Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog and welcome to its unveiling. Let me begin by saying your readership is always appreciated.
Photo by Carl Hessler Jr./The Mercury
Here at the corner of Swede & Airy in Norristown, Pa., I have been reporting about crime and justice for The Mercury of Pottstown since 1990 (and later for The Times Herald of Norristown and The Reporter of Lansdale when the Montgomery County dailies became part of the Journal Register Co. and 21st Century Media chains.) During that time, I've been called a lot of things by the defendants, lawyers and courthouse employees I've encountered in the bustling hallways of the Montgomery County Courthouse - some kind and some not-so-kind.
The negative greetings or descriptions such as - "There goes that cockroach" or "Here comes the vulture" - from non-fans of my profession, or the obscenity-laced epithets from offenders I'm trying to videotape or photograph as they're hauled off to jail, are a part of the job, things I shrug my shoulders about but then kindly continue on my way.
I must admit, however, the more friendly greetings are a lot easier to digest. It's not uncommon for a court clerk or tipstaff (many of whom have walked these halls for many years and know all the secrets, by the way) to greet me with "What's going on, Scoop?" or "How are you today, 'Off the Record?'"
My favorite welcome came from Judge Steven T. O'Neill one day last year as I entered his courtroom while making my morning rounds. The judge, familiar with seeing me peer into his courtroom on a daily basis, said with a friendly smile, "Here comes Mr. Everybody's Business," acknowledging my appearance in Courtroom 5 during a recess in the court's business. Several lawyers who know me chuckled, obviously amused by the judge's sense of humor, good-natured ribbing and, I must admit, rather clever remark. Initially caught off guard by the unexpected, witty greeting, I then grinned and respectfully replied to the judge, "Good morning, your honor. Just checking out the court's business."
The more I thought about it, I couldn't imagine having a better title or reputation as a journalist. After all, it's my job to know the business of those who pass through the courts and to inform the public about it.
Photo by John Strickler/The Mercury
One thing about working in a place like a courthouse, nicknames spread quickly.
It wasn't long before others started saying hello with, "Hey, it's Mr. Everybody's Business," as I roamed the halls of justice, sifted through hundreds of daily court filings or took a front row seat to cover the latest trial. I grin every time. The label stuck and I've come to accept it.
When it came time to begin blogging about my work experiences there was no handwringing or writer's bloc about selecting a title for the blog - 'Mr. Everybody's Business' seemed appropriate. I guess you could say my creative process found some inspiration in the judge's comment.
While the hard news stories I write for publication in the daily paper will include the most pertinent details about an event, I will use this blog to provide you, the reader, with interesting tidbits about the personalities that frequent these very public hallways, about things that happen behind-the-scenes and about slices of courthouse life that just won't fit into a news story for print or online editions.
While this column won't be focused on gossip, rest assured 'Mr. Everybody's Business' will be watching for that next anecdote or humorous or compelling incident at the courthouse at Swede & Airy. I'll make sure to tell you about it.