Seventeen years ago, I came back to Billtown as a native son and clergy person. Prior to returning, I served in two wonderful Pennsylvania communities very similar to our own. Arriving here, it didn't take long to appreciate and admire the hospitality and supportive coverage given local faith communities and clergy by the Williamsport Sun- Gazette.
Months and years flew by after getting back to Williamsport. During my first pastorate here, our ministry team and parish staff was able to compile almost three scrapbooks. These were filled with news stories and features from our Sun-Gazette. The articles headlined local religious events and projects, as well as feature articles. These were, without exception, objective, positive, and supportive. Many of them covered events and projects relevant to challenges right here in this community.
Williamsport High School alumni recall our high school's award winning Billtown Banner under the tutelage of Miss Jean Heller. On one occasion, a group of us entered the classic building located at West Fourth and Hepburn. We wanted to write a weekly teen column to appear in our local paper. The editor at that time not only welcomed us, but gave us some fatherly advice. "Writing for a newspaper is a grave responsibility," he said. "It's like standing up and addressing a full house at Bowman Field. It should be done with responsibility." That advice was a grand slam!
Newspaper journalism is expected to cover both good and bad events. Unfortunately and, sadly, we presently find inappropriate incidents (or even worse) within religious institutions and their witness. Whether good or bad, these qualify as news to be reported.
It saddens me that someone in this community could find reason to accuse our local newspaper as being "anti" any one of the exceptional and ecumenical Judeo-Christian denominations, Islamic, Hindu and other faith communities located here in our area of North Central Pennsylvania.
I'll always feel blessed to have had Jean Heller's class and to interact with the kids who helped reporting, writing and doing make-up for a school paper which took state and national awards. Some who never had an experience like that might not appreciate the many challenges of news reporting, especially those we find today. Many communities are now without a daily newspaper. Of those that do, how many are receptive to and capable of such an abundance of religious news coverage and commentary like we have here? How much of that coverage or commentary could be described as being "anti" any denomination or faith? Finally, do many papers even attempt to have a religion section published weekly?
Kudos to all our Perry White's, Clark Kent's, Lois Lane's, Daily Planet photographers and, of course -- Jimmy Olson's!
Rev. John K. Manno
Submitted by Virtual Newsroom