People are often surprised when I tell them that the Tri County Record, a publication owned by one of the top media companies in the United States - the Journal Register Company - has but one staff employee on its editorial team, and that would be yours truly. While I am indeed ably supported in terms of content through the work of a handful of freelance correspondents, bloggers, and guest columnists, in 99 percent of day to day editorial operations “the buck stops here” in terms of judgment calls and overlooking this publication, one whose readership count surpasses tens of thousands in print and online. Although the job is far less dizzying now than it was when I first came on board and stepped into the shoes of former editor Jake Speicher’s in late 2010 (after beginning in 2009 as an intern turned part-time reporter for both the Tri County Record and Phoenixville’s Phoenix newspaper), there are still moments where I begin to feel a bit stretched by my current responsibilities as editor of Tri County Record and Community Engagement Editor for the six properties which make up Journal Register Company’s Berks-Mont News family (for those who may not know, this publication belongs to a regional news group consisting of The Kutztown Patriot, The Hamburg Item, The Southern Berks News, The Boyertown Times, and The Community Connection). While those ‘stretched’ moments are typically overcome through simply bearing down and steering the ship as I best know how (I am not fond of reaching out to others who I know also have full plates unless completely necessary), there are those instances where – in sticking with nautical analogies – I find myself in the thick of a storm.
One very recent squall arose when I was contacted by an organization that intended to influence the editorial behavior of this publication. I found this matter both shocking and confusing, and while I will not name any particulars here I will go as far as to say that this organization had promised legal action in pursuit of its effort to keep legitimate news items out of the Tri County Record. Let me further clarify – I am not referencing an attempt to suppress opinion or letters to the editor here, but actual and factual news items. Would I be making an overstatement by saying that this was an assault on freedom of press outlined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution? Well, being that I am not an attorney or a constitutional scholar I cannot provide an answer with absolute certainty. Fortunately, and here lies the crux of this column, I have in my peers and superiors a group of experienced professionals whose collective knowledge means that I need not feel as if I were about to be overwhelmed, capsized, or shipwrecked when such instances arise. It is a team that includes the staff of proven publications such as The Pottstown Mercury, The Daily Local News, The Times Herald, and The Delaware County Daily Times, and they have, more or less, seen or been through ‘it all’, including attempts by outside groups to influence news coverage.
Newspapers, like ships, have mastheads and flags, which identify each of us to the world on sight; and newspapers, like ships, also have our navigators and captains – our senior management – which are the leaders keeping all of us on course. I was advised by our leadership to continue on my way and to not concern myself with these attempts to influence the Tri County Record.