The Best of AP in Pennsylvania - May 2014

  • Jun 18, 2014


Pennsylvania Editors:

Highlights from the Pennsylvania AP report in May:

The Associated Press was first to report that Tom Wolf had won the Democratic nomination for governor, declaring him the winner at 9:20 p.m. on primary day. Harrisburg reporters Pete Jackson and Marc Levy had a complete story on the wire in about 10 minutes, and by 10 p.m., the story was updated with a comment from Wolf on his victory.

Pittsburgh reporter Kevin Begos teamed up with an AP reporter in West Virginia for an exclusive on the gas drilling boom, which they reported had contributed to a spike in traffic fatalities in states where many streets and highways are choked with large trucks and heavy drilling equipment. For their report, they analyzed traffic deaths and Census data in six drilling states.

Begos took a different approach in writing a story ahead of the 125th anniversary of the Johnstown Flood, producing a series of nuggets _ in an extended glance form _ on some of the more interesting facts about the disaster, which claimed over 2,000 lives. Among them:  Debris including floating houses, barns and barged wire from a damaged factory backed up at a stone bridge at Johnstown, 15 miles downstream from the dam – creating a 30-acre pile that caught fire, trapping many of those who had survived the initial flood and burning them to death.

Begos also teamed up with an AP writer in Washington who covers the EPA to report on President Obama’s push to clean up pollution from coal. In a story out of Homer City, they reported on how lawyers for the operators of one of the nation’s dirtiest coal-fired plants had warned of dire consequences from Obama’s plan, but that they did not come to pass.

Philadelphia videojournalist Kathy Matheson wrote stories and shot video for two features out of Philadelphia. One focused on a new enclosed passageway at the Philadelphia Zoo that allows lions and tigers to roam outside their exhibits. The other captured how students at one city high school each year simulate a space mission. “In recent years, students at Northeast High School have virtually saved mankind from a meteor, discovered water on Mars and repaired the International Space Station,” she wrote. “But their current mission to establish a habitat on the moon was nearly aborted because of education budget cuts. “ Both packages also included AP photos.

Allentown reporter Mike Rubinkam wrote probably one of the most widely read stories to come out of Pennsylvania during the month, a piece examining parental frustration at trying to help their children deal with Common Core math. His story drew thousands of comments on Yahoo. His lead: “An Iowa woman jokingly calls it ‘Satan's handiwork.’ A California mom says she's broken down in tears. A Pennsylvania parent says it ‘makes my blood boil.’   What could be so horrible? Grade-school math.”

Rubinkam also contributed to an AP package on D-Day, writing a first-person piece about the five uncles who served overseas, regretting that they never talked about it and he never asked. In the story, he wrote about his efforts to pull out some details from his last surviving uncle.   

Here’s how his story began:

    AMBLER, Pa.  _ My mother is the second-youngest of 14 children, and her five eldest siblings served overseas in World War II. They were our version of the famed Sullivan brothers, but with a happy ending: All made it home.

    Though one brother died in a 1948 car crash, I grew up around the other four, seeing them most every Sunday after church while my grandmother was still living, and at family picnics that inevitably featured volleyball, Aunt Betty's decadent cakes, and the low roar of two dozen simultaneous conversations.

    Regrettably, in all that talk, I never got around to asking my uncles about their wartime service. I'd been meaning to. I just never did.

Philadelphia reporter Maryclaire Dale wrote a takeout on how some local judges are refusing to put some youthful sex offenders on lifetime sex-offender registries. The judges, she reported, are increasingly agreeing with juvenile law advocates who say such lifetime branding undermines the whole rehabilitative purpose of juvenile law.

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