The journalists and contributors of have many stories to tell, but not all of them will fit in the news feed. Our blogs will take you behind the scenes with anecdotes and interesting side stories associated with everyday reporting in Pennsylvania’s state capital and beyond.

BLOG: The National Conventions According to Google

Ann Romney stole the show, Tuesday night, at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.  That’s not just this reporter’s opinion from watching hours of live C-Span coverage; that’s what the folks at Google tell me.  Abbi Tatton with the Google Elections Team says Ann Romney apparently succeeded in showing off the warmer, softer side of her husband because the subsequent deluge Google searches focused not just on her name – but on the personal details of her family.

Google searches for Ann Romney on Tuesday night topped those for her husband by 50%, and easily bested the number of searches for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who actually delivered Tuesday’s keynote address.  In Gov. Christie’s defense however, I couldn’t even stay awake long enough to catch the start of his post-10:30pm speech, let alone do any web searching about it.

Republicans will likely be pleased to hear that Google trends show an increasing number of searches for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in key states like Pennsylvania.  However, they still lag the overall number of searches related to President Barack Obama.  Also, they’re not always about politics.  “As the top related search term around Paul Ryan’s name, over the last couple of weeks, has been shirtless,” Abbi Tatton says. “People seem to want to see what this potential vice president will look like without his shirt on.”

That’s apparently a tip of the cap to Mr. Ryan’s well-known regard for a high-intensity workout routine called P90X.  While my own Google search for “Paul Ryan Shirtless” turned up 1.34-million results in a fraction of a second, I declined to click on any of them.

The Google Elections Team will be at the Democratic National Convention too, and we’ll check back with them next week for a look at what’s trending in Charlotte.

Christman Blog: Controversial T-Shirts at the Student Book Store

Okay, so it’s no secret that some people are upset with the NCAA for the sanctions handed down to Penn State University for its handling (or lack thereof) of the the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal. Some think the NCAA overreached in fining the school $60 million, taking away scholarships, banning the Nittany Lions from bowl games for 4 years and vacating all the team’s wins from 1998 through 2011, among other penalties.

Now, those angry at the NCAA can take part in a time-honored facet of free speech: the snarky t-shirt.

Thursday was Media Day at Penn State, and after getting my interviews with new Coach Bill O’Brien and this year’s players, I headed downtown to visit the Student Book Store on East College Avenue. There, hanging amongst the other PSU apparel and various tchotchkes, was a blue t-shirt with bright white lettering. NCAA, it reads…except the “C” is a Soviet-era hammer and sickle.



Yeah, some people are really mad.

The shirt itself is not licensed by Penn State, and since it doesn’t mention the words “Penn State” or “Nittany Lions,” there’s not much the university can do about it. Additionally, the Student Book Store is an independent entity. They can display and sell whatever they wish. That being said, I do wonder what will happen the first time Penn State President Rodney Erickson sees a student walking around campus in this shirt, which sells for 15.99-17.99. The shirt was still available for sale on the Student Book Store’s website as of Friday morning.

The back of the shirt elaborates on the anti-NCAA sentiment: “OVERSTEPPING THEIR BOUNDS AND PUNISHING THE INNOCENT SINCE 1906.”

To be clear, I don’t think anyone who wears this t-shirt believes that any of the principle players named in the Freeh Report are necessarily “innocent.” Rather, I conclude that the reference is to the fans and the players remaining on the Nittany Lions roster, who will have to fight major uphill battles to enjoy even a modicum of success on the field in the coming years, given the harsh sanctions the school will endure.

Still, one critical question needs to be asked: is this the message PSU fans want to put out there right now…or ever?

The graphic on the shirt includes the website, which takes you to a business known as Smack Apparel. Their website features various other sports-related shirts with similar cutting or biting sarcasm (some are more clever than others). It strikes me as a company that knows how to make a quick buck when a controversy surfaces.

If I may, one piece of free advice for anyone who buys this shirt: DON’T wear it to Penn State games this fall. This is exactly the kind of thing ESPN’s cameras will be looking for in and around the stadium. Don’t make it easy for them. Take the high road and realize that humility is more appropriate now than defiant anger. Coach Bill O’Brien and every player I spoke to on Thursday showed me that the team is moving forward with grace and humility. All of Penn State country should follow their example.


(Brad Christman is the News Director for Radio Pennsylvania, a statewide service providing news and sports programming to radio stations across the Commonwealth)

Could You Be Impartial?

The Herculean task of finding 12 men and/or women to sit on Jerry Sandusky’s jury is underway at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte. The former Penn State football Defensive Coordinator is charged with more than 50 counts connected to the alleged molestations of at least 10 young boys over a 15 year period.

The trial is playing out in Centre County, home to Penn State University and The Second Mile, the charity founded by Sandusky more than 30 years ago. Prosecutors allege that Sandusky used the charity to prey on vulnerable at-risk boys.

Questions about whether or not an impartial jury can be found in Centre County have been floating around since the charges were revealed last November. The lawyers on both sides will face unique challenges in this case, as they try to weed through the list of potential jurors for a trial that is expected to take several weeks.

Robert Power, a law professor at Widener University in Dauphin County says he believes the court can find 12 impartial jurors, but that the process could take some time, certainly longer than in a typical case where voir dire can take as little as an hour or two. Power says even potential jurors with no ties to the university or any other aspects of the case may have formed opinions about it based on more than 6 months of intense media coverage.

The court has set aside this entire week for selection of a jury and the alternates. Testimony is not expected to begin before Monday, June 11th.


Christman Blog – Joe Paterno: Legend, Icon…Human

    It was November 9th, 2011 and the Penn State Board of Trustees had just announced the firing of Joe Paterno. My first thoughts were not of the countless Saturdays I spent watching JoePa prowl the sidelines, or of the 409 wins that will probably stand as a Division I record forever. These were ingrained and cherished memories I would later relive, but first the journalist in me began began analyzing where the Jerry Sandusky scandal would fit in to this legendary icon’s eventual obituary.

    Sadly, today we have our answer to that question, and it has come far too soon. Just 74 days after his dismissal, Joe Paterno passed away at the Mount Nittany Medical Center on Sunday morning. The official cause of death was complications from lung cancer, but as everyone in Penn State country knows, it may very well have been a broken heart that ended the coach’s life.

    Upon his death, almost immediately the internet comment boards accompanying each Paterno obituary lit up with arguments over what manner of man Paterno was. Was he the iconic legend known to the world for most of his 61 incredible years at Penn State? Was he a man who should first be remembered for perhaps looking the other way as the Sandusky allegations quietly swirled in the State College winds for years? To be fair, Paterno met his legal obligations according to state prosecutors handling the Sandusky case. Paterno was never a target of the investigation and he cooperated fully with the grand jury. However, it was only days after the release of the first grand jury presentment against Sandusky that questions were being asked. What did Joe know? When did he know it? Why didn’t he follow up with police after reporting an alleged 2002 shower incident to his Athletic Director? They were complicated questions, and even today it’s difficult to know if there is enough information to accurately answer them.

    But the great debate has clouded what should be a day to remember all of the good Joe Paterno contributed to his school and the community he loved so dearly. Should the obituary ignore the Sandusky matter that led to Paterno’s firing? Absolutely not. Should it be the lead in the story? Again, absolutely not.

    Only history will tell us how JoePa will be remembered, and there is much of the Jerry Sandusky story yet to be told. It will be many months before Sandusky gets his day in court, and the testimony and eventual outcome of that trial will be a large chapter in the life of Joe Paterno as well.

    For today, though, this Penn State fan is taking the time to remember those countless Saturdays, the 409 wins, the black sneakers, the thick glasses and the rolled up pants. I’m also remembering the millions of dollars Joe Paterno and wife Sue have donated to their school and community. I’m remembering all the high school football players who entered Joe Paterno’s program as boys and left as men. And, I’m remembering that while Joe Paterno was an icon, and a legend, he was also a man. No human being is perfect, and we all leave this plane of existence with regrets. JoePa was no different.


Christman Blog: Cutting Through Cynicism with Facts

(Brad Christman is the News Director for Radio PA and Co-Host of our monthly “Ask the Governor” series on He can be reached at

    Ask any journalist and they’ll tell you that one of the fascinating aspects of our business involves the letters and comments we receive from people who are certain that they know exactly how things work in our industry. Case in point: a comment entered recently here at regarding our Ask the Governor program, which is Governor Tom Corbett’s only regularly-scheduled statewide access program.

    Dennis (who didn’t tell us where he’s from or give us his email address) wrote:

I would appreciate it if you would stop announcing/advertising the as a “conversation,” with the Governor. It is not a conversation. The questions or comments are cherry picked and he has reviewed them before air time. This is another attempt by a politician to appear to be open and pretend that he is giving access to the people of PA.

    My, oh, my…where to begin.

    First, Dennis, I thank you for listening to the show. We value every single listener & web viewer, and I appreciate hearing from them any time. Unfortunately, despite your emphatic statements of fact, you couldn’t be more wrong in your analysis of the show.

    We worked hard to convince Governor Corbett to do this monthly program with Radio PA and, and he accepted as a way to give you the very open access you seem to deny exists. There’s no “pretending” here. Send in a good, brief email that isn’t poisoned with sarcasm, cynicism and pessimism and you stand a good chance of having it addressed on the air. As I have stated on the program before, which emails get on the air is my call, and mine alone. The governor has never asked us to “cherry pick” questions and he has never tried to restrict the topics.

    Second, yes, we do share the listener-emailed questions with the governor’s office in advance, but that’s because these are the most important questions on the show (YOUR questions) and we want him to be able to provide an informative answer during the taping of the program. That sometimes requires some research on his part. All other questions asked by the hosts, which make up a majority of the program, are not required to be screened or shared in advance. Radio PA and maintain complete editorial control over the program and its content. We wouldn’t do the show otherwise. I also don’t mind pointing out that Governor Corbett has never asked it to be any other way. This IS very much a conversation with the governor, and these policies have been in place since the days our program featured Governor Rendell and Governor Casey (programs that obviously pre-dated the launch of the web component here at

    I realize that the politically divisive mood in the Commonwealth and the nation right now makes it difficult to accept that something can be as it appears at face value. It’s sad, but I get it. However, I’m confident that a vast majority of our listeners and web followers do appreciate the opportunity afforded them to interact directly with the Governor of Pennsylvania. It’s a rare and valuable thing and I appreciate the many of you who have thanked us for providing that pipeline.

    As for our friend Dennis, I hope he has a Happy Thanksgiving and when the time comes to break that wishbone in the Dennis household, there’s no need to wish for a way to contact your governor. We’ve already given you that here at

    A Happy Thanksgiving to all!


Christman Blog: The Cut & Paste Campaign of 2011

“On what legal, moral and/or ethical basis has the administration decided not to provide pay raises for approximately 13,000 non-union State Employees for going on 4-years while providing approximately 14% in pay increases for Unionized State Workers, Legislators, and some Non-Unionized (on ST Pay Schedules) over this same time period?”

    The wording has been identical as the emails on this particular topic pour in for Governor Tom Corbett. Even the improper capitalizations have been copied letter-for-letter. Yes, the non-union state employees are livid, and there’s an organized effort to get their message to the Governor.

    Now, these are folks who work hard and are legitimately frustrated as they watch union employees (often subordinates) get pay raises through their union contracts while their own salaries remain stagnant in these tough times. It’s been going on for several years and some managers now say they’re making less money than some of their employees. They’re mad, and they’re emailing us at demanding an answer from the governor.

    As regular visitors to can tell you, we’ve been in front of this issue and have already discussed it with Governor Corbett. As such, we don’t plan on devoting more time in the coming programs rehashing a subject we already covered. For those who missed it, here are the Governor’s comments on this subject from July 12th. Of particular note, the Governor said he’s hoping to see this situation begin to resolve itself next year, but as we all know, there just wasn’t any money for non-union pay raises (and a bunch of other things) in his first budget this year. There’s nothing that can be done for now, so the issue will likely remain on the side burner until the Governor’s next budget address in about 6 months. For the angry and organized masses, that should be your next email rally point.

    Until then, all I can offer is a “misery loves company” answer. For those who have suffered through several years of frozen salaries and wages, you have to know that you’re not alone. Many people are just barely keeping their heads above water, but others all over Pennsylvania are still drowning. There is something to the sage advice about appreciating what you have rather than focusing too much on what you want. Many people out there would do anything for a well-paying job with benefits, and future pay raises wouldn’t factor into their happiness quotient one bit as long as they could put food on their family’s table now.

    While we won’t be spending much more on-air time with the Governor on this matter this year, I will promise to personally place your emails in his hand when he is here for his next scheduled taping on August 11th, and yes, this will be an issue we dive back into when the time is right.


Thank you, Pennsylvania and Keep Those Emails Coming!

    This week, we wrapped up our second “Ask the Governor” taping with more fabulous questions from our Radio PA listeners and followers of First off, THANK YOU! We launched “Ask the Gov” to provide a conduit between you and your state government and the response has been fantastic. We should also thank Governor Tom Corbett for his time and efforts in giving us this monthly opportunity to interact. 
    The vast majority of questions emailed in so far have been topical, intelligent and sincere. I only wish we had time enough each month to get to each and every one while we have the governor in the studio. If you do not hear your question in a program, it doesn’t mean we ignored you. It’s possible that we just didn’t have time or we’re saving your question for a future taping. Suffice to say, we’ll get to as many as we can in each show, so keep them coming.
    Submitting a question is as simple as clicking on the Ask the Gov link at the top of the page. Make sure you include your name and town. The one rule we have is: no anonymous questions.
    Our next taping with Governor Corbett is scheduled for August 11th. We plan to spend more time on Marcellus Shale issues preview the big items on the fall legislative agenda.
    In the meantime, keep checking back with us for the latest news from the state capital and around Pennsylvania, and check us out on Facebook and Twitter (@PAMatters).


Two-and-a-Half Cheers for Larry Farnese

    The old saying is supposed to start out “THREE cheers for (insert man-of-the-hour here).” Sadly, I have to withhold the final half-cheer, although on the state Senate floor last night, Philadelphia Democrat Lawrence Farnese gave one of the best 3-minute speeches the chamber has seen in some time.

    As I watched the Senate proceedings continue past 8:30pm, Democrats were in the process of blocking funding for the state-related universities. These are the bills that send state money to institutions like Penn State, Temple, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln, as well as a veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania. After days of being frozen out of budget talks, Democrats apparently thought this ill-advised tactic would be their best course of action, and it was their only chance to cause anything more than a ripple in the budget process. That’s because these so-called non-preferred appropriations bills require a 2-thirds majority in the House and Senate, and while their majorities are solid, Republicans do not have that big of an advantage in either chamber.

Senator Lawrence Farnese (D-Philadelphia)

Senator Larry Farnese just misses out on notching a classic moment in his first term

   So, Democrats voted in the negative on bill after bill, depriving the schools of any funding…all in the name of protecting them from 19% funding reductions (in school, I was taught that 100% cuts are bigger than 19% cuts, but I digress). Republicans chimed in that the tactic could delay the funding until the fall, Democrats said they were holding out for some of that “surplus” money the state has collected this year.

    That’s when Senator Farnese approached the microphone, and for three minutes chastised both parties and the overall budget process:

    Listen to Senator Larry Farnese Blast the Budget Process 

“…if the reason (for) what we’re doing is to prove a point, or because negotiations have gone on and we’re not a part of them, that’s a problem with the process and that’s a problem with this chamber.”

    The senator was correct on all counts. The battle over state-related university funding is just the latest in a long line of questionable tactics pulled by both sides as they trade off majority control from session to session. Here, finally, someone stood up and said so.

    Senator Farnese had the chance to make it a serious stand by breaking from his party’s ranks and voting to allow the funding for the schools, but his umbrage stopped just short of allowing that. Vocalizing your outrage is great, but speaking through your actions is an even more powerful expression. And, that’s where Senator Farnese lost half a cheer last night…

Sate Capitol View from Commonwealth Ave.

“Ask the Governor” Leaves the Launch Pad

    It had been 16 years since I last sat across the broadcast studio from Tom Corbett. Back in 1995, he was the newly-appointed Attorney General and I was just entering my 2nd year as an anchor & reporter at Radio PA. Flash forward to June 9th, 2011. He’s now the governor and I’m the Radio PA News Director.
    Our first “Ask the Governor” with Tom Corbett is in the vault. Video clips are available right here on and the program is airing on dozens of radio stations across Pennsylvania. By all measures, the first program with Governor Corbett was a major success. We touched on numerous issues and had a great hour-long dialogue. The governor seemed to enjoy his time with us, and after the taping we were already talking about some of the things we’ll have in store for you in next month’s show. It’s also important to note that next month will be a big budget wrap-up show, as we expect the new budget to be signed and in place.
    For me, one of the more interesting segments of the debut show was a conversation about the media…specifically, the coverage in Harrisburg of a dispute between the Health Secretary and a local restaurant owner. The governor was candid and made some rare comments about the incident. It was an indicator to me that as this series progresses, the governor will not be shy about addressing any issue we bring up. As a journalist, that’s something I always appreciate and respect.
    Please check back regularly for more video clips and information about upcoming Ask the Governor programs, and feel free to send us your question or comment for Governor Corbett.

National Drivers Test

Are You Fit to Drive? I am

Cleaning out my inbox the other day, I spotted a news release slugged, “Nearly 1 in 5 American Drivers Unfit for the Road,” and it was just too tempting not to follow up.  It turns out GMAC Insurance has been conducting a National Drivers Test for seven years now, and 18% of American drivers failed in 2011.  Pretty bad, right?  Well, 19% of we Pennsylvanians failed the test too.  The Keystone State actually ranked 26th according to the GMAC data – a marked improvement from 2010 when PA came in 39th among states. 

Looking even more closely at the data, Pennsylvanians’ average score was 77.7% , just a hair below the national average.  I had envisioned myself writing this post while boasting a perfect score (but I think 95% is a perfectly acceptable score too).  PLEASE, someone tell me you too would be tripped up by this one:

“When you approach a traffic signal displaying a steady yellow light, you must:”

A: Go through the intersection before it turns red

B: Stop if it is safe to do so

C: Be prepared to stop

D: Slow down and proceed with caution

Seriously… B, C, and D are virtually the same thing?!?  Despite my complaints, the correct answer remained “B.”  GMAC’s chief marketing officer Scott Eckman tells me the question people miss the most is: “How far you should follow somebody.”  If you’re taking the test later on, just remember the three-second rule (and not the one that applies when you drop a pretzel in the newsroom). 

If you want to brush up on your driving knowledge, the PA driver’s manual is posted online.  While I was surfing around looking for it, I came across PennDOT’s own safe driver quiz.  I won’t go into details about my score on this one, but I did learn that the fine for failure to yield to a pedestrian is $50-bucks.  Also, ‘failure to restrain children up to age four in an appropriate child safety seat’ is apparently a primary violation of the state’s seat belt law (I gave myself a pass on that one since I don’t have kids).    

Good luck on those quizzes… and on the highways.