Stay classy, Philadelphia: True stories of the anchorperson's life

As the new movie hits screens, PW offers a non-Burgundy salute to our favorite anchormen (and such)

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The term “turgent red dinguses” was written into another script. And though the group thought Baker would be offended by that one, he says he actually liked it. It had, he says, a certain ring to it. “I wanted to start a singing group,” he says, “called the Turgent Red Dinguses.”

Another time, a segment was written into a script in which Ticker tells a story about having sex with his wife in a bathroom. “You said, ‘I cannot read this,’” remembers Skwire. “’My wife will kill me.’”

“Well, I’m a grandfather, for God’s sake,” Baker protests. “A pop-pop. I have a hat that says ‘Grand Dude.’”

Pedophilia and penis jokes, bathroom sex fantasies, ripping on the federal government, calling U.S. Sen. Bob Casey a pussy—how does Baker’s family feel about his Internet notoriety? His wife doesn’t watch, he says, before clarifying: Well, he doesn’t show it to her.

“But his wife did call me once,” says Brodzik. “She gave me a lot of shit. She’s like, ‘My husband’s a great man, and you’re spreading all this filth on the Internet!’” Everyone shares a laugh about that one.

To hear Brodzik tell it, the television news format isn’t done—but it is. It’s a format that’s been done and re-done over the decades, and at some point, something needs to change. The Scrapple News crew seem to believe the no-holds-barred wave of the Internet is what’s going to save the news anchor business in the format they’re creating—short segments of independently-created clips, skewering newsmakers and the news format simultaneously through dark satire and straight comedy.

And Baker, or Ticker, or whoever, seems to be the right man for the job. “I’ve probably never had an original thought,” he jokes. “That’s probably why I’m an anchorman.” / RANDY LOBASSO

 

From Print to TV: Matt Petrillo

Last time I hung out with Matt Petrillo, we were being chased by a police officer from the just-evicted Occupy Philadelphia encampment at Dilworth Plaza. He was an intern at Philadelphia Weekly at the time, and I was a lowly part-time blogger who didn’t know I was about to stay awake until 8 in the morning, eventually having to convince a different police officer that despite this wool hat and unshaven face, I was a journalist, not an Occupier, and please, for my mom’s peace of mind, take those handcuffs off me. Since then, Matt has gone on to become a TV news reporter and sometime anchor at News 13 SSPTV—a station in Hazleton, Pa., an ex-coal-mining city about two hours northwest of Philadelphia whose former mayor, Lou Barletta, famously got elected to Congress on an anti-illegal-immigrant platform. I caught up with Petrillo last week to ask what it’s like for a journalist to jump from page to screen.

How does it change the way you think about storytelling when you’re writing your story to be spoken out loud rather than to be read? The storytelling is often more emotional through television than print... When looking for detail, I try shooting my camera with my ear, because I like adding a lot of ambient noise to my stories.

Is it a different experience as a reporter knowing that people associate the news with your face, rather than just your byline? People only recently have been noticing me if I go to the grocery store or maybe pull up to a Wendy’s drive-thru. It hasn’t changed my reporting, at least not yet, because it’s still really new to me. Someone yelled my name in Giant the other day, and I said, “Hey! How are you doing?” like I knew him, but in the back of my head I was thinking, I hope this guy isn’t confusing me for somone else.

After having reported in both Philadelphia and Hazleton, do you see Pennsylvania differently? Pennsylvania is a clash of political parties and geographical areas that make up some kind of concoction—a drink that wouldn’t taste very good. It seems like a red state even though it always turns up blue. I understand why someone like Gov. Corbett would be voted into office.

What story have you covered in Hazelton that you never saw yourself doing before you got there? I didn’t know anything about the coal industry. I come from Philly, so of course I didn’t know anything about coal. But living here [in Hazleton], you realize how much a part of the economy it is. It’s like the legacy industry. They look at coal as what propelled America into the Industrial Revolution. They have strong ties to it. That’s why they get so emotional when [the government sets] regulations.

One story I covered was about the coal industry and how numbers were declining over the years. I did a story about the union, itself, how their membership had been declining…. it took a lot of work and research to find those numbers and to understand what coal means to these people. It makes you look at the state a bit differently.

Do you hope to one day come back to Philly and be on TV? Either TV or radio in Philly. I lived in South Philly, and I loved it there a lot. I still come back almost every single weekend, so living there would be really great. / R.L.

 

From the Bronx to Philly: Jennifer Joyce

Being a TV reporter can get lonely; just ask Jennifer Joyce. The Fox 29 news personality got her first job out of Temple working at News 12 in New York City, a super-local low-budget news station. Though the Big Apple is the nation’s largest media market, News 12 is a far cry from the big-budget newsrooms of the major networks, and during her three-week tryout at the station’s Bronx affiliate, Joyce found herself covering stories from both the front and back of the camera. “I had heard about these quote-unquote one-man-band shops,” she says, “but I never really thought I would end up doing that, because I worked with a lot of photographers, and they were these big, strong guys. I’m barely five-foot-one, and was just never thinking I’d be lifting all the equipment—we’re talking 60 pounds of camera, batteries and tripods.”

Joyce’s story may run counter to our mental picture of the two- or three-person TV news crew, but it’s actually not an anomaly: The smaller the market a TV reporter works in, the more likely they are to start at the very, very bottom, doing everything solo. “You’re driving a news van, and you’re trying to figure out plans for your story—so you have a lot going on,” she says. “But it initially helps with every skill—and with time management, and meeting your deadlines and getting it done.”

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