayor Tom Leighton, say, provides me with the scoop of the year but stipulates that it’s off the record…well, then it’s off the record.

Other than breaking the Beach Boys at Kirby Park thing (I just had to), that’s how I’ve always operated.

17. Do any of you admire any journalists that might have inspired you to do this?

None whatsoever. Although, I did enjoy the way Fred Williams always stayed after those incompetents toiling away part-time under the courthouse dome. He had this overbearing tenaciousness that kind of rubbed off on me, I think.

18. The Presidential election this year, how has the media covered it thus far?

For instance, Sarah Palin’s entire life had to be researched and then some. But Barack Obama’s past and threadbare resume apparently does not need to be closely examined. You tell me.

19. In your heart of hearts, is the media biased?

Absolutely. Just look at who the journalists donate campaign monies to and who they prefer to pal around with.

20. Who will be the next President and what will you feel about that outcome?

I think John McCain wins. And I think he wins because America is not ready to elect a black man.

You can point to all of the polling data you want. And you can point to voter registration numbers and what have you. But as I make my way through my work week week-in and week-out, I keep hearing these racist mutterings no matter where I go.

What those people--rich and poor, educated and not--what they keep on saying is that they are “…not going to vote for no ni**er!” That’s what they’re saying, and they seem to mean it.

How would I feel about that? Well, John McCain is not big on earmarks, and he has threatened to veto any pork-laden bills that may come his way. I think we could use some of that fiscal responsibility right now.

As for Barack Obama, as I said before, you don’t hand the keys to the entire company to the recently hired trainee. And especially not some trainee from Corruption Central, Cook County, Illinois.

If Obama wins, I will no longer invest any monies, and I will terminate my bank accounts. The way I see it, they can’t tax what they don’t know about. They can’t tax what’s buried just out back. Financially speaking, I’ll go underground.

And there you have it. Them’s my thoughts.

And this concludes “Outlook on Northeast PA without Shadoe Steele.”