Christman Blog: The Overlooked Answer

Yes, that was “Ask the Governor” you saw on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews last night, and the Huffington Post, and the Philly and Pittsburgh news sites.

The video from Monday’s taping of Ask the Governor is now viral.

While critics of Governor Tom Corbett bask in the glow of his comments about job applicants and drug use, it should be noted that when asked about Pennsylvania’s slide from 7th to 49th in job growth since 2011, there was a better, more cogent answer proffered.

Job growth measures the rate of increases in hiring, a figure that can fluctuate wildly depending on how a state fared through the “Great Recession.” Now, make no mistake, the economic woes of the past 5 years have affected us all, and there are many Pennsylvanians still feeling the serious burn of the near-depression. That being said, Pennsylvania did fare better than many other states and that was the main focus of Governor Corbett’s answer Monday:

“The statistic of 49 percent (sic) is really an indication of year-to-year, the rate of growth, how fast you are growing and we have been doing better in Pennsylvania than other states , but other states were so far down that they grew – percentage wise – in their area, fast. It looks like it’s fast…they had more ground to make up than we did,” Corbett said.

Of course, the reference to drug-abusing job applicants that followed this answer is now the headline, and likely will be for several more days, but it’s important that the governor’s broader answer not get lost in the revelry of backlash since Monday. As always, the real story is bigger than the headline.

(Brad Christman is the News Director of Radio Pennsylvania and co-hosts “Ask the Governor”)




Christman Blog: The JoePa Legacy Question

Today marks one year since the death of Joe Paterno. At any other time in his tenure at Penn State, Paterno’s death and the subsequent anniversaries would be cause for overwhelming demonstrations of love, grief and a remembrance of Penn State football glory.

January of 2012, however, was like no other time in the history of Penn State University. Former Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky was in a prison cell awaiting trial on unspeakable crimes; Paterno had been unceremoniously fired two months prior; and school trustees and other officials were scrambling to save any scrap of their former reputations. It was against this backdrop that Joseph Vincent Paterno slipped away in a hospital room on January 22, 2012.

It will be argued for decades whether or not Paterno received a fair shake in the days after Sandusky was charged, and then in the subsequent Freeh Report which named him – along with Graham Spanier, Tim Curley & Gary Schultz – as a prime culprit in an alleged conspiracy to sweep the Sandusky matter under the rug. The three surviving members of that quartet have yet to see their day in court. For Joe Paterno, no such day will come.

The Freeh Report included email chains between Spanier, Curley and Schultz, but no such emails from Paterno were found among the evidence laid out by the former FBI Director and his team. That’s because Joe didn’t use email. He had no smart phone, didn’t text and didn’t utilize social media like Twitter, which he once irreverently referred to as “Tweetlety Doo.” As such, there’s no electronic trail of Paterno’s role – or lack thereof – in the discussions that did take place behind closed doors in the Penn State athletic department from 1998 through 2011. One basic fact is often overlooked though: in this Keystone Cops version of an administration under former President Graham Spanier, Joe Paterno is the one person who did report the Sandusky allegations through the proper university channels.

For Paterno fans, there is that much. To sustain credibility, however, those same fans will have to admit that Joe let many people down when he did not follow up after seeing that no action was taken against Sandusky following his reporting the matter to Tim Curley. Let down most of all, the children who Sandusky continued to exploit and abuse. Even Joe knew that he didn’t do enough, saying he wished he had “done more.” That is why the Paterno legacy will remain tainted and why the first anniversary of his passing is met with a confusing and controversial multi-level of sadness among objective followers.

In the coming year, we’ll see more trials, more testimony and more finger pointing. We’ll hear others tell us what Joe Paterno did or didn’t know, and what he did or didn’t do over the now-scrutinized final decade-and-a-half of his 61-year tenure at Penn State. Paterno himself, though, is not here to confirm or deny anything we’ll hear from the mouths of defendants and attorneys who will be trying any tactic they can muster to keep their clients out of prison. Joe cannot take the stand, and without his direct testimony, his place in history will be forever debated.


(Brad Christman is the News Director of Radio Pennsylvania)


Christman Blog: A Moment with Arlen That Didn’t Make It to Air

It was 1997 and a major event was unfolding in Philadelphia. General Colin Powell had brought together all living U.S. Presidents, with the exception of the ailing Ronald Reagan, for “The Presidents Summit for America’s Future.” It was the grand kickoff for his America’s Promise initiative. In addition to Presidents Ford, Carter, Bush41 and Clinton, Philadelphia was a virtual who’s who that week. I met movie stars, sports legends and even had a brief chat with Tony Robbins, which later resulted in his self-help cassette series being shipped to my office (not sure what he was implying with that).

Amid all the chaos of those 2 and a half days in Philadelphia, I met up with Arlen Specter near Independence Hall. President Clinton was about to speak to a gathering crowd and we were both seeking out some quiet time amidst a sea of people. At that time I had known Specter for several years, dating back to my days in local radio in Chambersburg and our many interviews together during his frequent stops at Letterkenny Army Depot and other Franklin County locales. My move to Radio Pennsylvania in 1994 allowed me to interact with the senator on an even more frequent basis and I think he had great regard for our network.

We were standing along a walkway back toward the Market Street section of Independence Mall and Senator Specter offered to be interviewed. He was standing just off to the side of the main foot traffic and I was facing him with my back to the sidewalk. We had been talking for about 5 minutes or so when I suddenly felt a hand in the middle of my back give me a not-so-gentle shove. Completely caught off guard, I stumbled into Senator Specter, who caught me just before we would have tumbled into some bushes. We both spun around just in time to see a group of very large men, formed in a circle, pushing through the crowd making sure not to stop for anything as inconvenient as other people. I stood on my toes to get a better look and I saw what they were so aggressively protecting. It was Oprah.

Yes, Arlen Specter and I had just been pushed aside, and rudely so I might add, by Oprah Winfrey’s entourage. I wish I had been thinking on my feet enough to fall to the ground writhing in perceived pain. Maybe I could have retired years ago.

Anyway, as I reflected on Arlen Specter’s life on the day of his death, that story brought a smile to my face. I have never shared that tale on the air or in writing before and I thought you might enjoy reading it.

Arlen Specter passed away yesterday at the age of 82.


[Brad Christman is the News Director of Radio Pennsylvania]


RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 09.07.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul bring you reflections from the Democratic and Republican national conventions via political analyst Terry Madonna from F&M College in Lancaster. Also, Radio PA Sports Director Rick Becker spotlights the story of Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Ryan Clark who will be inactive for this weekend’s opening game in Denver.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 08.24.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul preview Penn State’s attempt to shift focus from off-the-field disasters to the team that will take the field next Saturday for the 2012 season opener against Ohio University. You’ll also get an update on a select committee on property taxes and hear details about the report generated by the governor’s Advisory Committee on Manufacturing.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 08.17.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul update you on Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law, now that the Commonwealth Court has issued a key ruling; Matt talks to a state lawmaker about property tax reform; and we have new poll numbers on the presidential race in Pennsylvania.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 08.10.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul bring you what may be Governor Tom Corbett’s most extensive comments to date on his role in the Jerry Sandusky investigation. You’ll also hear what Pennsylvania district attorneys would like to do with some of the $60 million in fines Penn State will be paying; and what happens to all those new stadiums and arenas after the Olympic Games are over?

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:


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)

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 08.03.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul discuss the latest Voter ID developments as a Commonwealth Court hearing wrapped this week; you’ll also get a wrap-up of another busy week at Penn State University as attentions shift to on-the-field concerns in the football program; and an update on the efforts to privatize PA Lottery management. You can also play along with Brad and Matt as they offer a quiz on the new AP NFL power poll. Where did your Eagles and Steelers rank?

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:


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.