Thursday, November 21, 2013

5 words that changed us: 'The president has been shot.'

“This murder in broad daylight ... Everything changed,” says Oliver Stone, the Hill School graduate/boomer director who served in Vietnam and made a movie about it before turning his distinctively critical lens on the Kennedy assassination.
Because he knows what becomes clearer with each passing year: For better and for worse, it was the event that defined the generation that has defined the way we look at the world today.

That excerpt is from an essay by Associated Press national writer Ted Anthony that will be the centerpiece of a memoriam edition being planned for Friday, Nov. 22 editions of The Mercury.
Like so many others, I recall this defining moment from a school classroom. I was in fourth grade at Pine Forge Elementary School, I believe my teacher was Mrs. Levengood.
It was recess, and I was in the classroom alone with the teacher because I was recovering from an illness and on doctor's orders not to be outdoors.
Someone knocked on the door carrying a note. I remember that the note was not folded and I saw the message: "The president has been shot."
Another knock and another message a few minutes later: "President Kennedy is dead."
I felt, as a 9-year-old would, important and puzzled. This message seemed so large, so shattering that it seemed out of place, written in pencil on a small piece of paper.
The bearer hadn't even given it the dignity of folding to maintain secrecy.
After that, I vaguely recall Mrs. Levengood breaking the news to the class and bringing a television into the classroom so we could watch events in Dallas and Washington.
I remember days later being in front of the TV in the corner of our living room at home watching Lee Harvey Oswald being led by police officers down a hall, and the startling shot by Jack Ruby that killed him. I remember our shock as a family witnessing a man shot in real time on TV, just as the newscast announcers expressed their own incredulity.
The assassination first of the president and then of his accused killer was all we talked about for days. This was the biggest thing to happen in our lives up till then.
The Life magazine with the Zapruder photos was preserved in a crawl space of my parents' home, found decades later in 2005 when we were cleaning out the house for sale.
But nothing is as clear in my memory as the sight of those few words pencilled on paper held by another student in the doorway of my fourth grade class.
"The president has been shot." Five words that changed our history.
Fifty years later, my generation recalls that moment, wondering how our lives in this nation might have been different if John Kennedy lived.
Where were you when you learned the president had been shot? If you are part of the generation defined by that moment, you remember.
The questions of conspiracy also still linger. Will we ever know what really happened 50 years ago in Dallas? And, will we ever really know how those events changed us?


Friday, November 15, 2013

Joining forces for a louder voice

The Mercury, like most community newspapers its size, has not traditionally had an editorial board  of writers who determine and produce Opinion pieces for the paper and its related digital sites.
When people have called requesting an interview with "the editorial board," I tell them they're already talking to it.
Part of my job as editor is being a one-person editorial board. I write "Our View," sometimes after discussing it with a reporter or other editor.  Mostly, I write Opinion pieces that I believe reflect the tone and stance of our paper and that celebrate or ask for correction of a community issue.
We're not alone in this challenge. The Mercury is part of a larger network of media sites known as Digital First Media. That network includes papers as different from us as The Denver Post and as similar as The Times Herald in Norristown and Daily Local News in West Chester.
It allows us to share resources, including editorials which we have often published with a tag line showing authorship.
You may have noticed in recent weeks that those tag lines no longer appear.
That's because The Mercury is now part of a Digital First Media Pennsylvania Editorial Board. The editorial board contributions reflect a collective opinion of the nine newspapers that make up the board.
The newspapers are The Mercury, Times Herald, Daily Local News, Delaware County Daily Times, The (Lansdale) Reporter, York Daily Record, Chambersburg Public Opinion, Lebanon Daily News and Hanover Evening Sun.
The group "meets" by phone once a week to discuss common issues to Pennsylvania and the region. They decide on topics for editorials and on who will write them. Each contributor makes the editorial available to the group via email, but there is no obligation for an individual site to publish what's provided. We still write our own local views and can reject a regional edit if we don't agree with its stance.
The board hopes to become a regional and state voice in government and on issues of common importance like nuclear power plants and the environment. The board last week interviewed Barry Schoch, who heads PennDOT, about the need for legislation to fix Pennsylvania's roads and bridges.
We have in the past interviewed Gov. Tom Corbett and Sen. Pat Toomey, and we hope to do more of that in the future.
Working as a group gives us a louder voice on issues in state and county government.
By sharing, we can bring our best and brightest to the forefront in writing Opinion pieces. We are also utilizing the talents of cartoonist Alan MacBain to accompany many of our editorials.
This is an exciting step forward for The Mercury, amplifying our voice on statewide issues that affect our local communities. Not every "Our View" will be on a  regional or statewide issue; we will continue to write Opinion pieces on issues of purely local interest. And, Friday's "Roses and Thorns" continues as our local means of giving cheers and boos.
We're excited about this change and hope that you, our readers, are, too. We want our opinions to inspire action that benefits you.
Be assured: Property tax reform is at the top of our list.