Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Blog posts : "General"

Well, That's #interesting

For the first time in the 25 years that it's been choosing a Word of the Year, the American Dialect Society has chosen a hashtag as its Word of the Year.

You'll remember that the 2012 WOTY was, actually, hashtag.

Now, the ADS has chosen for the 2014 WOTY an actual hashtag: #blacklivesmatter.

The vote, taken January 9 in Portland, Oregon, reflects the strength of the hashtag, which was used to protest the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and other blacks at the hands of police. In the cases of Brown (Ferguson, Missouri) and Garner (Staten Island, NY), grand juries chose not to indict the officers involved. You can read the entire news release here.

In a more general sense, the choosing of a hashtag as the Word of the Year is yet another sign of the increasing influence of social media on language. It's also a tribute to the pithiness and succinctness that hashtags can inspire.

Even the 2013 WOTY, because, was chosen mainly for the new way in which it is being used, and that way is due, in part, to the prevalence of Tweeting and texting.

In the entries (here and here) immediately before this one, I offered my guesses for Word of the Year. My "real" guess was hack, a nod to the frequent data breaches of personal info stored online. I thought that because the Sony hack related to the movie The Interview was recent, it might get some consideration. But, no. Hack didn't even get a nomination.

Interestingly, my first and, admittedly, frivolous guess was closer to the mark. This past summer, a reporter at the TV station I work for interviewed a boy named Noah Ritter at the Wayne County Fair. He grabbed the microphone and, in the course of about one minute, used the word apparently several times as he riffed on the rides and the Powerball. The video went viral and Noah became known around the world as the #ApparentlyKid.

Apparently, I should have taken my guess one step further.

Oh well, there's always #WOTY2015.

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Wait! I Thought of a Word!

So, just when I thought I had no idea what the American Dialect Society might choose as the 2014 Word of the Year, I had an idea and thought of one.

Which isn't to say I'm going to be right.

But, here it is.

I think that the word "hack" may stand a chance of taking top honors.

The word has been all over the news lately, what with North Korea allegedly hacking Sony because of some movie in which Seth Rogen and James Franco are hired by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. North Korea, of course, denies the hacking. Then, there's the theory that the hack job was an inside job. However it happened, the emails revealed by the hack are fascinating.

But, the Sony hack was by no means the only one. Hardly a week went by that we didn't hear about hackers stealing data from some large corporation. Those companies like to call it a "data breach" (Maybe another contender for WOTY?) because, I don't know, it sounds nicer? Whatever you call it, millions of people had their personal information compromised by hackers.

So, apparently, to my way of thinking, "hack" is a strong contender for WOTY.

Bring on Friday.

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I'm Back! Word!

Hi! It's been a while, hasn't it? A good sign, though, is that I still remembered how to log in!

Well, if there's one thing that could bring me back to the blog after being away for so long it's the annual Word of the Year (that's WOTY, to you) announcement from the American Dialect Society.

The 2014 WOTY will be voted upon and selected Friday, January 9, when the members of the ADS gather in Portland, Oregon for their annual meeting.

Usually, I have (or at least feel like I have) some legitimate ideas about what the WOTY might be. But, last year, "because" came out of nowhere to win. Partly because of that, and partly because I was way too busy to worry about word usage, I feel like I have no idea what 2014's WOTY could be.

I think MY Word of the Year for 2014 is "apparently" because, apparently, one of the reporters I work with interviewed a kid who liked to say that word a lot.

Then, the video went viral, and now, apparently, the kid is a big star who hobnobs with the likes of Michael Strahan and Ellen.

You go, Noah!

In the meantime, I'll apparently have to wait a few days to see if the folks at the ADS agree with me.

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And... He's Out

Jay Paterno left before he got kicked out.

This afternoon, the last man to jump into the race to be Pennsylvania's Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor jumped out. Paterno made the move just three days before Commonwealth Court was set to hear a challenge to the signatures on his nominating petitions.

As I wrote yesterday, Paterno's petitions contained only 117 more signatures than the 1,000 signature minimum required by law. He didn't have a lot of wiggle room and he knew it.

The Associated Press reported on Paterno's withdrawal from the race in an article that was picked up around the state and around the country. The article cites a statement put out by the Paterno campaign (of course, that statement was not sent to the TV station where I work) in which he basically says that he expected the petition challenge to lead to a lengthy legal battle, so he decided to put Pennsylvania and the party first and drop out now.

To me, that sounds like he didn't think his signatures would hold up, so better to get out while the gettin's good.

The whole statement is posted on his Facebook page:

"This afternoon I am announcing my intent to withdraw from the Lt. Governor's race. Over the past twenty-four hours in talking with attorneys it has become clear that the ballot challenge could be a long process with potential decisions and appeals carrying beyond Monday's hearing.

"With less than two months remaining before the primary I do not want an ongoing legal back and forth to be a distraction in this race. The outcome of this election is too important for the future of the working families and all the people of this Commonwealth.

"While I have always believed that you fight for what is right, there are times in life when personal ambitions should give way for the good of the whole. To that end I am stepping away. It is my hope that a focus on a thorough airing of the issues allows the best Democratic candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor to lead us into November.

"I thank everyone who has supported our campaign. I know we entered this race late and I alone bear responsibility for that and for any shortcomings in our efforts.

"As I have stated at every campaign stop I would be honored to be the nominee, but if I fell short of that goal, I would work hard to help the Governor and Lt. Governor nominees win the election in November. That has not changed. I will continue to advocate for the issues of Education, Employment and Equality that we all feel passionately about in any way I can contribute." ---Jay

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Jack and Jay: Part II

There's a saying that goes "better late than never."

In the case of Jack Wagner - and maybe Jay Paterno - the more appropriate saying may be "better never than late."

It's been just over a month since I posted about the late entrance of Jack Wagner into the race to be Pennsylvania's Democratic nominee for governor. The same day Wagner threw his hat in the ring, political novice Jay Paterno announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket.

Fast forward to March 26, and Jack is out of the race. He had enough signatures to get on the ballot, but he apparently didn't have enough money to make it a race worth running. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a good analysis here of the campaign that never was.

Ultimately, it seems Wagner got into the race too late to get any serious financial backing. And, his roots in western PA did not gain him any favor with folks in that part of the state. Many of them decided to throw their support behind Tom Wolf, who's currently leading the pack in the polls.

Wagner says he has not ruled out a run for office in the future, but judging by some of the comments on the article, there are some folks who wish this Jack would just hit the road and not come back.

As for Jay, he's still on the ballot for lieutenant governor, but there's a chance he may not stay there. On March 31, Commonwealth Court is set to hear a challenge to the signatures on his nominating petition. The challenge is being brought by Brad Koplinski, who was the supposed favorite on the Democratic side until Paterno and his name got into the race.

If what Koplinski says in his news release is accurate, Paterno managed to get slightly more than 1,100 signatures on his nominating petition. The minimum number is 1,000, and you're supposed to have 100 signatures from five different counties. According to Koplinski, all of Paterno's signatures come from five counties, but the question is whether all of those signatures are valid. Paterno and his people don't seem to have much of a cushion in case Koplinski's suspicions prove correct. And, if that's all the signatures the Paterno campaign could come up with, it makes you wonder about the organization he's put together and how serious his campaign really is.

I'll just add a couple other notes about Jay Paterno's campaign and how I see it. In the post last month, I wrote about the odd way his candidacy was announced - a campaign website that was supposed to be secret until late afternoon somehow became public around mid-morning. Then, as mysteriously as that website appeared, it disappeared and was gone for hours. Jay finally took to Twitter to confirm his candidacy, and the website reappeared a couple hours after that.

Since then, JayPa has been running what seems to be a rather low-key campaign, especially when you consider that he's running for statewide office. To the best of my knowledge, my news organization has not received any press releases from his campaign about anything - no "I'm running" announcement, no "here's what I think of this" statements, no attacks on other candidates, no "here's where I'll be on this date," no nothing. I do know that he visited the Scranton area a few weeks ago, but I only know that because one of our news crews happened to see him while they were covering a different story. We tracked him down again later in the day to talk to him - about a topic unrelated to his campaign.

The whole thing is just weird. Here's a guy with no political experience running for a statewide office. The one thing he has going for him is his name, yet he seems to be doing everything he can to keep his name from getting out there. It appears he put minimal effort into getting signatures for his nominating petition. But, should those signatures survive a challenge and he remains on the ballot, I have no idea where he stands on any of the issues. He doesn't seem to be doing much to convince people that, if elected lt. governor, he's prepared to take over as governor if needed.

Quite honestly, the whole thing feels like Paterno is trying to make connections with politicians around the state, feel them out, see where he stands. Maybe he's just trying to cover all his bases by trying to get his well-known name on the ballot with a little effort as possible.

Come March 31 (or soon after), we'll find out if that game plan succeeds.

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Jack and Jay

You can take a former elections coordinator out of politics, but you can't take politics out of a former elections coordinator.

So, you can imagine my excitement yesterday when not one, but two big political stories broke concerning Pennsylvania Democrats.

First came word that Jay Paterno, son of long-time Penn State football coach Joe Paterno (in fact, Jay is really JVP Jr.) decided to jump into the free for all that is the race for lieutenant governor. I'll write more about exactly how this announcement unfolded in a bit.

Then, almost lost in all the JayPa buzz was the word that former state auditor general Jack Wagner was jumping into the crowded field of Democrats running for governor.

Considering that, where both races are concerned, most of the candidates announced quite a while ago, Jay and Jack look like latecomers to the party. But, both already have statewide name recognition, they're entering crowded races in which no clear frontrunner has emerged, and Tuesday was the first day to start circulating nominating petitions. So really, it's not like these folks have any serious catching up to do. Game on!

Some further thoughts. Regarding Wagner, I thought he would have been in the race long before now. Not sure why he wasn't (Keystone Politics may have the answer to that question), but he and his "people" no doubt took notice earlier this month when none of the current candidates got enough support at the Democratic State Committee meeting in Hershey to win the party's endorsement.

Rob McCord received the most support. Tom Wolf had a decent showing, and so did Allyson Schwartz. Wagner doesn't seem to have an official campaign website yet, but it probably won't take much to make active again.

Jay Paterno was also reportedly rubbing elbows with the party bigwigs in Hershey. Paterno was said to be a likely choice to challenge GOP Congressman Glenn Thompson in the 5th District. But, the district is gerrymandered to tilt solidly Republican, and unseating an incumbent is always difficult.

Seeing the lack of consensus concerning the best Democrat to challenge Gov. Corbett, Paterno may have decided that his better course of action was to add his name to the already long list of potential candidates for lieutenant governor. Despite his lack of political experience, Paterno has a name that will stand out in a field of no-names (Brad Koplinski seemed to be the favorite up til now). While there are some people who will definitely NOT vote for him because he's a Paterno, if he can get even 20% of the primary vote, he stands a good chance of moving on to November.

The way we learned about Paterno's candidacy was something of a mystery. It took me a while to figure out if it was real or a joke.

It started around mid-morning on Thursday when I noticed a Tweet from a student-run news site called Onward State. The Tweet linked to an article about Jay Paterno running for lieutenant governor. The article cited a statement and biographical information on Paterno's campaign website. But, when I clicked on the link to that website, all I got was a blank, blue background.

The mystery deepened when other news outlets also cited information on this alleged website. Efforts to view that website, however, continued to lead to a blue screen and later to a page that looked like the site had been taken down altogether. What candidate takes down his own website? I checked out the source code and discovered that the site was hosted by To my mind, an unusual choice for someone running for statewide office.

Not til early afternoon did the Paterno candidacy start to take on a ring of truth. News stories started to cite local party officials as saying Paterno had told them he was running for lieutenant governor. Then, someone managed to get confirmation from Paterno himself.

Around 2 p.m, Jay Paterno took to Twitter to say that, yes, he is running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

Appreciate the interest The web site is going live at 4 pm (which was the plan) Thanks for your patience

 Jay Paterno (@JayPaterno) February 20, 2014

So, it's not a joke! He really is running for lieutenant governor!

I'm a registered Independent, so I can't vote in the primary. I've never met Jay Paterno, and I don't have any reason to favor (or not favor) him over any other candidate. But, here are my general impressions so far.

If the website was supposed to go "live" at 4pm, how did someone manage to "find" it hours earlier? In my experience, websites hosted by Wix are not easy to find with a search engine. So, either a) the web designer screwed up; b) someone in the campaign leaked it on purpose; or c) someone can't keep a secret.

A good four or five hours passed from the time the site popped up and then quickly went down until Paterno gave any kind of confirmation. Once he confirmed it, it took close to another three hours (around 4:45pm) for the website to go up again. I'm not sure if the day's timeline is a sign of an incompetent campaign or brilliant campaign strategy.

Either way, as a former elections coordinator, my advice to this campaign is to put up website that can be easily found with a search engine and to start sending out news releases to media organizations with names and numbers of your campaign contacts.

A name and a Twitter account (even one with 57,000+ followers) will only get you so far. Ultimately, you have to play the game.

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Just Because

Once again, my prediction for the Word of the Year proved to be off the mark. Why? Because.

That's right. At their recent meeting in Minneapolis, members of the American Dialect Society chose because as the 2013 Word of the Year. My pick, "Obamacare," finished a distant second. Thankfully, "selfie" and "twerk" were even farther behind. You can read the entire news release here.

I gotta say, this one took me by surprise. Last year, "hashtag" (#) took 2012 WOTY honors due to the widespread emergence of Twitter. The selection of "because" also seems to be driven by social media and online usage.

The ADS chose "because" because the word is being used in new ways - ways that I was not aware of until November, when I read this article. It points out that usage of the word "because" is evolving from a subordinating conjunction into a preposition.

In traditional usage, "because" is followed by a clause. Example: I'm late because I spent too much time watching videos on YouTube. It can also be followed by a prepositional phrase: I'm late because of YouTube.

Now, "because" is starting the prepositional phrase. Example: I'm late because YouTube. I'm not going because tired. I'm writing this post because Word of the Year.

How did this new usage come about? The aforementioned article lists a few ideas, including Internet memes. It also allows for brevity, an economy of words favored by people who text, tweet, post on Facebook or blog.

As far as I can see, the new construction has not yet found its way into more mainstream websites and publications. Maybe I just don't read enough, but I haven't seen it used in any newspaper articles or articles posted on, say, I also haven't heard people actually talk this way.

But, all that could happen soon enough because trend.

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What if a selfie exists as proof of how I got hurt?

With a title and lead like that, it can only mean one thing: The time to predict the 2013 Word of the Year (WOTY) is here!

The American Dialect Society will choose the 2013 WOTY on January 3, 2014 at its annual meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It can get pretty cold up there in January, so expect a flurry of activity as members choose from words that cross a broad spectrum of parts of speech and usages.

Last year, the ADS chose "hashtag" (#) as the 2012 word of the year. I had my money on the politically-motivated "double down," but the victory of the symbol popularized by Twitter shows the growing influence of social media in our society and in our language.

In mid-November, the folks at Oxford Dictionaries reinforced the trend toward social media dominance by choosing "selfie" as their own Word of the Year.

In case you don't know what a selfie is, Oxford Dictionaries defines it as "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website." So, basically, a selfie is a picture that you take of yourself to show your friends, friends of friends, and followers how cool you think you are.

The selfie garnered some buzz back in June, when former first lady/presidential candidate/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton snapped a selfie with daughter Chelsea (check it out here). The article about that selfie (which appears to have been taken by Chelsea) also notes that Hillary had joined Twitter a few days earlier. And, on a related topic, who can forget the short-lived but highly entertaining Texts from Hillary meme in 2012. If Hillary does run in 2016, she'll have the edge in social media, I think. (Although, I must say, NJ Gov. Chris Christie has a Twitter account and he's not afraid to use it!)

So, admittedly "selfie" is a strong contender for the 2013 WOTY. But, I don't think we should hand over the trophy just yet. There are some other strong contenders out there. Thanks to Miley Cyrus, "twerk" worked its way into the Oxford Dictionaries Online edition over the summer ("selfie" also made the cut). The twerking phenomenon also inspired this epic prank from the folks at Jimmie Kimmel Live.

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What I Did This Summer

Apologies for the lack of posts these past few months. I've been busy at work and at home.

For about six weeks this past summer, my home was pretty much a construction zone. After months of thinking about it, I finally hired a contractor to remodel my kitchen/half-bath/laundry room.

We started with this:
Lived like this for a day while the flooring was installed
And, after about six weeks, ended up with this:

I spent another week or two putting everything back in order, which took us to the beginning of October. That's when other stuff decided that, as long as I was remodeling and replacing, it might as well get remodeled and replaced, too.

So, I began another six-week period during which I (as best I can recall) did the following: replaced a headlight in my car; replaced a CFL bulb in the bathroom; replaced a 3-way light bulb in the living room; replaced the battery in my watch; replaced the charger for my 13-year-old Palm PDA; replaced the modem on my computer; took my computer back to "factory condition" and reinstalled pretty much every program I had on it; replaced the satellite dish for my DirecTV service. Fortunately, none of these was a major expense, but taken together, they were time consuming and quite annoying.

I'm still not convinced that the computer is right, but it's functional. Here's hoping it stays functional at least until the kitchen is paid for.

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It's been almost two weeks, since my last "Namegate"-related post, so it's time for an update.

To recap, "Namegate" refers to the airing by television station KTVU of fake, racially insensitive names of the pilots on board an Asiana Airlines flight that crashed at San Francisco International last month. Two people died. KTVU covers the San Francisco area and very publicly congratulated itself on its initial crash coverage.

The unfortunate airing of the obviously fake names happened Friday, July 12, six days after the crash. Since then, KTVU has done little to explain how the names made it on air. It did provide an apology which a) didn't make a lot of sense in terms of believability; and b) threw the NTSB (ultimately, an NTSB intern) under the bus for "confirming" the fake names. KTVU has said little else, but it did eventually fire two veteran producers, a third veteran producer retired, and a fourth producer (who was not involved in the story) got fired for violating the station's social media policy. He Tweeted "Oh s**t" just moments after the names aired.

The most insight into exactly what went down at KTVU has come from Bay Area blogger Rich Lieberman. His POST from yesterday indicates that the source of the fake names was a trusted source, an ex-pilot, who had helped out KTVU before. Lieberman's sources say the names were run by a newsroom manager of Asian descent who supposedly questioned them. But, confirmation by the NTSB (intern) seems to have trumped any doubts, and the fake names ended up on a graphic and on a script that the anchor seems to have had time to look over before actually reading the names on air.

The other point raised by Lieberman's source (and which has been pointed out before) is that the real names of the Asiana pilots had already been made public several days prior to KTVU airing the fake names. I have yet to hear of KTVU reporting the "real" names on-air, but the names did appear in several articles posted to KTVU's website in the days immediately following the crash.

THIS article, posted on Monday, July 8, two days after the crash, contains the names of two of the pilots and notes that material for the article came from both the Associated Press and from THIS article posted the following day, July 9, is similar. It also contains the names of two of the pilots and indicates that content for the article came from both the AP and Other posts from around that same time also include the names of the two pilots but cite only the AP as the source.

A simple SEARCH of KTVU's website turned up any number of articles, posted within two or three days of the crash, containing the actual names of at least two of the Asiana pilots on board the flight. I can only imagine that a search of the Internet would have yielded similar results.

So, I still don't get it.

Here's a station that bragged about its initial coverage of the crash - on the web, on the air and on social media. First! First! First! But, it seems that no one at KTVU paid attention to its own continuing coverage. Information about the real names of the pilots was out there. KTVU staffers contributed content to articles that contained those names. Someone at KTVU had to have seen the real names days before the fake ones made air!

Yet, it appears that the KTVU crews covering the story on the ground (which would include pretty much anyone directly involved with a newscast) never bothered to read their own station's website. Or, for that matter, any newspaper article about the crash. It also appears that the people involved with newscasts and the people involved with the website don't talk to each other. About anything. At all. Ever.

Considering how my own newsroom works, I find that hard to believe. Granted, I work in a smaller market than KTVU. They probably have more staff dedicated to the station website than we do. It's possible that their web staff may be separated from the newsroom, maybe in a different room or even on a different floor. If that's the case, that doesn't seem like the best scenario for two departments that need to work in tandem.

What Rich Lieberman's efforts reveal (and WHAT I HAVE SUSPECTED ALL ALONG), is that quite a few people had hands and/or eyes on the fake names before they ever made air. In fact, that number seems to be growing. So, again, KTVU, by its silence, is asking us to believe the unbelievable.

We're being asked to believe that NO ONE at KTVU who "touched" the story about the fake names had ever seen or heard the real names. That's even though the names had been out there, including on the station's own website, for several days. As a journalist, how do you provide continuing coverage of a story that you claimed to own from the start without reading about it or watching other coverage? At the very least, don't you want to check out the competition?

We're being asked to believe that when the fake names came into the station, and even after a news manager raised questions about the fake names, no one bothered to search the station website or the Internet. Not even the veteran "Investigative Projects Producer" who seems to have been the one to receive the fake names? Just speaking from experience, I know people (me included) who will attempt to get information though all kinds of avenues if it means they don't have to make a phone call. A phone call, especially to a government bureaucracy like the NTSB, is often a last resort.

We're being asked to believe that, even though the NTSB (intern) "confirmed" the fake names, no one in the KTVU newsroom still had questions. Still, no one bothered to Google them?

And, we're being asked to believe that, almost a week after the crash of an airplane owned by an airline from another country and filled with mostly foreign passengers, the people at KTVU thought the "names" of the pilots were so important that they had to be rushed onto the air. Why does it matter? It's not like their names (their real names) are going to go down in infamy. "Remember that plane that Lee Gang-guk and Lee Jeong-min were flying?" no one will say. Ever.

The more we learn about this whole debacle, the less we know.

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The other shoe(s) have started dropping at KTVU in the wake of the so-called "Namegate" scandal.

Late last night, San Francisco media blogger Rich Lieberman REPORTED that several KTVU staffers have now been fired. They include the station's investigative producer and the special projects producer, both of whom have worked at the station for long periods of time. It's unclear exactly what they did that resulted in the station airing fake, racially-insensitive names of the pilots on the Asiana Airlines plane that crashed at SFO on July 6.

Also fired was a producer who supposedly had no part in the story, but who Tweeted "Oh s**t!" just moments after the names aired on July 12. His sin seems to be violating the station's policy for social media.

Also out the door is the veteran producer of KTVU's noon newscast. He reportedly retired for health reasons. Lieberman cites sources who say the producer announced his intention to retire before the crash ever happened, and it's unclear if he played any role in bringing the fake names to air.

The firings and retirement at KTVU follow an internal investigation by Cox, the media conglomerate that owns KTVU. Lieberman is hearing that more people could be fired, but he also NAMES a few key players who appear to be safe.

While we now know who is paying for the systemic failure surrounding this incident, KTVU has yet to give an accounting of any kind of how this whole thing happened in the first place. According to SFGATE.COM, the fake names were emailed to the station by an expert source who had helped out KTVU in the past. also reports that the names had been circulating on the Internet for at least a couple of days before the source emailed them to KTVU. Sfgate says its information came from sources of its own.

As best as I can tell, the information in the sfgate article is the most definitive explanation I've seen for how the names were introduced into the newsroom.

But, even though that question has finally been answered (by someone other than KTVU, I might add), there are still plenty of other questions out there - including how these fake names, which had supposedly be circulating on the Internet for a couple of days, got past a staff that included a veteran investigative reporter, a veteran special projects producer and a veteran newscast producer. These are not interns or people who just got out of college. These are people who spent years in the news business. How did this happen on their watch?

Beyond that, still to be learned is why KTVU's source emailed the names to the newsroom in the first place; why the newsroom took them seriously; how could no one, as KTVU claims, have said these names out loud.

KTVU has already tried - and failed - to get the myriad of news clips of the erroneous broadcast removed from YouTube. Maybe it's time for KTVU to try a different strategy and explain, once and for all, how this happened.

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What Have We Learned?

It's been nearly 10 days since the now infamous "Namegate" episode involving KTVU and the airing of fake, racially insensitive names for the pilots involved in a deadly plane crash in San Francisco.

What we have learned since then about how this happened is not much.

What other TV stations and news organizations have learned about now to not let this happen to them may be a lot more.

Here's the latest rundown of what we know and what we don't know:

We know that KTVU has apologized for the error.

We know that KTVU says that no one actually said the fake names out loud before they made it to air.

We know that anyone with a working knowledge of a television newsroom does not understand how NO ONE could have said those names out loud beforehand, especially since the station says it called the NTSB for confirmation.

We know that the NTSB sacked a summer intern who it said was just trying to be helpful when he overstepped his bounds and "confirmed" the fake names.

We know that Cox, the company that owns KTVU, has ordered an internal investigation into what happened. The investigation has reportedly concluded, but we don't know if anyone at KTVU has been fired or otherwise punished.

There's now WORD that KTVU is trying to get clips of the broadcast removed from YouTube. Good luck with that.

But, I think that what we DON'T know is way more interesting.

We don't know where the information came from. There have been reports that the fake names came from a "trusted" source; there's been speculation that someone at a competing news organization - or even a current or former KTVU staffer - could have provided the names. We don't know because KTVU hasn't said.

We don't know how the fake names came into the newsroom or who first handled the information. Did someone make a phone call? If so, who answered the phone? Were the names sent by email? If so, who got the email? Were the names faxed? Maybe texted? Who saw them first? We don't know because KTVU hasn't said.

Once the fake names were introduced to the station, what happened? What did the person who first got the names do next? We know that, at some point, someone called the NTSB. We know that, at some point, someone put the names onto a fullscreen graphic. We know that, at some point, someone wrote a script for the anchor to read. But, exactly how did the names get from source to screen? How many people "touched" this story before it made air? We don't know because KTVU hasn't said.

We don't know what the intern at the NTSB was thinking when he "confirmed" names that a) he had no business confirming; and b) he couldn't possibly know were right. Just what did KTVU say when he answered the phone? Just what did he say? We don't know because neither he, the NTSB, nor KTVU has said.

We don't know how these fake names could have possibly made it to air without anyone saying them out loud and/or hearing them said out loud. That's basically what KTVU is asking us to believe, but we don't know how that happened because KTVU hasn't said.

KTVU may have apologized, but an apology falls far short of explaining exactly how this happened.

If there's any good to come of this, it's that many other news organizations are reviewing their own policies and procedures to make sure that what happened to KTVU doesn't happen to them.

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Lawsuit? What Lawsuit?

Kind of a slow day in "Namegate."

For those of you just tuning in, "Namegate" is what some observers have taken to calling the events surrounding KTVU's airing of racially-insensitive, fake names for the pilots on board the Asiana Airlines plane that recently crashed in San Francisco.

When last we left, Asiana was threatening to sue KTVU for what the airline said was damage to its reputation. But, today, the airline changed its mind.

THIS report from Reuters quotes a statement put out by Asiana. The statement says that it decided not to sue after KTVU issued a formal apology. Besides, the statement continues, the airline needs to focus on "managing the aftermath of the accident." No doubt that aftermath will include several lawsuits against the airline itself. At least one class-action lawsuit has already been filed against Boeing, the maker of the 777 jet that crashed.

Other than that, there's not much to report. The folks over at NEWSBLUES (here's the link, but you'll need a subscription to go beyond the home page) say they're being told by sources that Cox, the family-owned media conglomerate that owns KTVU, has finished its internal investigation into just how those obviously fake names made it on air. NewsBlues does not say if the investigation has led to any consequences for anyone at KTVU.

Stay tuned.

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As I commented on a co-worker's Facebook page, I am obsessed with what some observers have taken to calling "Namegate."

I refer, of course, to the topic of my very lengthy previous POST, the matter of exactly how station KTVU in the San Francisco television market ended up airing fake, racially-insensitive names for the pilots of an Asiana Airlines plane that crashed just over a week ago at San Francisco International.

KTVU quickly apologized on-air (and later on its web site and on social media) for the report that aired on this past Friday's noon newscast. In its apology, it stated that no one at the station had actually said the names out loud before they went on the air. The apology also mentioned that it had confirmed the names with the NTSB. As it turns out, that "confirmation" came from a summer intern at the NTSB. THE INTERN has now been fired.

The main points of my previous post basically boil down to this:

  1. Knowing what I know about how information flows through a newsroom, I find it hard to believe that no one said or had heard the names being said before they went on air. Even though these names had been "confirmed," they never should have made air;
  2. I have a lot of questions about the NTSB intern who confirmed these names. The NTSB says he did not have the authority to confirm anything, but says he acted in good faith and was just trying to be helpful. My contention is that he was neither helpful nor acting in good faith when he took it upon himself to confirm names that he couldn't know were right - because they were fake names!

Which brings us to the latest developments. A MEDIA BLOGGER in San Francisco has been posting about this story. In his post from MONDAY, JULY 15 (which I hadn't read when I wrote my post yesterday. In fact, I wasn't even aware of his blog until today), he cites "insider sources" who told him that at least four or five people probably "touched" (his word) the story before it made air. That's pretty much what I was thinking, although I tried to give the TV station the benefit of the doubt by stopping my tally at "at least two."

It's still not clear where the fake names came from or how they were introduced to the newsroom (phone, fax, email). But, this blogger, Rich Lieberman, contends that the fake names may have come from one of the other stations in the market, peeved at KTVU's self-aggrandizing PROMO in which it bragged about always being first and being 100% accurate in its initial coverage of the crash.

Others speculate that the fake names may have originated at KTVU itself, coming from perhaps a disgruntled current or former staffer. Personally, I would hope that is not the case. I would hope that journalistic ethics would trump any desire for revenge.

Lieberman also speculates that whoever gave KTVU the names, knew how the newsroom worked and timed the "tip" so that KTVU would rush to get the information on the air (which it admittedly did) and, perhaps, be less likely to catch that the names were fake (which it didn't).

In an alternative theory, the WASHINGTON POST cites a "person familiar with the sequence of events" at KTVU as saying the names came from "a trusted source" who had given the station solid info in the past. Except, this time, the information wasn't in fact, solid.

Cox, which owns KTVU, is reportedly doing an internal investigation into what happened. According to Rich Lieberman, Cox's internal security team includes former FBI and Secret Service agents. Clearly, Cox does not mess around. Maybe its folks can get to the bottom of just why that now former NTSB intern was so quick to "confirm" information that he couldn't know was right - because it was wrong! 

No matter the intern's role, I will not be surprised if at least one person at KTVU gets fired over this. It could be the news director (though he is said to have been out of the building at the time); it could be the general manager; it could be one of the staffers who "touched" the story.

Stay tuned.

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Fun in the Forest

Last night, a friend and I ventured to Bloomsburg to see the BLOOMSBURG THEATRE ENSEMBLE'S production of Shakespeare's comedy "As You Like It."

I almost didn't go. "As You Like It" is a play that I may or may not have read for the Shakespeare course I took during my junior year at Leeds. I say "may or may not" because I really can't remember. But, reading the synopsis on BTE's website, it sounded a lot like "Twelfth Night," a play which I definitely DID read (and have also seen performed). But, NEPA isn't Stratford, so it's not like you can see live Shakespeare anytime you want. So, I contacted my friend, bought tickets, and off we went.

I'm certainly glad we did.

The plot of "As You Like it" is roughly this: A mean, old Duke forces a young woman named Rosalind to flee the comfort of the court. She takes along her best friend, Celia. To help avoid capture, Rosalind disguises herself as a man, while Celia adopts an assumed name. They make it safely to the forest, where the good brother of the mean Duke has set up camp with some loyal followers.

The mean, old Duke also banishes his youngest son, Orlando, who he sees as worthless. Orlando and Rosalind have a brief encounter before they are both banished, but once they arrive in the woods, neither one knows that the other is there.

A lovesick Orlando scatters handwritten love notes to Rosalind throughout the forest. Rosalind sees them, and in her male disguise, promises to cure Orlando of his obsession. Of course, it's not that simple. Soon, Rosalind finds herself having to think fast to save her own romance, along with the romances of Celia, plus a smitten shepherd and his reluctant girlfriend.

The play hits all the usual elements of a Shakespearean comedy - disguises and mistaken identity, love, the forest (nature) as a magical place where things are set right, redemption.

Setting aside any arguments of the strength or weakness of the plot, this production of "As You Like It" sparkled with humor and shone with fine performances. MCCAMBRIDGE DOWD-WHIPPLE (who has BTE in her genes) stood out as Rosalind. The other cast members also excelled (and many of them played two or three roles!).

But, I think what impressed me most about this production was the staging. The director utilized the entire theatre, with characters coming and going from stage right and stage left - and from the back of the theatre. Characters often ran up or down the steps. Sometimes, depending on where you were sitting, you heard them before you saw them.

This particular production also incorporated a live band on stage, comprised of young musicians from the Bloomsburg area. They contributed both background music and original songs. I particularly liked the brooding theme they played each time the mean, old Duke appeared.

Several audience members also sat on either side of the stage. In a few instances, they became part of the action.

In short, director LAURIE MCCANTS made the Alvina Krause Theatre her forest. She gave the actors everything they needed to play in it and let the audience join in the fun. And a good time was had by all.

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I Doubled Down - and Lost

Since no money - real or imagined - was wagered, I don't know if an incorrect guess at the Word of the Year can really count as a loss. But, it is a real disappointment because my two-year win streak is over.

To recap: In THIS entry from November, I put that winning streak on the line and declared that "double down" was my guess for what the AMERICAN DIALECT SOCIETY would pick as its 2012 Word of the Year. When I wrote that entry, the group's annual meeting, set for early January, was almost two months away. So, I had a long time to consider how well I had chosen.

Honestly, I didn't think about it too often after that. But, I did think I had it in the bag in mid-December when Ben Zimmer wrote THIS column for the Boston Globe. Zimmer is a well-respected expert on language; he also happens to be the Chair of the New Words Committee for the American Dialect Society - the group that picks the WOTY. In other words, he has an "in." When he predicted that "double down" would be the 2012 WOTY, I tapped my nose and thought, "Three-year winning streak, here I come."

But, a couple weeks later, when the meeting was held and the votes were counted, the members of the American Dialect Society had chosen "hashtag" as the 2012 WORD OF THE YEAR.

Hashtag? Really? WT#!

"Double down" didn't even make the top five. Really? Were the members of the ADS not paying attention to the presidential campaign? Republicans and Democrats alike were constantly doubling down. How was this NOT the Word of the Year?

Don't get me wrong. Hashtag is a perfectly fine word to describe the # symbol. The word and the symbol have been around for years, but the popularity of Twitter has given # new prominence. It's the start of a trend, it's a verb of its own. It's "hashtag." But, it's been those things for several years now. I didn't detect any newly dominant # prominence in 2012.

I guess I was wrong. #loser #tryagainnextyear #woty

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Ambition Gone Awry?

I've taken a break from my regular reading list of mystery/detective novels (don't worry. V is for Vengeance is next on my list) to read a work of non-fiction titled Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan.

SYBIL EXPOSED is subtitled "The extraordinary story behind the famous multiple personality case." The basic premise is to largely debunk the story told in the book SYBIL by Flora Rheta Schreiber. That book was later made into a movie starring Sally Field.

I read the book Sybil several years ago and recall being fascinated. I mean, who wouldn't be? How could you not be fascinated by a woman who was horribly abused as a child, who had more than a dozen separate personalities and who was able to heal only through years of hypnotherapy from a caring psychiatrist? It's a gripping story.

In Sybil Exposed, author Debbie Nathan acknowledges the power of the original story, noting that, after its publication, the number of reported cases of Multiple Personality Disorder (almost exclusively in women) increased dramatically. But, Nathan also notes that the three women involved in the Sybil story (the patient, the psychiatrist, the author) each had something to gain. For Shirley Mason (a.k.a. "Sybil"), she got constant attention and support from her therapist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur. Dr. Wilbur used the case to make a name for herself in what was still traditionally a man's world. The author, Flora Schreiber, had similar ambitions.

At this point, I'm not quite halfway through the book, but Nathan has already laid out ample evidence indicating that much of what Mason claimed wasn't true. Rather, her claims about severe abuse as a child and about her many different personalities were either conflated or invented as a way to keep Dr. Wilbur's attention. Nathan also points out that Dr. Wilbur was pumping Mason full of a variety of drugs, including lots of Pentothal, or truth serum. Based on what I've read so far, it's amazing Mason could get out of bed as often as she did.

The last chapter I've read includes excerpts from a letter that Mason wrote to Wilbur about four years into their therapy. By this point, Wilbur had already exceeded the bounds of a normal doctor-patient relationship in several ways, including by going to Mason's apartment for many Pentothal-fueled sessions. And, by this point, Nathan argues, Mason was essentially a junkie who pleaded with Wilbur to keep the Pentothal coming.

Somehow, though, Mason managed to gather enough clarity to write a letter to Wilbur, a letter in which Mason declared that she did not have multiple personalities and that she was not sexually abused by her mother. Mason conceded that her mother was overprotective and that she, herself, did have problems. But, Mason said, she embellished her story, especially while under the influence of Pentothal.

Dr. Wilbur read the letter and promptly declared that Shirley was resisting treatment, that the abuse she claimed really did happen, and that she needed therapy now more than ever. Also, by this time, Wilbur had already started presenting Shirley's case at professional conferences. To admit her patient had lied could cost Wilbur dearly. She basically threw the ball back into Mason's court.

Mason, rather than lose Dr. Wilbur - and all that Pentothal, wrote another letter which blamed the first letter on "someone." Mason said she wanted to continue and soon, Nathan writes, the Pentothal sessions resumed and the list of alter personalities grew.

So far, I'm intrigued. Mason, despite having issues, managed to hold down jobs and get an advanced degree. She even made an effort at becoming a psychiatrist, like Dr. Wilbur. Basically, she seemed generally functional up until a couple years into her Pentothal treatments with Dr. Wilbur. I'll be interested to see how Mason works her way back from her drug-addicted state to a productive life.

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2012 is quickly drawing to a close, so it won't be long until the AMERICAN DIALECT SOCIETY hosts its annual meeting. It's set for early January in Boston, and the highlight is sure to be the selection of the 2012 Word of the Year (WOTY).

In 2010, the overall winner was "app" as the phrase "there's an app for that" became so ubiquitous that you might have wished for an app to make it go away. I correctly predicted that "app" stood a good chance of winning. The following year, I correctly predicted that "occupy" would be the 2011 Word of the Year, though I have to admit that pick was somewhat of a no-brainer as something somewhere was always under occupation.

So, let's see if I can continue the streak. Because there was no escaping the campaign trail, I believe that the 2012 WOTY will come from the field of politics. And oh, the choices we have! Just when you thought the voting was over...

Could the 2012 Word of the Year be "double down?" This phrase from the world of gambling was hijacked by politicians and political writers. To my mind, the phrase applied when one side said something that was roundly criticized and/or viewed with great skepticsm by the other side and/or by the media. If the first side continued to make the claim, perhaps even exaggerating it, it was said to be "doubling down." Whatever was said was what was meant and that's not gonna change. One example of "doubling down":  Mitt Romney continued to push his plan to balance the budget despite study after study and expert after expert that said the numbers just didn't add up.

Or, could the 2012 WOTY be "fiscal cliff?" Now that the election is over, there's a lot of talk about whether the president and Congress can or will work together to avoid a series of expiring tax cuts and budget cuts scheduled to take effect at the start of the New Year. Already, President Obama is doubling down on his campaign promise to "make the wealthy pay their fair share," while House Speaker John Boehner is doubling down on the GOP line of looking for revenue without raising taxes (which could mean eliminating deductions, such as the one for mortgage interest, that primarily benefit the middle class). The fiscal cliff has been around for a while, but it's on the front burner now, which could give it the momentum it needs to be the 2012 WOTY.

Wait. Did someone just say "momentum?" Another word heard from the campaign trail. President Obama had momentum through the spring and summer, and he got a little bounce after the Democratic Convention in September. Then came early October and the first presidential debate in Denver. Everyone agreed that Romney won and, suddenly he had momentum. The vice presidential debate followed and Joe Biden eked out a win. During ABC's post-debate analysis, George Stephanopoulos said that Biden had succeeded in stopping the GOP momentum. Two more presidential debates followed with President Obama scoring narrow victories in both. If Romney's momentum (a.k.a. "Romentum") hadn't stopped after the VP debate, surely the final two debates did the trick, right?

Maybe not. The GOP doubled down, insisting that Romney still had the momentum in the final two weeks leading up to the election. But, then came Superstorm Sandy. President Obama left the campaign trail for a few days to keep tabs on the Federal response. He also traveled to some of the hardest hit areas in New Jersey, where he was praised by Republican Governor Chris Christie, a key Romney supporter. Romney himself toned down his campaign rhetoric for a few days, too. Did Sandy stop the Romentum? Not if you listened to the Romney people. They kept saying they had the momentum, and they apparently felt so confident in that thought that they made a last-minute play for Pennsylvania, where polls consistently showed Pres. Obama with a lead.

The Romney camp should have been reading FiveThirtyEight, the outstanding blog that numbers whiz Nate Silver writes for the New York Times. (Or, maybe they were reading it, but just didn't like what they were seeing.) The last debate, the one about foreign policy, was on Monday, October 22. A few days later, Silver posted THIS entry which argued that polls showed that Romney's momentum had stalled sometime around October 12, the day after the vice presidential debate, a few days before the second presidential debate, and well before Sandy (which hadn't even happened when Silver wrote that column). By the time Sandy hit, the momentum was already with Obama and there wasn't enough time for Romney to get it back.

So, there are my top three picks for the American Dialect Society's 2012 Word of the Year: double down, fiscal cliff, momentum. Romentum could potentially get a few votes, but it's more likely to place in a subcategory than to rise to WOTY level. Other possible contenders include "legitimate rape" and "war on women."

I think I'm going to double down and go with "double down" as my predicted winner. Will my streak continue? We'll find out on January 4, 2013.

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The 2012 campaign has finally come to an end with President Barack Obama winning a hard-fought second term in the White House. The campaign seemed to last a really long time. Exactly how long depends on whether you count Mitt Romney's campaign as starting sometime in 2011 or whether you take the starting point all the way back to when he campaigned (and lost) to be the GOP's nominee in 2008. In any case, it went on and on and didn't end until Romney finally conceded around 1 a.m. on Wednesday. He kept the popular vote pretty close, but lost the Electoral College by a substantial margin (as of this writing, Florida is still undecided, but Obama already has more than 300 electoral votes so, unlike 2000, Florida doesn't really matter).

I spent about six weeks organizing election coverage for the local TV station where I work. We reported results from PA and around the country for the presidential race, but we were largely focused on statewide races including US Senator and row offices. We also covered assorted Congressional and General Assembly races. You can check out the Pennsylvania results HERE.

For the most part, the night brought very few surprises. The candidates who were expected to win, did. My one exception would be the race for PA Auditor General, where Democrat Eugene DePasquale defeated Republican John Maher. I didn't follow the race closely in the weeks and months leading up to the election, but I guess I figured that Maher would win. But, I did see a commercial for DePasquale during the final week, and I suspect he was helped by the strength of other Democrats on the ticket, including Sen. Bob Casey and Pres. Obama. I also wonder if there may not be some kind of anti-GOP backlash going on, considering that Gov. Corbett's approval ratings are very low.

If anything surprised me, it would be that the winners' margins of victory - especially on the Democratic side - were higher than expected. Despite GOP claims that Pennsylvania was "in play" for Romney and that Senate candidate Tom Smith was making a race of it with Bob Casey, Pres. Obama won the state by about 5 points and Casey won by 9. Perhaps not landslide margins, but not as close as the GOP and some pundits were insisting.

I will say, however, that I'm not sure Casey knew which way the race would go. If he did, he wasn't very excited about it. One of my crews talked with him after he voted, and Casey said, "I've been really privileged to have another term in the United States Senate. I've been privileged to serve in three public offices, and no matter what happens today, I've been pretty fortunate." Even for the mild-mannered Casey, that statement seemed kind of defeatist.

A couple other races to note. Long-time state rep. Phyllis Mundy, a Democrat from Luzerne County's West Side, fought off a challenge from young Republican Aaron Kaufer and claimed a 12-point victory. Kaufer had some financial backing - I received several mailings from him - but, to me, it seemed as though a lot of what he was criticizing Mundy for was old news such as the infamous midnight pay raise from six or seven years ago. Mundy has a reputation for sticking up for the elderly and for approaching the natural gas industry with caution. Those issues - and a Democratic voter edge in Luzerne County - made Kaufer's fight a tough one to win.

In another part of Luzerne County, Rep. Tarah Toohil, a Republican from the Hazleton area, won another term in the state house. She had a 2-1 edge in votes over her opponent, Ransom Young. The margin of victory is impressive given that Toohil faced some negative advertising featuring compromising pictures of her taken several years ago. In this case, the dirty tricks (which her opponent disavowed) did not work at all.

And, finally, Kathleen Kane from the Scranton area became the first Democrat and the first woman to be elected Pennsylvania Attorney General. Kane won by about 14 points over Cumberland County DA David Freed. Freed has close ties to the Attorney General's office and was apparently Gov. Corbett's candidate of choice. Kane got some publicity over the past year as a commentator on the Jerry Sandusky case and she promised to be an independent prosecutor. One of the reason's for Corbett's sagging favorability is that many people feel he could have done more when he was Attorney General to stop Sandusky. As far as I know, Freed never had any involvement in the case, but being associated with Corbett may have hurt his cause more than helped it.

At any rate, it's all over. Now I have six months to rest up before the May primary.

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30 to 60 to Life

It's finally over - except that, technically, it's not. But, for all intents and purposes, it is over. Jerry Sandusky has been sentenced to prison for his sex crimes against boys. The sentencing went down this past Tuesday in Centre County Court. Sandusky could have received a much longer sentence. But, he's 68 years old, so his sentence of 30-60 years is, for all intents and purposes, a life sentence.

Just prior to sentencing, Sandusky was declared to be a Sexually Violent Predator, a finding which he did not contest. What it means is that if he ever gets out of prison on parole, Sandusky will have to register under Megan's Law. That's IF he ever gets out.

You can read the sentencing order HERE. It breaks down how much time Sandusky received for each of the 45 counts on which he was convicted.

HERE you can read the statement Judge Cleland read just before he handed down his sentence. In the statement, he takes Sandusky to task for a statement he (Sandusky) made the night before sentencing. THE STATEMENT was broadcast on the radio and transcribed in print. The posted link includes both the audio and a transcript. Cleland obviously read it or heard it and writes, "Regarding your broadcast statement I can only say that like all conspiracy theories it makes a leap from the undeniable to the unbelievable."

Judge Cleland also took into consideration letters written to him by Sandusky and his wife, Dottie. You can read those letters HERE. In the letters, the couple blames everyone from the police to their adopted son, Matt (you know, the one who says he was molested by Sandusky and was prepared to testify to that effect). Nowhere does Sandusky take responsibility for his actions.

Sandusky's lawyers are expected to appeal on the grounds that a) they didn't have enough time to prepare an adequate defense; and b) they just did a horrible job. I'm not an attorney, but I don't see where they'll have much chance of a successful appeal. The preliminary hearing was delayed at least once, and when it did finally happen in February, Sandusky's attorneys chose to waive it. In other words, they gave up a good chance to hear before the trial what some or all of the victims intended to say. By waiving the prelim, they also gave up a chance to perhaps see some of the prosecution's other evidence - such as letters that Sandusky wrote to the victims. The judge did grant one trial delay of about a month, but after waiving the prelim, I find the "we didn't have enough time" defense rather weak.

As for the "we just suck as lawyers" defense, I don't think that will go very far, either. Joe Amendola and Karl Romiger have reputations as fine lawyers. Just because their strategy didn't work, that doesn't mean they were inadequate. Quite frankly, I don't know what they could have done to change the outcome of the trial, especially after Sandusky refused to testify (which Amendola says he did in order to keep Matt Sandusky from testifying as a rebuttal witness for the prosecution). I suppose an appeals court could see things differently, but I don't think Sandusky's odds of winning an appeal are very good.

On a personal note, I would have liked to see Sandusky get a longer sentence - just because it seems like something longer than 30-60 is warranted. Had Sandusky been a younger man, the judge may have issued a longer sentence. However, in this case, 30-60 should suffice.

On a final (for this post, anyway) note, a man's claims that Sandusky was involved in a larger pedophile ring do not seem to have much credibility. The Philadelphia Daily News reports HERE that the man has a history of trying to insert himself into prominent cases and gets angry when he's not believed.

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