Monday, April 21, 2008

A question of endorsement

As a small local newspaper, The Mercury rarely endorses candidates in national races. But, the past few weeks have made the national race for the Democratic nomination for President a local story, and so we published an endorsement on Sunday of Sen. Barack Obama as our choice for the nomination.
The publication of the piece came just days after city editor and political columnist Tony Phyrillas wrote a column blasting Obama for the "bitter ... clinging" remarks, enforcing the standard that our Opinion page reflects diverse opinions.
Tony's columns are signed and even photo-ed, so it is crystal clear that his words are his own opinions. Editorials are unsigned, leaving people to ask whose opinions are reflected there.
Although "Our View" does not have a byline, it is actually "signed" by the names in the newspaper masthead which appears directly below it in print. As editor, I write most of the editorials in the paper, some with input from other editors or reporters, some not.
We do not have an editorial board. On an issue of the magnitude of election endorsement, it can not be just my personal choice. I discuss it first with the publisher and second with other people in the newsroom. The opinion does not necessarily reflect the exact view of any of us as individuals, but we try to craft a stand that reflects the newspaper and its role in this community.
In the case of the Obama endorsement, I proposed it, agree or disagree, because I thought it was important that the paper acknowledge the significance of this race by taking a stand. I thought it was important to demonstrate to our readers that we care about the outcome and that we want to be a part of the process that leads up to the election of the President of the United States.
We encourage our readers to get involved by voting, so as a community voice, we believe we owe our readers the same responsibility of taking a stand and choosing one candidate or the other.
To vote is to risk making a bad choice. But to fail to vote is to take the easy way out of commitment. As a newspaper, we felt the same commitment to the process.
We had our say. We endorsed Sen. Obama for the Democratic nomination. Now, it's your turn.

Friday, April 18, 2008

And the winners are ...

The winners of The Mercury pie-in-the-face contest to benefit the American Cancer Society are:

1. Hattie Eckman, retail ad manager, with $254.33
2. Tom Abbott, publisher, with $139.53
3. MaryAnn Matalavage, classified ad manager, with $108.67.

Come to Riverfront Park at 9 a.m. on Saturday to see them get pied in the face for a good cause.

Coming in at number four was Nancy March, editor, with $97.58,
followed by:
Don Seeley, sports editor, $84.09
Chuck Pitchford, Sunday editor, $42.43
Steve Batten, advertising director, $34.94
Cindy Eisenhauer, Penny Pincher manager, $14.27
Rich Miller, circulation director, $6.58
Bob Morris, facilities manger, $2.85
Pat McKelvey, controller, 43 cents

The total raised for the Pottstown Relay for Life Dreams for Donna team was $785.90!!

Thanks to all Mercury employees for your support in the fight against cancer

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Top dogs vie to get a pie in the face

Here at The Mercury we have embarked on a bit of craziness, and we're mixing our metaphors and stumbling over catch phrases.

We have signed on (figuratively, not literally) as community partners with the Canine Relay for Life, being held this Saturday at Riverfront Park. We have a company competition going on to see three managers get pied in the face at the event. We have changed the color of The Mercury masthead for this week to purple as part of the American Cancer Society Paint the State Purple campaign that culminates with the Canine Relay.

And, we are co-sponsoring with Relay a Top Dog contest, in which readers vote on a ballot of 40 dogs that appeared in our TimeOut section. Votes are tabulated by the amount of money donated to the American Cancer Society.

The pie in the face event, inspired by similar fund-raisers in elementary schools that end with principals getting pied, dyed or shaved, was the brainchild of police reporter Brandie Kessler, the most competitive and energetic reporter I have ever met. The goal is to raise money for the Dreams for Donna Relay team, founded by the family of Chuck Pitchford, our Sunday editor who lost his wife Donna to cancer a year ago.

Chuck has announced his retirement from the news business, effective next week, so many of us believe an appropriate sendoff would be a faceful of lemon meringue on Saturday. And others, of course, have plenty of reasons for wanting to see the editor or the publisher or the ad director blinking through gobs of whipped topping.

At any rate, we are coming together for a good cause. Which is better than falling apart for a bad one. But, that's a topic for another day.

Monday, April 7, 2008

From youth at play to Final Four

Like every sports mom, I have sat through chilly spring evenings watching T-ball, on hard bleachers cheering through basketball, bundled against the fall winds during football, and idled away the time against a wall during gymnastics and ballet classes.
My sons both dreamed of being NBA stars until they stopped growing several inches shy of 6 feet. They have long since moved on to pursue other dreams.
While that is the case with most sports moms and future sports stars, there are some right here in our own backyard that keep growing and keep honing their skills until they're on the way to superstardom.
One of the starters in the Saturday night Final Four showdown between North Carolina and Kansas is one of those young men, an NCAA star who once ran up and down the court at Amity Elementary School, then just another player on a youth sports team, albeit the tallest kid on his team and the highest scorer.
Wayne Ellington is introduced when he takes the floor as number 22 for the North Carolina Tar Heels from Wynnewood, Pa., a graduate of Episcopal Academy and one of the most promising prep players in the national class of 2006.
But long before moving to the Main Line, he lived in Amity Gardens, went to Amity Elementary, and then started showing his basketball potential in Daniel Boone Middle School and as a freshman starter for Daniel Boone High School before transferring to Episcopal.
Elllington was in fifth grade and my son Scott in fourth, playing on the same team. He was already a class act, playing with grace and talent, and their team under Coach Ferris was undefeated that year.
But, sports moms have seen lots of class acts give up the game or discover other pasttimes or move on to other things in life. It is still rare to know someone who played with your own kids to reach the elite group of Final Four teams or the NBA.
When Ellington is introduced at the start of a game, when he scores 18 points in a valiant effort to come back against Kansas, I have a proud flashback moment. He was the tall 10-year-old playing forward when my scrappy 9-year-old brought the ball down the court and passed it to him. Inevitably, Ellington would pass it back and give the little kid a chance to score.
Like I said, a class act.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Paint the town purple

Between painting the town purple and letting the dogs out, the Pottstown Relay for Life organizers are getting people and pets involved in this year’s fund-raising efforts for the American Cancer Society.
This year’s goal is to raise $1.1 million for cancer research, prevention and care.The theme of Hometown U.S.A.: Color the Town Purple will be literally painted on Pottstown beginning Saturday.The week of April 12 through 19 has been designated as Paint the State Purple by the American Cancer Society Pennsylvania Division.
The goal is to have as many representations of the community’s fight against cancer and involvement in the Relay for Life depicted in purple, such as purple ribbons, purple street lights or just individuals wearing purple.
“It’s a grassroots program they’re rolling out,” said Kathy Brennan, chairperson of the 2008 Relay in Pottstown. “What it’s designed to do is increase awareness of the fight against cancer, awareness of the Relay for Life and awareness for survivorship.”Brennan said hundreds of area residents, and dozens of businesses and organizations are on board to do their share to paint Pottstown purple.
Some of the things to look for during the Paint the State Purple event include:Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, which has recently come to the plate with a $15,000 corporate sponsorship for the Relay for Life of Pottstown (matching Diamond Credit Union’s highest sponsorship contribution to Relay so far this year) will change all the lights in their parking lot to purple from April 12 until the Relay for Life event May 31-June 1.The Coventry Mall will have purple bows on the columns inside the mall, and advertise the event on their marquee and on their Web site.Relay for Life banners will be hung from the light posts throughout Pottstown.The Pourhouse in Pottstown and Crazy Carl’s in Schwenksville will be serving purple beer.The week of purple will culminate with the Canine Relay event in Pottstown, “We Let the Dogs Out: Bark for Life.”
The canine event will include a blessing of the dogs, a dog walk in Riverfront Park, and fund-raising events that support Relay.Last year, Pottstown had its first canine team of online fund-raising dogs, and the program has become a pilot for other Relays throughout the country.The local Relay is a record-breaker and a trend-setter, and their track record is not going to end.Look for the purple and listen for the barks of life: Relay events are heating up in Pottstown.
To view videos of the Voice of Relay, visit For more information on the Relay for Life of Pottstown visit

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Relaying the message

If you haven't yet seen the Voices of Relay page at, please check it out. The videotaped voices of local people involved with Relay offer poignant and inspiring words to champion this important fund-raising cause.

One of the points I found most interesting was the fact offered by Dot Freeman, clinical research coordinator at the Pottstown Memorial Regional Cancer Center and one of the founders of the Pottstown Relay, that the federal government has cut in half research funding to the National Cancer Institute. That fact, significant in this election year, underscores the value of the local Relay for Life, the signature fundraiser of the American Cancer Society.

I have written many words about Relay. I have been honored with awards; I was a speaker at last year's event. But, my words are empty when compared with the courage and the emotion of the cancer survivors, caregivers and fundraisers on our Voices of Relay page. These are the people who live this battle. Our staff at The Mercury chronicles their efforts. We're just the cheering section to those who are on the field.

I am told our humble efforts were applauded last night at the Relay team captains meeting, and we appreciate the compliment. But, this story is not about us, it is about this town and its continuing valiant effort to go beyond that funding shortfall of our government and find a cure for cancer.

Watch the videos. Their stories are remarkable.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Driving in circles

I've been sending email messages nearly daily to the ObamaPA campaign with the same drumbeat: "Why not Pottstown?"

Today, the campaign visits Strath Haven High School in Wallingford, Delaware County, and West Chester University in Chester County. On Monday, the Obama bus made an unannounced stop on Penn Street in Reading.

What is the significance of these campaign events? Well, they are all within a few miles or a few blocks or in one case a few buildings away from other newspapers. Newspapers that are not the one I edit. Those who know me know that bugs me - a lot.

You might say, well you had a visit from Bill Clinton last week in your town. That should have given you your presidential campaign news fix for a while. But those who know me know also that what happened last week or even yesterday is irrelevant. This is a daily newspaper; I need a daily news fix, and the Obama campaign is not cooperating.

There were rumors, which may still prove true, that the Obama bus may stop in Phoenixville today, which is close enough for me to dispatch a reporter and photographer for local coverage. Judging by their timetable, however, I believe it unlikely that the bus will stop between Strath Haven, where my friend, editor Phil Heron will be coordinating coverage for the Delaware County Daily Times, and West Chester, where my friend, editor Andy Hachadorian has already set in motion a half-dozen stories and photos for tomorrow's Daily Local News.

As sister papers, these stories are available to The Mercury. But, that's not the point.

We love to be the center of the universe here in Pottstown when it comes to news. And, Obama's bus has been driving in circles around us. It's making me crazy.

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