Thursday, July 31, 2008

We don't make - or make up - the news

The Observer-Reporter is a collection of good news, bad news, stories about local government, notices about community events, photos of cute kids, etc. Outside of the obituaries, the thing people seem to like to read most is the police report. Whether they'll admit it or not, folks enjoy hearing about people who are misbehaving. But that sentiment changes quickly when they read about someone close to them. A reporter here recently got a scathing e-mail from a person complaining about our coverage of their relative's DUI arrest. The e-mailer came up with an alternative story that was so fantastical as to be funny, accusing the arresting officers of vicious brutality. I'm going to believe the police on this one, but if there's even a shred of truth to what the e-mailer claims, the courts can handle that. Unless we at the paper actually witness an arrest, we pretty much have to go with the police report, and I've generally found them to be pretty darned accurate. The other recent story that has some people's panties in a twist involved Angela Bertugli, a former Waynesburg Miss Rain Day (for the uninformed, that's Greene County royalty) from a prominent family who has found herself smack dab in the middle of the Harrisburg scandal that's come to be called Bonusgate. To recap, according to a grand jury investigation and her own testimony, Bertugli found herself on the state payroll, getting more than $20,000 a year for a job that required little real work because she was having sexual relations with Mike Manzo, who at the time was chief of staff for Rep. Bill DeWeese of Waynesburg, leader of the House Democrats. The grand jury said the first sexual encounter occurred in Manzo's car after the pair first met and had a few drinks together at a Harrisburg bar in 2004. Oh, by the way, Manzo is married. He and his wife, Rachel, who also worked for the Democrats in Harrisburg, are both up on criminal charges resulting from the bonus scandal. Mike Manzo was fired by DeWeese a few months back, and Rachel Manzo is suspended from her job. And what was Bertugli's punishment for her role in this sordid affair? She now holds a $45,000-a-year job as an analyst in the Legislative Research Office, a collection of aides who work for about 65 Democratic House members who haven't risen to the exalted level at which they would have their own research staff. I hope these workers aren't just looking stuff up on the Internet. For $45,000 of our tax dollars, I expect some pretty deep and vigorous analysis. None of this sounds like something that someone would go out of his way to defend, but we got a letter to the editor from a guy who accused us of reporting this information in order to sell papers, saying that we have reached a new low and were guilty of perpetrating a "slime job" on Bertugli. Hmmmm. Another letter writer accused us of being part of some sort of conspiracy to "get" DeWeese. Get a grip, people. DeWeese, shown above, is at the center of this controversy because the alleged crimes happened on his watch. DeWeese is echoing Sgt. Schultz from "Hogan's Heroes," saying he knew nothing about the alleged criminal activities. Having no clue about what is going on in the caucus you're supposed to be running is not exactly something of which Mr. DeWeese should be proud. As for Miss Bertugli, I know what I've always called women who are alleged to have accepted money in exchange for sex, but I guess I'm just being mean.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few weeks ago, a reader left an angry voice mail message complaining about a less-than-complimentary review we ran on a show in Pittsburgh. He suggested that if we didn't have anything nice to say, we shouldn't say anything at all. We run our share of complimentary pieces, but it's also our job to warn people away from sub-par stuff too.

--Brad Hundt

July 31, 2008 at 5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the recent letter to the editor about Ms. Bertugli and what strikes me is the utter lack of common sense in it. Ms. Bertugli had a "job" in government, was given an office above a cigar store, and had little or no responsibility that paid tens of thousands of dollars.

I assume the letter writer was a relative of Berttugli but that does not change the facts that she sold her body for a fee paid by the taxpayers of this state. Unless of course she felt a job in state government meant sitting in an office over a cigar store and doing little except when Mike Manzo was in town. I don't think she was that stupid, but you never know.

As for DeWeese, how can any voter in Greene County respect or support this politician. He claims to not have known anything about this Bonusgate. C'mon. At worse that makes him a liar, at best, it makes him incompetent.

DeWeese will probably lose his leadership post in the house and the voters, at least the intelligent ones in Greene County, should make sure he loses his job in the next election.

July 31, 2008 at 7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Public whore is a strange job title and but it is very appropriate for Ms. Bertugli. It is time for her to resign. She has earned enough taxpayer money for her "skills".

August 2, 2008 at 2:35 AM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

Anonymous used job and cigar. Let the Clinton comparisons begin.

August 3, 2008 at 9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Newman,

That was the best opinion writing I've ever seen in the OR- straight to the point and full of common sense. I've been reading the OR, off and on, for over 20 years. You are the only one, taking into account all the columns and editorials I've read, who is so straight forward, honest, and honorable, I am amazed that they haven't fired you yet.

August 4, 2008 at 9:41 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I appreciate the kind words. Of course, my comments are my own, and they don't represent the official stance of the O-R. While I may sometimes differ with the O-R position on something, it has never been suggested to me that I tone down or alter my comments. I have been given free rein and an open forum to say what's on my mind, and for that I thank Tom Northrop, who is the best boss I've ever worked for, and my other superiors here.

August 6, 2008 at 7:39 AM  

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