Tag Archives: Paul Barker

Any Excuse Will Serve A Tyrant: The Mayor of Harrisburg & The Censorship of PennLive

A close friend of mine once said, “Who ever told us it was easy to be good?” 

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On Monday evening, PennLive’s Barbara Miller released an article titled, “Harrisburg mayor cuts off PennLive reporters.

Whelp, PennLive, you have my attention.

It begins, “Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse has ordered that his spokeswoman no longer talk with PennLive regarding city issues following two stories that looked at the mayor’s private business and real estate holdings.

PennLive also will no longer be invited to weekly city briefings, the spokeswoman said.

When asked what prompted the decision, city spokeswoman Joyce Davis issued this statement from Papenfuse: “The Mayor’s official statement is that he believes PennLive traffics in hate speech and cynicism. He has instructed me not to respond to inquiries from PennLive reporters.”

While I agree that PennLive’s comment section is a cesspool of bigotry and hate, believe many of their articles leave much to be desired as someone who loves this city with all her heart, and that, as an ad-based, corporate media, PennLive has incredulous shortcomings; the answers to addressing those issues do not exist in the Mayor of Harrisburg reducing transparency in his administration or “cutting off” PennLive.

Larry Binda put it best in an article he recently wrote for TheBurg in response to the mayor’s ban, “…like it or not, PennLive remains this area’s predominant source of news. Despite multiple rounds of layoffs in recent years, PennLive is still unmatched in terms of editorial budget and staff resources. No other media can compete. Not the TV news, not volunteer watchdogs and not TheBurg, which, for all of our progress, has a microscopic budget and staff compared to PennLive. You can argue with how PennLive deploys its resources, but it does dedicate a reporter to Harrisburg, the last jurisdiction it deems important enough to do so.”

Very plainly stated, censorship is not the answer.

But then again, I think he already knows that. Eric Papenfuse owns a bookstore. 

The larger issue, as I see it, is that Papenfuse acted out against PennLive after they released two very relevant articles ultimately questioning his character, his business, his real estate holdings, and whether or not his actions as mayor have been a conflict of interest as a business owner.

If you haven’t read the articles, you can read them here:
Overtime violations at Midtown Scholar warehouse illustrate national problem,” by Paul Barker
and
Harrisburg mayor owns 8 properties near bar he aims to close,” by Eric Veronikis

In these instances, PennLive did a damn good job exercising freedom of the press, freedom of information, access, advocating for their readers and for the public. Demanding transparency and morality from public officials is one of the most valuable things that the press can accomplish. It is those checks and balances that we so desperately need.

Moving Forward

I know this isn’t a revolutionary resolution, but I strongly believe that one of the best things we can do to better ourselves and to serve others is to admit when we’re wrong–from admitting that you’re the jerk who ate the last of the ice cream to universities admitting that sexual assaults occurred on their campuses to elected officials keeping themselves in check and every thing in between.

Instead of wanting to flip the closest table in a fit of outrage, maybe, hopefully, the better answer to is ask our mayor to do better… ask him to admit that he dropped the ball. We need him to do a better job right now representing Harrisburg.

To The Mayor:

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Please, admit when you are wrong. I beg you to not be that thing you so vehemently despised during and after Reed’s tenure: a city official abusing power and circumventing transparency.

(Photos by Dani Fresh//Courtesy of Roxbury News)