Thursday, January 03, 2008

Morning Call Loses Its Perspectives

Pamela Varkony, Allentown writer and former member of Allentown city council, is the founder of Power of Women. Until today, she was also a Morning Call blogger.

I've always enjoyed her writing style. I feel like I'm sitting in her living room, having a nice conversation with a very interesting person who is talking to me, instead of at me. She even answers my emails. I've been a loyal reader of her column for years, and was delighted when The Morning Call gods gave Pam her very own blog, Perspectives with Pamela Varkony.

But as we all know, the gods are fickle. Yesterday morning, when I tried to access her blog from the Morning Call web page, the link was strangely missing. By the end of the day, I learned that the divine media powers had, indeed, lost their Perspectives. Varkony may still be an op-ed columnist, but her blog is dead.

Class act that she is, Varkony provides no details.

Classless bastard that I am, I have a few comments.

In the vile Morning Call online community, homophobic and other types of hate speech are standard fare. A story about Senator Craig's bathroom antics, for example, contains disparaging remarks that have lingered since December 3. "Anyone really care what eight queers claim? Anyone really care what eight poofers claim?"

Ask Frank. That was the name of his column. I think he really cared.

Remember him? He's the Morning Call features writer who was threatened with termination unless he bowed out of a local gay pride parade, where he and his 25-year partner were being honored. I don't know about you, but I haven't noticed Whelan's byline on any recent features. What I notice instead is hate speech directed right at the gay community. After allowing it to fester for a month, the paper has legitimized it.

Although the editorial board sanctimoniously proclaims it stands for "[t]olerance and respect for all persons, irrespective of differences of race, religion or culture," it fails to walk the walk. Rather than condemn these hateful remarks, it seems to have condoned them.

Why? Is it because hate sells?

I don't really know, but I find it very ironic that a respected paper like The Morning Call would cater to hatemongers while terminating its relationship with a balanced and fair-minded writer like Varkony. She was real. She even signed her name to what she wrote. She shunned puff pieces about Allentown like you'll find here and there. She'd rather tell the truth.

That can be risky.

Instead of being the third blog to cheer a new (and publicly subsidized) Allentown restaurant, Pam focused on actual news. One of her best blogs, "The Old Switcheroo," investigates a new Allentown housing development that crams people into sardine cans while publicly proclaiming the opposite.

Pam wrote a companion column to that blog. It was even published on November 25. Op-eds that she wrote both after and before that piece are still available online. In fact, her recent entries go all the way back to July. But guess what? Her piece on that Allentown housing development is gone. You've got to pay for it.

If I want to listen to hate speech, I can sit in a bar. If I want to be puffed, I can visit any used car salesman. But if I want the truth, I expect to be able to find a few kernels in the newspaper. Yet it appears that the local fourth estate has lost its perspective. Instead of encouraging people like Pam, who has an innate ability to frame political issues, The Morning Call is now encouraging anonymous anti-Catholic rants. I guess that's a step up from the usual racism.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. My new blog, Perspectives with Bernie O'Hare, starts tomorrow. I think I'll start things off with a few pork chop recipes.

34 comments:

Chris Casey said...

I'm waiting Bernie, so when do we picket the front door on 6th street?

Anonymous said...

C'mon,, Varkony is an unannounced candidate for mayor. If they give her a column and a blog, they should give one to Pawlowski, too. Kranzley, the Op-Ed chief, may be white-bread boring but he does have scruples ... unlike too many of his management peers.

Personally, I liked Varkony's columns. They were well-written, properly researched and fairly moderate. But if she's gonna be a candidate, she has to be treated as any other candidate.

Gonzo said...

The idiots at the Morning Call are ruining their own credibility. They dump a good blog writer while permitting all kinds of bullshit from the local branch of the KKK.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:22,

C'mon,, Varkony is an unannounced candidate for mayor.

So are you. So am I. So are all of us. I don't think the decision had anything to do with that. And I don't really know whether Pam entertains any political ambition.

But here's an idea. Instead of silencing announced mayoral candidates, why not give them all a forum in which to express their views? It costs the paper nothing to set up a blog. They really are cheap. Why not give the mayor a column or a blog, too? He's the one claiming that no one is telling the "good news" about Allentown, so let him tell it. But let him and the other candidates also respond to the comments that are posted.

The news media, instead of running from electoral contests, should be embracing them. I notice on my sitemeter that people get really interested in the closing weekds of a campaign. The papers could do a much better job. Their Queen City and other blogs were supposed to solve that, but I don't think you do that by being the third blog to post about the opening of Johnny Manana's.

Personally, I think something like this would be a good thing, and would bring the government a little closer to the peoiple it is supposed to represent.

Dottie said...

I am going to miss her blog. I've enjoyed her writing style as well. She always responded to my comments and e-mails.

Frank Whelan works for the Historical Society now and is a great tour guide. I miss his "Ask Frank" column and his "Scene." The Historical Society has a newsletter that he writes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dottie, Thanks for telling us what Mr. Whelan is doing these days. I had no idea. Also, congrats on starting your own blog, Lehigh Valley Something.

Anonymous said...

I'll miss Varkony's blog.

MAD AS BATS said...

OOOh, now there's an idea, Pam versus Ed for Mayor in 09'. Now that could get interesting.
Would it be a referendum on Ed's leadership, or a "stay the course" kinda deal? The mind is aflutter with

Anonymous said...

Pam will run as an indy

Hedyt will run on GOP (further demonstrating how inept the city gop is)

Tony Philips will run in the D primary

Bernie O'Hare said...

Once the policitcal season starts and once a candidate starts circulating nomination petitions and announces, I could see your point. I don't see it now, and that's not what motivated the MCall gods anyway.

ABW Diner said...

Varknoy had the only Mcall blog that dared criticize A-town mayor Pawlowski within the past six months. Pawlowski regularly lunches w/ Mcall editors. Put two and two together.

Anonymous said...

Well Bernie, if that is not what motivated them, than what is?

It sounds like you know.

Anonymous said...

"Dottie, congrats on starting your own blog, Lehigh Valley Something."

Bernie, correction: Dottie's terrific new blog is called "Lehigh Valley Somebody" ...

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:38,

You'll excuse my delay. I just got back from lunch w/ Kranzley & Pawlowski.

In truth, I honestly have no idea whether Pawlowski and editors are regular lunch buddies. And I sure as hell don't know what motivates the media gods. I'm still trying to figure out what happened to Whelan. I'd still like someone to explain how they could tag team Angle over insensitive comments made on his radio show while ignoring actual hate speech on their own reader forum.

The Varkony decision itself makes no sense to me. Pam has declined to go into details. She'd only confirm that she's no longer a MC blogger. Most of my reporter pals didn't even know it had happened. She certainly couldn't be called a poor writer. She certainly did delve into Allentown politics from time to time, but I never saw anything that was close to outrageous. I do know that her best recent column is stashed away in archives, and that column does happen to be critical of Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. Of course, editors might think that work is so good that people should pay to see it.

I can only make educated guesses.
The one thing I am certain about is that they have stopped using her, and that is their loss.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:41, I stand corrected. There is a link to Dottie's blog on the left sidebar.

Anonymous said...

I have to love the conspiracy theories that run rampant anytime the newspaper does something ... or doesn't do something. Has anyone given any thought to the fact that Varkony may be at fault, or at least at cause, for her blog removal? Not here, they haven't. Why won't she say? And what's wrong with the mayor having lunch with an editor? Heydt and Afflerbach wouldn't do that, and the paper was always in the dark on their activities. Maybe Callahan and Panto should make lunch dates with Kranzley. And why isn't anyone asking why the paper is so easy on Cunningham? What has he really done over the past two years? Hmm, maybe he's having lunch with an editor, too!

The X-Files is NOT a documentary, folks, and there aren't men in black hiding behind every headline Lord knows the Morning Call does enough things wrong or badly, but let's give them the same chance we insist they give everyone else (well, everyone else except Ed Pawlowski, of course. As far as the blogs are concerned, the paper should nail him every chance it gets.)

A.J. Cordi said...

I don't read too many newspaper blogs; some of them seem too censored. However, I do take a peek here-and-there and Varkony's was one of the better ones.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 1:52,

Sorry, I was out in my bunker, salting away a few jugs of water.

I don't think there's anything wrong with a journalist having an occasional lunch date with an elected official - even if it's Pawlowski. That's a good thing. But if it occurs on a too frequent basis, and if the same treatment is not provided to what the British would call the shadow government, it's unethical.

A journalist should be free of any obligation other than the public's right to know. Once they begin to develop cozy relationships with elected officials, they compromise their journalistic integrity. You know this bc I suspect you either are or were a journalist, and you read like a good one, too.

I think the implication was that Pawlowski has too cozy a relationship w/ MC editors. And I'll repeat that I don't check on who's eating with the mayor. I doubt these editors would compromise their journalistic integrity by becoming too friendly w/ Allentown's mayor.

And you're right. There is a slight possibility that Varknoy herself is at fault. From what I've seen of her writing, I doubt it, and I'm sure you do, too. From what I've seen of recent MC editorial decisions, I do believe they've lost their perspective. There's plenty of hard evidence of that just in the way they've lumbered on with that offensive reader forum. There's even more evidence from their own city blogs, in which the reporter-blogger seems like a fish out of water and is as limited in what he writes as he is in the actual paper. There's also plenty of evidence in the form of what Varkony has been writing about.

This is no X-file episode. And as far as giving the paper a chance, The MC has been told for some time now about its horrible reader forum. It's had plenty of time to develop some half decent blogs to cover the cities. Did you know the "Two Rivers Daily" has not even been updated since November 23????????? What the hell is up with that?????????

Now, they finally get their hands on a blogger who is not also a reporter and who still knows how to write. She's not even afraid to use the first person singular. And what do they do? They slap her down.

I think it's pretty damn clear that this is just another in a series of recent editorial blunders from a paper that is out of touch with its readers, especially at election time.

Now if you'll excuse me, my black helicopter awaits.

Anonymous said...

You're all right, O'Hare, regardless of what Kranzley told me at lunch.

Mr. Damien Brown said...

How do we know Pam didn't simply decide not to renew her contract because of some personal reason? Did she deny that?

I haven't read anything here that gives me any reason to suspect any foul play on the part of The Morning Call. The handling of the comments forum is an issue but trying to draw a conclusion around this based on that is a bit of a stretch to say the least.

Did I miss somebody wink in between the lines?

Dottie said...

I am surprised that nobody has pointed out here the fact that the mayor's former campaign manager, attorney Malcolm Gross, also represents The Morning Call. Kinda cozy??? Wink, wink.

Bernie O'Hare said...

How do we know Pam didn't simply decide not to renew her contract because of some personal reason? Did she deny that?

In a word, yes. I would not be blogging about this if it had been Pam's decision.

That decision is further evidence of a decline of civility and increase of hypocrissy at the MC. Despite nearly universal complaints, they have maintained a reader forum that makes Bernie Kieklak look like an altar boy. They actually tried to justify it on one blog because it generates revenue. And now they rid themselves of a classy and dignified writer like Pam. Damien, you have missed something.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dottie,

I did not know that Malcolm Gross was Pawlowski's campaign manager, and thank you for that tidbit. That doesn't bother me so much. I'll tell you why. My dad hated The Bethlehem Globe Times. More specifically, he hated editor John Strohmeyer. And the feeling was very much mutual. I heard some of their exchanges. Even I got into the act. My very first letter to the editor (I was a high school junior) attacked him and Bethlehem Mayor Payrow for not including Becahi when it selected a high school student as mayor for a day.

But every time the Globe was sued for libel, Strohmeyer retained my dad

Anonymous said...

Varkony always seemed a bit to plastic and perky.
Also since when is there journalistic integrity. Both local papers love when pol's kiss up to them. It has worked well for a few. My policy is if the papers praise someone to much go with the other person.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 8:03, One man's meat is another man's poison. I like Pam precisely because she is very real and puts on no airs.

Anonymous said...

>Varkony is an unannounced candidate for mayor .... So am I.

I knew it! I knew it! Bernie, you've made me so happy. YOU'RE GONNA RUN FOR SOMETHING.

Oh wait! You live in Nazareth, doncha? Guess that won't go over so well with Allentown voters - will it now?

But I'll still vote for ya!

Mr. Damien Brown said...

Bernie:

What have I missed? I simply stated that there wasn't anything convincing about this piece unless you know something you are not comfortable sharing with us. You just admitted that.

I would say I got something as opposed to missing anything.

For better of for worse, your secret info really doesn't mean anything until you decide to share it with us. So, do you care to share?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Did I miss somebody wink in between the lines?

Those are your words, not mine, Damien. I am not comfortable sharing what Pam told me. But I am comfortable sharing what Pam has written about this episode. And I will do so tomorrow.

The Curmudgeon said...

Bernie,

I give Pam Varkony three days in office and you will will be ripping her just like any other office-holder. You and your blog friends don't want to help our communities, you want to tear them down.

Don't deny it.

Your blogs prove it, and so do those of your snycophants. It's easy to knock down. I challenge you and your peers to tell us what Pawlowski, Callahan and Panto do right, in each of their cities.

To be honest, I don't think you can do it. Two words: John Stoffa.

C'mon, this is a blogwide challenge. Casey, jump in. Molovinsky, I know you can't do it. Tell us what the incumbents are doing right. Tell us how they are helping their communities. I bet you can't. I bet you leave it to the Molivinskys and their ilk to destroy the Lehigh Valley.

I dare you. Try to blog positive for one week. Tell us what our elected officials are doing right. We have the Call-amity to tell us what they are doing wrong.

Be different. Encourage us.

I'll be honest. I don't think you can do it, anymore than can than MSM.

Anonymous said...

Curmudgeon, what the ????
Do you read this blog. Stoffa is a Saint. They have retired his red hair dye, out of reverance. What is it you are getting at?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Curmudgeon,

I call things as I see them, not as you see them. I don't even hide behind an anonymous nom de plum.

This blog focuses on local government and almost always make recommendations on how things can improve. It's called constructive criticism. You don't seem to get that.

Over the past year, I've had plenty of positive things to say about LC Exec Don Cunningham, NC Exec John Stoffa, Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, Congressman Charlie Dent, Commissioner Dean Browning, Mayor Sal Panto, state rep. Joe Brennan, state rep Rich Grucela, state rep. Craig Dally, NC Council Prez Wayne Grube, NC Council member Ron Angle, and Allentown city council member Jeanette Eichenwald. I've also had plenty of suggestions about improving things, too. I don't agree with these folks about everything, but I think they are primarily interested in good government.

As far as the MC is concerned, I see bad and good. The decision to get rid of Varkony was stupid. It's insulting to take her elevated commentary away while leaving us with garbage about pork chops. On the other hand, I don't see the media bias there that everyone else, including you, is convinced exists.

Now here's what really bothers you. I don't write much about Pawlowski, but have been somewhat critical. And like a rabid dog, you get highly incensed whenever anyone suggests he has done something wrong. You see, you can't abide anything that suggests in any way that Pawlowski is out of line.

When it came to the minority merchants along Hamilton Street, I simply asked that he talk to them. I even asked you for your help, and you ignored those requests. Pawlowski never raised a finger until Channel 69 started snooping around. Had he bothered to meet with one or two of them, I would have been very impressed. You see, this is what we call constructive criticism. My goal was to get LANTA to do something. We eventually succeeded. It's called constructive criticism.

As far as Pam's criticism about Old Allentown is concerned, that's her baby, not mine. I never blogged the topic. But it does seem to me that she's right. What could the mayor have done? How about being honest and open about his true intentions. You see, there's some more of that constructive criticism.

I haven't made up my mind about him, but I'm not wearing rose colored glasses, either.

I've just been tearing things down? Have I done anything constructive? Over the last year, this blog gave you appellate judge profiles, something you saw nowhere else. (Did you write any profiles?) I posted local campaign finance reports online for all to see. (Did you get some LC reports and post them?) This blog actually discovered we had voted with software that the state never certified, a situation that had to be rectified. This blog provided intense coverage of local elections, including 24 hour finance reports. As I recall, you didn't write a single piece about any contest. This blog cast a very public spotlight on the shady campaign practices of the state's biggest political consultant. These were all constructive, not destructive. These were not just tearing things down, as you disingenuously suggest. They were improving things. There already has been a lot of positive things to come out of this blog.

But what really bothers you, and the reason for your ire, is that I won't break out the pom poms for Allentown. I think Allentown, just like Bethlehem and Easton, has its problems. I think that people like you actually make things worse when you brush those problems under a rug and try to pretend they don't exist. There are already two blogs that are exclusively devoted to singing the praises of Allentown. No other community does that. All the other local bloggers look at their communities and leaders with a wary eye. That's healthy. That's what a democracy needs.

You're suggesting that we change our focus to being quiet about what goes on. That's bullshit. That's how tyranny rears its ugly head. I'm frankly astonished at the sheer stupidity of your comment.

I will continue to question authority. My focus is not yours. You seem to be intent on trashing anything that is even slightly criticial of Allentown, whether it is Mike Molovinsky, Pam Varkony, The Morning Call when it truthfully reports a crime, or me. What you really want is propaganda. Like Goebbels, you believe that if you keep repeating lies long enough, people will believe them. Ask the Germans how that worked out for them.

And if you're so interested in being so positive, identify yourself. You want me to encourage you? OK. I encourage you to be honest and ID yourself so we can judge what you're saying. I don't think you need to be anonymous, but are hiding behind the shroud bc it is convenient.

You have a very dangerous and anti-Democratic set of priorities. And you owe me an apology.

Chris Casey said...

Interesting little exchange there gents. I'm game. I put a call into Fran Dougherty at the mayor's office, and left a message that I want to discuss what is going on in allentown, the Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.
Hopefully I will get a call back.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Chris, you may be game, but I'm not. Curmudgeon does not set my agenda. But if he wants me to encourage him, I encourage him to out himself. I believe that, when he first started blogging, he was a public official in Allentown and had to remain anonymous. But that little stint is over because he refused to move into Allentown as required by the home rule charter. Now it's time for him to put down his martini glass and explain why he is such a vurulent Pawlowski puppet. Does he run his posts by Pawlowski first? Enquiring minds would like to know!

michael molovinsky said...

curmudgeon, i'm alittle tired of your comments about molovinsky and people of his ilk. now here's a question, why did your pawlowski hire louie b, and why did louie resign 2 years later and say the job and city process is a joke? what did we taxpayers get for that salary and benefit package? casey, what sort of answer do you expect about the administrations' shortcomings from pawlowski's managing director?