Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Investigative Journalism Panel With Washington, DC News Legend Gordon Peterson

Thanks to my long time friend, John Gardner of Boeing, I attended a very interesting event last night in Rosslyn, VA.   John also invited Joy Warfield and Dave Ellis to attend.  All four of us worked together at Sun Microsystems for many years.

The primary speaker was Gordon Peterson, Senior Correspondent and Anchor of ABC 7/WJLA-TV News here in Washington, DC.  Gordon Peterson is known as the "Dean of Washington, DC News Anchors" with 41 years of experience.  Jeanne Cummings, POLITICO's assistant managing editor in charge of Enterprise, was also there with Mr. Peterson.  The event was called the:

Rooms With A View

Leadership in Political Journalism 

Below is Gordon Peterson and me after the event. 

 The event went for about an hour and half with Mr. Peterson discussing in detail what happened in the Scott Brown election in Massachusetts.  As a native of the bay state, Mr. Peterson was able to bring great personal insight into what really happened in that election.  The bottom line was not a statement against President Obama, but rather Martha Coakley was a simply awful candidate who run a terrible campaign and Scott Brown was a good candidate who ran a great campaign.

Most interesting to me was the state of investigative journalism in this country. As I am known to do :-), I asked a question of both Mr. Peterson and Ms. Cummings.  The question I asked was:

Before I ask my question Gordon, I was hoping you could share with us your favorite Glenn Brenner story if you do not mind.  (Glenn Brenner was a legendary sportscaster in DC with the quickest sense of humor of anyone I have every seen).  I am curious on your thoughts on the current state of investigative journalism in the country today.  Specifically, I have an ongoing discussion with a friend of mine who believes that with all of today's social media, twitter, facebook, blogging, etc. that we are witnessing better investigative today than ever before.  He uses the Iran protests and the tweets coming from there as an example to make his point.  My counter is that those tweets from Iran could be coming from an eleven year old boy in Ashburn, VA - you simply do not know.  My primary counter is that we are seeing the death of so many local and regional papers that are not being back filled by any credible sources that true investigative journalism is taking a real hit in our country.  What are your thoughts?

Mr. Peterson said that it is very expensive to have reporters at newspapers and on TV doing real investigative journalism.  He said that even the Boston Globe is having difficulty financially.  He said there is no question that we are seeing a drop in true investigative journalism.  He did say that POLITICO is one of the new and upcoming organizations that he admires for their investigative journalism work.  Ms. Cummings said the death of the regional papers is very serious.  She mentioned a number of examples of the work that POLITICO has done.  Mr. Peterson mentioned Real Clear Politics as a site that he feels is a very good political information site.  Both emphasized their real concerns going forward.

At then end of his discussion on my investigative journalism question, Mr. Peterson said, "so, you want to hear a story about Glenn Brenner?"  I replied, "please".  Mr. Peterson started with:

OK, I have a thousand Glenn Brenner stories, so let me share one with you.  Glenn Brenner was a pitcher who has a record that still stands to this day.  When Glenn was in the minor leagues, he was and is, the only pitcher to hit the on deck hitter during the game while on the mound.  When I asked him what happened he showed me the motion and I interrupted him.  I said, wait, you pitch right handed but you are left handed?  Glenn said that he was left handed but pitched right handed.  I said to him, "well that's the problem, you were pitching with the wrong arm!"

The banter between Glenn Brenner and Gordon Peterson was amazing for 16 years from 1976 to 1992 before Glenn Brenner died of a brain tumor. 

 Glenn Brenner had one of my favorite lines of all time when talking, during his sports segment, about Mookie Wilson, a Mets outfielder. Brenner looked at Gordon Peterson and said, "Mookie Wilson?, Does anyone really believe Wilson is is real last name?"  Gordon Peterson just cracked up as all of us watching did as well.

I found the story below by Gordon Peterson at Washington DC Metblogs:
There will never be another Glenn Brenner. But there are a lot of good people out there doing sports. Let me tell you a story about the time of his last illness. He was lying in George Washington University Hospital, after the doctors had learned that he had an inoperable brain tumor. He was in a coma, and many of his friends were at his bedside around the clock. I ran home for a quick shower in the wee hours of the morning one day, and as I returned, I noticed a homeless woman sitting on a wall outside the hospital. She had a small portable radio, and as she walked by, she said, I’m praying for your buddy. I broke down on that one.
                  Former W*USA sports anchor Gordon Peterson on a Live Discussion

It was a very interesting night and always fantastic to see John Gardner, Joy Warfield and Dave Ellis PLUS getting to meet and get my picture taken with Gordon Peterson.  When I was speaking with Mr. Peterson after the event, (when I got my picture taken with him), I said to him, "hey, can I get my picture taken with you?"  He said "sure!".   I said, "great, I just went up seven points in my parents book if I can get my picture with you."  Gordon laughed.  Dave Ellis took our picture, I shook his hand and thanked him.  As I was walking away, Gordon said to me, "hey, good questions by the way."  I turned back and smiled and said thanks.  My night was made :-)