HIST 148: History of Penn State

I wrote two years ago about Penn State’s “HIST 197: History of Penn State” course, which was debuting as a “special topics” (temporary) course for the Fall 2017 semester as an undergraduate elective. A handful of Penn Staters had started talking about the need for a course that would formally introduce Penn Staters to their own history, and in both Professor Michael Kulikowski and Professor Mike Milligan we found kindred spirits who believed in the importance of such a course. Penn State News reported on the launch of the course at the time.

This morning when I opened my inbox, I saw a note from Penn State letting me know that the University Faculty Senate had officially approved the course for permanent status, and with that a change in its number to “HIST 148: History of Penn State”. Here’s the newly-listed course in Penn State’s LionPATH course catalogue:

What makes “HIST 148: History of Penn State” even more special is that the permanent course number itself refers to some of Penn State’s earliest history:

When President Lincoln called for 300,000 more troops to quell the rebels from the South [in advance of the Battle of Gettysburg], Centre County produced 700 able-bodied men who would largely fill the roster of the 148th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry regiment. Later tagged the Centre County regiment, it was led by Col. James Beaver, who would go on to become the 20th governor of Pennsylvania as well as acting president of Penn State after the death of George Atherton.

Matthew Swayne puts a bit more color on the portrait of the 148th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry regiment:

Robert M. Forster (spelled Foster in some records), who served as the Farm School’s first postmaster, actively recruited students to join Lincoln’s call for an additional 300,000 soldiers in 1862. Several students left with Forster, joining the 148th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. …

While dozens of Farm School students fought to keep the Union together, the institution’s president, Evan Pugh, struggled to hold onto enough students to keep the new institution from fading into oblivion. …

As Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia marched north, war fever and war fears spread throughout Pennsylvania and into the Farm School. Lincoln and Pennsylvania Gov. Andrew Curtin called for 50,000 volunteers from the state. Students, often without consent from their parents or from school officials, left to join the hastily formed militias. …

The battle of Gettysburg had less to do with the Confederate Army’s hunt for shoes — a common explanation of why the two armies decided to fight it out in the southeastern Pennsylvania community — and more to do with the town’s position as a transportation hub in the mid-1800s, according to Carol Reardon, George Winfree Professor of American History at Penn State. The town was at the center of several roads, or pikes, as well as a rail line, that connected to the cities of Baltimore, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Harrisburg. …

On July 2, 1863, Postmaster Forster, now a captain of the 148th’s Company C, and his fellow soldiers, including several former Farm School students, were positioned near the Union’s vulnerable left flank [at Gettysburg] in a wheatfield that would be transformed into, as Reardon describes it, “a horrific no-man’s land covered thickly with the dead and wounded from both armies.” …

[Captain Forster] was listed as one of the many casualties during the bloody fighting in the Wheatfield on July 2. … A nearly daylong series of charges and counter-charges ensued. While leading one of those charges to maintain the Union position, Forster was shot in the head. He was initially buried near the remains of Confederate Gen. William Barksdale on a Gettysburg farm. Forster’s brother-in-law later retrieved the captain’s remains and re-interred them in Centre County’s Spring Creek Presbyterian Cemetery. …

While Pugh struggled to stop students from leaving the school to fight in the war, he also considered joining the Army. Pugh wrote in a letter to Johnson, “Prof. Wilson and myself have been helping to raise a military company at Boalsburg. He is elected captain and will go if called upon. I would have gone if I could have left. Walker, Buner, Stoner, and Rich have gone.” He added, with uncharacteristic venom, “I would leave my quakerism at home till we could give those traitor scoundrels such a thundering thrashing as no people ever got before.”

Instead, Pugh fought the war by wielding a pen to write letters, campaigning endlessly for the Farm School in Harrisburg and enduring batteries of meetings with government officials and bureaucrats to shore up its land-grant status. Pugh, though, had an almost prophetic belief that while the war would be won on battlefields, the peace and the reconstruction that would follow would be won on the campuses of universities like Penn State.

I’ve made a habit of visiting Penn State to sit in on the course for a lecture each semester it’s been offered so far (Fall 2017 and 2018), and am planning to do that again sometime this autumn.

What the Freeh Report is good for

I haven’t thought much about Penn State’s November 2011 Jerry Sandusky scandal for a while. Not since the NCAA reversed itself in 2015 and voided its sanctions against Penn State and Joe Paterno, in acknowledgement of a rush to judgment driven by emotivism and vindictiveness. And not since the 2016 dismissal of felony conspiracy charges against Penn State’s former leadership, which was the most significant remaining issue with the potential to either confirm or refute the narrative of an institutional cover-up.

But I thought about the Sandusky scandal again today in light of the just-leaked “Report to the Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania State University on the Freeh Report’s Flawed Methodology and Conclusions,” a minority report of the Penn State Board of Trustees. The 2012 Freeh Report was held up at the time of its release as an independent and trustworthy investigation of Penn State’s leadership. The Freeh Report’s conclusion of institutional coverup for the purpose of protecting the image of the university not only legitimized the Penn State Board of Trustees’s snap decision in November 2011 to fire then-Penn State President Graham Spanier and Coach Joe Paterno, but it also formed the basis for both devastating legal culpability for the victims of a former employee and for the NCAA’s decision to sanction the university and its student athletes.

It was in 2015 that Penn State’s new president Eric J. Barron dismissed the Freeh Report:

“There’s no doubt in my mind, Freeh steered everything as if he were a prosecutor trying to convince a court to take the case,” Barron said, adding that Freeh “very clearly paints a picture about every student, every faculty member, every staff member and every alum. And it’s absurd. It’s unwarranted. So from my viewpoint the Freeh report is not useful to make decisions.”

These criticisms of the Freeh Report echoed those of Dick Thornburgh, former U.S. Attorney General, who in 2013 had underscored that the Freeh Report constituted merely “raw speculation and unsupported opinion—not facts and evidence.” Malcolm Gladwell has said as much. Bob Costas has said as much.

What has been amazing to those who followed the Penn State and Jerry Sandusky scandal, though, is that the Penn State Board of Trustees (the same Board of Trustees that commissioned that report) has never formally accepted or rejected the Freeh Report’s findings. This, despite the fact that the Freeh Report functioned to confirm the worst possible, most malicious narrative about Penn State leadership’s handling of Jerry Sandusky, and despite the fact that the Freeh Report opened Penn State up to hundreds of millions of dollars in liability for Sandusky’s crimes. Hence the need for a minority of Penn State Trustees to produce the now-leaked minority “Report to the Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania State University on the Freeh Report’s Flawed Methodology and Conclusions,” which the larger Penn State Board had attempted to suppress last year. The minority trustees shared this statement in light of yesterday’s leak:

“The fact is the Board’s tacit acceptance of the Freeh Report led to profound reputational damage, along with over $250 million in costs so far to Penn State. It is perplexing that the University clings to the conclusions of a report that has been criticized by so many, including Penn State President Eric Barron. We fervently believe that the best way forward is for the Board and the University to openly and thoughtfully consider the comprehensive and well-researched findings from our review so that we can finally come to an honest conclusion.”

Gary Sinderson of WMAJ, which leaked the minority report, puts the news in context:

The document, officially titled, “Report to the Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania State University on the Freeh Report’s flawed methodology and conclusions” was completed and presented to the full trustee board in the summer of 2018.

The seven trustees who commissioned the report said the full board decided to not make its findings public.

In 2011, in the wake of the arrest of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on charges that included involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, the university commissioned former FBI Director Louis Freeh to compile a report on the university’s involvement. Freeh was reportedly paid $8 million.

In its report, the group of seven former and current trustees concluded Penn State paid for an independent investigation that was not independent, fair or thorough.

The trustees’ report said the Freeh report investigators used deeply flawed methodology and the report is full of factual mistakes. Page 18 of the trustees’ report, titled “Use of coercion,” said the Freeh investigators “shouted, were insulting and demanded that interviewees give them specific information — such as — tell me Joe Paterno knew Sandusky was abusing kids.”

This report said some university employees who were interviewed were told cooperation was a key to keeping their jobs. In fact, one employee told the investigators of the Freeh report that he was fired for not cooperating.

The trustee’s report said the Freeh team did not interview many key figures in the Sandusky scandal, including Sandusky, Paterno and university administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schutz, as well as Mike McQueary.

The Freeh report said Penn State has a football culture problem. But the trustees’ report says Freeh had a conflict of interest with the NCAA, and that his company was attempting to be the organization’s go-to investigative firm.

The trustees’ report also contains a long discussion about the Freeh team’s claim of being independent, with the trustees’ report finding the Freeh team was actually sharing information with the NCAA, Penn State administrators and the prosecutors in the Sandusky case.

Freeh has long defended his work at Penn State, saying in the past, “Since 2015, these misguided alumni have been fighting rearguard action to turn the clocks back and resist the positive changes which the PSU students and faculty have fully embraced.” Freeh’s report included more than 100 recommended university policy changes, many of which were adopted by Penn State.

And Elissa Hill at Onward State writes on the report’s takeaways:

The seven current and former trustee signatories to the report are Ted Brown, Barb Doran, Bob Jubelirer, Anthony Lubrano, Ryan McCombie, Bill Oldsey, and Alice Pope. They used their access to this source information to develop the report that was published by WJAC, disputing the Freeh Report’s findings and calling the Board’s previous “tacit acceptance” of the Freeh Report “a fiduciary breach.”

The report lays out its findings in a pretty straightforward manner:

  • There’s no support for the Freeh Report’s conclusion that Paterno, Spanier, Curley, or Schultz knew of Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children.
  • There’s no support for the Freeh Report’s conclusion that Penn State’s culture was responsible for allowing Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children.
  • The independence of the Freeh Report was compromised by collaboration with the NCAA, then-Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and the state attorney general, and members of the Board of Trustees.
  • The NCAA, Corbett, and the Board of Trustees influenced the Freeh Report with conflicts of interests.
  • The Freeh Report used “unreliable methods for conducting and analyzing interviews” upon which it based its conclusions.

The report from the small group of trustees rejects the Freeh Report, saying Freeh “did not fulfill his obligation to conduct an independent and comprehensive investigation.”

No serious person who has been paying attention to this story since November 2011 can still plausibly argue that Freeh conducted an “independent and comprehensive” investigation into Penn State’s role and culpability for Jerry Sandusky’s actions. No one seriously defends the Freeh Report except for those who paid for it and benefited from its since repudiated findings—that is, no one seriously defends the Freeh Report except for the leadership of the Penn State Board of Trustees itself, who has a perpetual interest in discouraging any public acknowledgement of their own culpability for fiduciary breach, rush to judgment, and downright naiveté.

Wally Triplett, RIP

Wally Triplett died in Detroit earlier this month. He was 92 years old, and both an American and Penn State athletic hero:

Wally Triplett became the first African-American to start on the Penn State Nittany Lions, play in a bowl game, and be drafted by the NFL, where he set multiple records. He was a key inspiration for Penn State’s iconic “We Are” chant, which came to signify unity as Penn Staters in the face of racial segregation.

Kevin Horne wrote on “Wally Triplett and the Men of ‘47” earlier this year:

Triplett’s modesty is a tenant of his personality today, as it has been for virtually all of his 91 years on this earth. But those now-weathered eyes witnessed one of the most beautiful Penn State stories ever told—one in which he was the central figure, transcending the bounds of time and, even if not the literal inspiration, embodying the meaning behind the phrase “We Are Penn State.”

The story is told in two-parts. Triplett saw limited playing time in 1945—becoming, along with Dennie Hoggard, the first African-American to take the field for Penn State—and earned a varsity letter in 1946, also the first black player to do so for the Nittany Lions. Triplett made the switch from tailback to wingback early in the 1946 season and was the team’s most adept kick returner.

But Wally Triplett is defined more by the game he didn’t play than the ones that he did.

Triplett first felt trouble when he noticed that familiar name on the team schedule after he returned to campus in the fall of 1946. The University of Miami, the same school that revoked his scholarship less than two years prior because of the color of his skin, was scheduled for a home game against Penn State on November 29.

Not only did Miami not let black players on its team but, like many southern schools, did not even allow black players on its fields with visiting teams. Miami officials alerted Penn State that traveling with Triplett and Hoggard might prove problematic. The situation gnawed at Triplett — Penn State had a solid squad that year, with only one 3-point loss to Michigan State mid-way through the season and were poised to make a run at a postseason bowl.

Triplett has recounted what happened next hundreds of times. As the legend goes, the team met at Old Main to discuss the situation. They knew of Miami’s stance that bringing Triplett and Hoggard on the trip would make it, as their officials put it, “difficult for them to carry out arrangements for the game.”

The team discussed the situation and held a vote. It wasn’t close. A revote was held, however, so that the few holdouts could make it unanimous. “There was no second thought,” voter Joe Sarabok recalled to the Penn Stater.  Penn State would bring all of its players, or it would not play at all.

The dean of the School of Physical Education and Athletics, Dr. Carl Schott, relayed the team’s decision to the Daily Collegian in the November 6, 1946 newspaper:

“We recently advised the University of Miami that two colored boys are regular members of the Penn State football squad,” Scott said, “and that it is the policy of the College to compete only under circumstances which will permit the playing of any or all members of its athletic teams.”

There would be no game. It would not be rescheduled.

“I call it ‘that team’,’” Triplett recalled during a visit to the All Sports Museum in 2009. “The tradition of leaving your colored players at home was going to be tolerated no more.”

To add to the mythology, it is said that All-American captain Steve Suhey, the coach’s future son-in-law whose family line would produce generations of great Nittany Lions, stood up after the discussion and declared that the team would never have a vote of this sort again. It would never be spoken of; they already knew the answer. It was decided forever.

“We Are Penn State,” Suhey said. “We play all or we play none. There will be no meetings.”

Kevin relates Triplett’s story through Lincoln Hall in State College and a host of familiar, tangible landmarks that bind and unite Penn Staters:

Penn State student government leaders voted in 2016 to use the student facilities fee to erect a monument to Triplett near the location of Old Beaver Field, and though the project went in another direction once it reached the administrative level, it is a testament to the enduring appeal of his inspirational story that today’s students were willing to honor him in that way—nearly 70 years after Triplett and “The Men of ‘47” stood in their place.

But what compels such devotion? What is the Spirit of Penn State? Answers can be found through experiencing the ways in which the echoes of our shared past still reverberate through the places that we love. It is revering Mount Nittany. It is tipping your cap to Old Willow and admiring the remaining Elms on the Henderson Mall. It is celebrating the unique vision and singular determination of people like Evan Pugh, George Atherton, and Joe Paterno. And it is remembering places that never should have needed to exist at all, like Lincoln Hall, and the quiet dignity of the pioneers who lived there. It is learning and cherishing – and thereby keeping alive – the story of noble Lions like Wally Triplett, Steve Suhey, and a band of teammates who were ahead of their time.

The Spirit is still there if you want to experience it. Try it. Walk down North Barnard Street and stop in front of the second house on the right. Close your eyes. If you try hard enough, it’s not difficult to imagine Wally Triplett, the African-American son of a Pennsylvania postal worker, his smile reaching ear to ear, bounding down the wood-covered concrete steps of Lincoln Hall, a duffel bag slung over his shoulder, on his way to catch the team bus to the Cotton Bowl, ready to change the course of history.

I hope Penn State administration comes to its senses and commissions a lasting stuatuary monument to Wally Triplett someplace near Beaver Stadium. Wally Triplett, rest in peace.

Penn State Homes Sales

This mid-20th century “Penn State Homes Sales” office has sat on North Atherton Street, just a few minutes from Downtown State College, for decades. I wondered about it when first arriving at Penn State in 2005. In driving by it when leaving State College on Monday I noticed lots of equipment surrounding it, and thought this might be one of the last times I see it if it’s scheduled for demolition. I hopped out of my rental car and took this photo:

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I emailed a friend who grew up in the area to ask about it, and here’s what he wrote:

Yes, it was the rental/sales office for what was the mobile home park that existed back there up until the mid 2000s or so. I have a vague memory of visiting my aunt who lived there for a year sometime in the mid 80s… Although it was run down toward the end of its life it was actually pretty decent in the prime of days. There also wasn’t a ton of non-student housing available in the State College area back then either (believe it or not considering the expansion of housing options today).

And here’s a bit from Matt Carroll in the Centre Daily Times a few years ago on what looks like a park that was adjacent to this one:

The last of the North Atherton Street mobile home parks is closing.

Franklin Manor Mobile Home Park is shutting down, according to a letter sent Friday to residents and Patton Township officials. The 22 families that live in the park were informed that they have until Oct. 1 to find new homes.

The park is next to the former Penn State Mobile Home Park, which closed July 31.

Natalie Corman, Centre County Office of Adult Services director, was informed Friday that the mobile home park is closing, and she said officials already are organizing assistance for residents.

Owner Ed Temple, when reached Friday, said the condition of the park’s infrastructure is failing, as are many of its trailers, and that ultimately led to the decision to close.

“This winter was a tipping point,” Temple said. “So many people had failures, frozen-up water lines broke. It just became evident they were just not functional anymore.”

He said closing the park is a “difficult decision.” It was established by his father in 1953, and Temple grew up there.

“It’s been a situation where I had generations of people there — parents and now their children,” he said. “We’ve tried to facilitate it. It’s just come to the point where we have to do something.”

Temple said the park was not being closed to make way for development, but did not rule that out as a possibility in the future.

I hope this little office survives and is repurposed into something more publicly useful someday. It’s such an aesthetically distinct park of North Atherton Street, compared to the derivative shopping centers and hotels that line both sides the whole way north.

Labor Day in State College

Happy Labor Day. I’m in State College, Pennsylvania this morning and enjoying this beautiful late summer day on my friend’s South Allen Street front porch. A view from that porch below, from last week when I was in town, along with some scenes from Downtown State College and Penn State’s campus from yesterday. Penn State has its flags at half mast in honor of Sen. John McCain.

College football season has started, and autumn will be here in earnest before long. Looking forward to what the next few months have in store.

Appalachian State

Incredible season opener today for Penn State. I got into Happy Valley just after 1pm, visited with Ben Novak and Hollow briefly before Ubering to Beaver Stadium and tailgating for a few hours. Once the game started, met up with Anthony Christina and headed back to Park Forest Village where we watched the game. Closer than comfortable for most of the game, and ultimately driven into overtime before Penn State’s lucky, somewhat incredible victory.

Here’s Joan Niesen telling the story of this game:

For the second time in three years, Appalachian State pushed a top-10 Week 1 opponent to overtime—and lost.

It took a late-game touchdown by Trace McSorley and an Amani Oruwariye pick in the end zone in overtime, but Penn State got its win, 45–38. It was, coach James Franklin said in his postgame Big Ten Network interview, “an ugly one, tough one,” but as night fell in Pennsylvania, the Nittany Lions hung on to their College Football Playoff hopes.

Going into Saturday, Penn State was a popular pick to make college football’s final four, despite playing in a contender-laden Big Ten East. By halftime, the conference’s other favorites had logged wins; Wisconsin defeated Western Kentucky, 34–3, on Friday night, and Ohio State charged to a 77–31 win over Oregon State—without its coach, Urban Meyer, who is suspended from in-game coaching for two more weeks. Meanwhile, Penn State was tied at 10 with a Sun Belt team playing a first-year starter at quarterback. …

It looked possible, probable even, that the Mountaineers would get their first major upset as an FBS team, 11 years to the day after they spoiled Michigan’s home opener from the ranks of the FCS.

In the end, though, the game came down to two plays: McSorley’s 15-yard, game-tying touchdown pass to K.J. Hamler with 42 seconds remaining in regulation (a perfectly respectable throw against a Group of Five defense replacing its own accomplished coordinator, which Matt Millen in the Big Ten Network booth described a “Heisman play”), and App State coach Scott Satterfield’s choice to attempt a 56-yard field goal on fourth-and-four with 15 seconds to go. That decision to try to pull off a long kick rather than eke out four yards would haunt Appalachian State; the field goal was no good, and in overtime, reality took hold. McSorley and company were able to march down the field, and when Appalachian State got its turn, it barely nudged its way to a first down before Thomas threw the end-zone interception that decided the game. …

Penn State looks like it has ground to gain if it wants to live up to its lofty expectations. The win kept them—and McSorley’s Heisman chances—alive, but with Pitt in primetime next week and Ohio State on September 29, things won’t get any easier from here.

Visiting Happy Valley in late summer

Here are scenes from past few days of travel; first in leaving Philadelphia and driving past the Art Museum where they were setting up for Labor Day’s “Made in America” concert, and the rest from State College and Penn State on Monday night and throughout Tuesday. I worked from the Creamery Tuesday morning before heading downtown and eventually to HIST 197, and it was a great sort of “living nostalgia” getting to enjoy a coffee, catch up on the news, clear my inbox, and just be amidst the fairy subdued early morning bustle of the early fall semester.

After all of this, I headed out of town around 9pm headed toward Cincinnati but decided to stop in Steubenville, Ohio around 1am.

Visiting HIST 197 again

I sat in this morning on Prof. Michael Milligan’s HIST 197 “History of Penn State” course. Like I did this time last year, I wanted to get a sense for the sort of Penn Staters attracted to the course. This fall the course it taking place in 225 Electrical Engineering West, which sits between Willard Building (where it was last fall) and the Hintz Family Alumni Center. It’s held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:35-11:50am.

It was more than five years ago that I remember speaking with a number of alumni from different generations in a short space of time who all had a similar vision for a Penn State course on Penn State history. It would be a way for students of any major to learn about Penn State itself, from its earliest moments through its most difficult periods to the present. Prof. Milligan ultimately made this happen through his development of the semester-long curriculum.

Today’s lesson brought students through some of Evan Pugh’s early writings on the nascent Penn State and the vision for something more than merely another agricultural college, the generation-long struggle through much of the remainder of the 19th century as the institution was led by superintendent-style presidents, and ended just on the cusp of President Atherton’s emergence on the scene.

The LION 90.7fm in late summer

I drove to Penn State late this afternoon, getting into town just after 7pm and just in time to sit in with The LION 90.7fm, the campus radio station, for its first staff meeting of the academic year. Ross Michael is the station’s president and general manager this year, and Russ Rockwell continues to serve as adviser and engineer.

While I’ve advocated for and continue to fundraise for a scholarship for The LION 90.7fm, this was the first staff meeting I’ve sat in on in nearly a decade. Great to see so many people from so many backgrounds in life and in terms of academic and professional interests together at the station. That seems to be a constant.

I’ve written before that I think the primary benefit of campus radio at this point is its role as a platform for learning how to think and speak in public; basically how to intelligently participate in the public square in a way that enlivens the community and ennobles the speaker. We’re often disgusted with social media because it doesn’t seem to ennoble us, to bring out the best in us. Platforms like campus radio still can, because they force one to really come to grips with what’s about to come out of one’s mouth when there’s a live mic. And whether you’re sharing great or unusual music, talking Penn State football, or public affairs, your voice can in some meaningful way speak either a better or worse reality into existence—even if just for a few thousand listeners. Striving to do that is part of being human in the fullest sense, and doing it out of a genuine love and enthusiasm rather than as simply on obligation is what can make community life better too, which is part of what citizenship is about.

Phil Schwarz, a friend for many years and former host of The Wake Up Call (the station’s morning show) for three years during our time as students is back at Penn State as of this month to complete an MBA program. It was Phil’s first time seeing the station’s new facilities since moving in 2015 into a newer part of the HUB-Robeson Center.

The fall semester is underway as of last week, and tomorrow morning I plan to sit in on Prof. Michael Milligan’s HIST 197 “History of Penn State” course.

NY1 and truly local news

A year or so ago I subscribed to the New York Times’s “New York Today” and “California Today” weekday email newsletters. I like scanning these each morning and being able to quickly get a sense of what’s happening in New York City, especially. On Tuesday, there was New York/California overlap with this news:

NY1, which is also owned by Charter, is adored by a slice of New Yorkers who are charmed by its homespun feel and its roster of longtime anchors and correspondents … [its] laser focus on New York-only stories, especially in politics, often pays off. NY1 was the only news station that had a camera at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign event to chronicle her Democratic congressional primary upset in June.

Whether the 24-hour Los Angeles network [set to launch] becomes as popular as NY1 remains to be seen. Los Angeles is not exactly hurting for local television coverage, but Spectrum insists it is carving out a different space …

Mr. Bair said that 125 people would be hired for the newsroom and that they were already more than halfway through staffing up the network. The new channel — he would not reveal its name — will be headquartered in El Segundo, near the Los Angeles International Airport and The Los Angeles Times’s new headquarters.

Spectrum has several local news stations around the country, including in Florida (Orlando and Tampa) and Texas (San Antonio and Austin). Mr. Bair said that the local news stations are very popular and “create a higher level of retention” for the cable service. …

“We don’t have to worry about two-minute sound bites,” Mr. Bair said. “If an interview takes three or four minutes, we stick with it. We’re more likely to cover much smaller stories, neighborhood-based stories than you’d see in other markets.”

Mr. Kiernan, the longtime NY1 anchor, said New Yorkers who have moved to Los Angeles constantly ask why there isn’t a version of the station in the city.

“They’ll do stories about the 405 with the same intensity that we do stories about the 6 train,” he said of the new Los Angeles channel. “But a lot of the hallmarks of NY1 reporting will be key parts of their reporting: politics, education, jobs. Those are stories that often get squeezed out of local newscasts by an endless rundown of crime reporting.”

What’s presented for news almost everywhere now is national news. Not even the international news in America tends to really be international; it’s only interested in how America is impacting or being impacted internationally and not actually interested in pure reporting of just what the hell is going on in other places.

As for national news, whether on traditional news channels, the cable networks, or across Facebook, Twitter, etc., we’re all exhausted by it. And that’s largely the fault of the media itself, which has forgotten how to cover news without simultaneously sensationalizing and debasing most of what it presents.

What NY1 and Spectrum are doing make perfect sense. It reminds me of advice I got at Penn State when I was involved with The LION 90.7fm, the campus radio station. A few alums, some of whom worked in news and sports media, warned us not to focus on national issues on the public affairs/politics program, and not to talk exclusively or even primarily about national sports on the sports program, and not to play very much from the Billboard 100 on the music shows, etc.

“Why,” many us of asked somewhat incredulously?

“You’d be derivative and irrelevant,” was basically the response.

“No one wants to hear what a bunch of 19 or 20 year olds who just got out of comp sci class think about the Yankees. But a lot of people—especially a lot of community and alumni listeners who are the likeliest to be tuning inwant to hear what a 20 year old Penn Stater thinks about Penn State football, basketball etc. National reporters and national Top 40 stations are already covering national content better than any amateur student could, but a Penn State student can be a professional covering the local community better than anyone from the outside. To be relevant, don’t go national; go local.” That thinking has stuck.

That’s basically why truly local news used to be great, before all the local papers and stations were scooped up by national chains and become derivative from national syndicated reporting. And it’s why NY1 and things like it should and will win in their niches—because no one cares more than they do about covering the stories of their community well, day in and day out.