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.

Harrisburg's skyline

One More Week…

    Hello, PAMatters junkies! Brad Christman here, and in addition to serving as News Director for the Radio Pennsylvania Network, I’m an admin and editorial supervisor for this new website. If you’ve been with us during this launch period, you’ve read a lot about our “Ask the Governor” program. Well, we’re now just a week away from the first show.

    Originally, we were planning a May rollout of the program, but Governor Tom Corbett had to go under the knife just days before we were planning to air the first show. His back surgery delayed us until June, but we are now ready for a June 9th debut! 

    This is not the first “Ask the Gov” program produced by Radio PA. In the past, we featured shows with Governors Robert Casey and Ed Rendell. I hosted the Rendell programs early in his first term and am very pleased to get the opportunity to once again serve as host as Governor Tom Corbett continues the tradition. Radio PA’s Matt Paul will join me as co-host.

    This is not a live call-in show, and there are a couple of reasons for that. First, we want the program to air on as many radio stations as possible, and the best way to do that is to allow them to decide when to air it. Locking in an exact time for a live show can hinder syndication efforts. Second, the explosion of social networking makes it much easier for us to gather listener questions and present them to the governor without going live. And, I don’t care what you’ve heard, I think this Internet thing is going to be around for a while.

    So I hope you’ll continue to play a part in the growth of, powered by Radio PA. You’re in on the ground floor of an exciting new information resource, and we take it to the next level one week from today when Governor Tom Corbett officially joins the team. In the meantime, visit our “Ask the Governor” section to submit your questions and then check back on June 9th for video clips and other coverage.