State Capitol newsroom loses a veteran

Brad Bumsted (seated) talks with Pennlive reporter Jan Murphy (left) and Inquirer reporter Angela Couloumbis (right) on Friday, his last day as a state Capitol for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Brad Bumsted (seated) talks with Pennlive reporter Jan Murphy (left) and Inquirer reporter Angela Couloumbis (right) on Friday, his last day as a state Capitol for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

If you visit the 110-year-old state Capitol and walk up the grand marble Rotunda steps you will see a darkened room labeled “Newspaper Correspondents.”

The sign is a little dated for the 21st century. But it points to the partitioned offices of print, television and online reporters who cover state government and work under the quasi-cooperative moniker of the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association.

On Friday, our association said goodbye to one its most senior reporters, Brad Bumsted of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bumsted, 65, packed up after taking a financial buyout package offered by his company, Trib Total Media.

He really didn’t want to go, though. The thrill of the story chase still thrives in him, the pressure of deadline still drives him and the specter of corruption that hangs over the Capitol still haunts him.

But consumers’ changing media tastes, which have lowered newspaper revenue, forced him out — and Pennsylvanians will be worse off for it.

The York native began his journalism career with Gannet co. as an Allegheny County Courthouse reporter in 1977. In 1980 he started his government reporting career with the company, covering Pennsylvania, Florida and Washington, D.C politics. In 1998, the Tribune-Review hired him to cover Harrisburg.

This is a reporter who in the early 1990s hand-tabulate a Chambersburg lawmaker’s expenses and then drove in his own car to figure out the lawmaker was taking circuitous routes to the Capitol to collect extra mileage, hotel and meal reimbursements from taxpayers.

This is a reporter who in 2014 broke the story about porn emails shared among government employees and found on servers belonging to the attorney general’s office.

This is a reporter who chronicled more than a century of political corruption in two books, “Keystone Corruption” and “Keystone Corruption Continued.”

Through it all, this was a reporter who treated governors, lawmakers and other public officials with the respect their titles demanded and willingly mentored journalism interns in the summer.

In short, Bumsted was a veteran who will be missed among the dwindling number of reporters left in the Capitol.

—Steve Esack

(Originally published on The Morning Call’s Capitol Ideas blog)

SAVE THE DATE – 86th annual Gridiron show!

Gridiron benefits annual summer journalism program at the state Capitol.

Gridiron benefits annual summer journalism program at the state Capitol.

The national news and political muckety–mucks have their annual comedy night, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, in Washington, D.C.

But did you know that the same type of comedy extravaganza – minus the red carpet and Hollywood star power – goes on in Harrisburg each year?

It’s true.

It’s called the Gridiron, and the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association has sponsored it for 86 years. The show features live and recorded skits in which politicians rip reporters and reporters rip back. This year’s show will be Sept. 27 at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Only one rule exists for performers and audience members: No public recording. It is an off-the-record night.

That rule is all about fairness. Politicians deserve a chance to laugh and be laughed at without fear of it coming back to bite them.

It’s a pretty funny evening. State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, does a stand-up routine that is viciously good.

If the public saw Tom Corbett’s skits, he wouldn’t be “former governor” today. He and his administration were that funny.

Gov. Tom Wolf is no comedy slouch, either.

So get your tickets.

Proceeds go toward educating a new generation of journalists through the association’s summer internship program. It’s a paid internship program in which college students or recent graduates work alongside reporters covering state government during the height of budget season and bill passing.

We get student applications from across the country but tend to be partial to homegrown talent. This summer, we took a Temple University student, Colt Shaw, and a recent Penn State graduate, Carley Mossbrook, who got a job with one of our member groups, Capitolwire. So your ticket purchase pays for the experience that can turn into a career.

Doors open at 5 p.m. for cocktails and food, with the show beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Single tickets are $80 each or $75 each with a bulk purchase of 10 or more. Price includes one free beer, wine or soda and food.

To purchase tickets, come to the Capitol newsroom or go to PLCA’s website:

Polling conference at the Capitol.

The Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association, Muhlenberg College, and Franklin & Marshall College are sponsoring an event next week to discuss “The Future of Political Polling.”

The event will take place Jan. 16 in the Capitol Complex East Wing. Admission is free.

From the release:

“The Future of Political Polling.” In the wake of another controversial year with questions raised about many aspects of last year’s publicly released political polls, three Pennsylvania pollsters, in short presentations, will examine:

1) Recent polling performances

2) Disclosure standards for public polls

3) Evaluating Internet polling

4) Partisan poll releases

5) Challenges facing election polling

6) Who’s Nate Silver and why should we care

Panelists: Chris Borick, Director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public
Berwood Yost, Director, Center for Opinion Research, Franklin &
Marshall College
Terry Madonna, Director, Franklin & Marshall College Poll

When: Friday, January 16, 2015

Where: Room 60 East Wing (next to the cafeteria), State Capitol.

Time: 12:30- 1:30 pm

Sponsored by: Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association, Muhlenberg College, Franklin & Marshall College.

Join us; bring lunch if you would like, come with your questions, no charge for admission.

Family, friends remember DeCoursey

About 150 people, including family, friends and colleagues of Peter DeCoursey, gathered at the historic Christ Church and St. Michael’s in Germantown Saturday (Jan. 11) to remember Pete’s too brief life.
The Bishop Provisional of Pennsylvania, the Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel 3rd , presided over a memorial service filled with hymns and prayer and recollections of a life well lived.
Pete’s sister, Ruth, delivered beautiful images of Pete’s vision of peace highlighted by play time spent with his children, Ellie and Ben. His father, Robert DeCoursey, relayed a story about a time when gubernatorial candidate Tom Ridge and Pete engaged in a lively, airborne discussion of Shakespearean sonnets while out on the campaign trail. Pete’s best friend, Mark Bernstein, recalled how Pete stunned the first grade class at Penn Charter by showing up on St. Patrick’s Day dressed in orange, when everyone else, of course, was wearing green.
Bernstein said Pete, at age six, had determined that as a descendant of Irish Protestants he should wear the color of “Ulster Protestants” rather than the color of Irish Catholics.
Among the dignitaries who attended the service were former Gov. Ed Rendell, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, former House Speakers Dennis O’Brien and Bob O’Donnell, U.S. Rep. Bob Borski, former state House Rep. Kathy Manderino, Senate Republican communications director Erik Arneson, Sen. Dominic Pileggi’s chief counsel, Kathy Eakin, House Democratic spokesman Bill Patton and his wife, Democratic strategist Mary Isenhour and Gov. Corbett’s communications director Lynn Lawson.
PLCA members – and past members – who attended included, Amy Worden, Angela Couloumbis, Kevin Zwick, Chris Comisac, Melissa Daniels, Steve Esack, Kate Giammarise, Karen Langley, Brad Bumsted, Diana Robinson, Corinna Wilson, Scott Detrow, Laura Olson, Tracie Mauriello, Tom Fitzgerald, Tony Romeo, John Micek, Mary Wilson and Chris Brennan. WHYY senior reporter and host Dave Davies, whose obituary of Pete  ( was included in the service program, also attended.

In memorium

Peter L. DeCoursey, a long-time Pennsylvania political reporter, died Wednesday at his parent’s home in Philadelphia after long battles against pancreatic and lung cancers. He was 52 years old.

DeCoursey served most recently as the bureau chief of and previously worked for the Harrisburg Patriot-News and the Reading Eagle.

Here’s his obituary from Pennlive/Patriot-News:

Here’s a post from Pennlive/Patriot-News opinion writer John L. Micek:

Here’s a remembrance from (paywall):


In memoriam

Sara Fritz, an award-winning journalist and former United Press International bureau chief in Harrisburg during the 1970s, passed away recently.

Read her obituary from the Los Angeles Times:,0,5137041.story

About us

Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association is the oldest continuously organized state Capitol press corps in the country.

We represent print, broadcast and online journalists who cover Pennsylvania state government either full-time or part-time. Each summer, we run an internship program where student journalists can work alongside reporters from our publications.

Current Officers:
President: Jan Murphy, Pennlive/The Patriot-News
Vice-President: Steve Esack, Allentown Morning Call
Secretary-Treasurer: Marc Levy, The Associated Press
Director: John Baer, Philadelphia Daily News
Director: Karen Langley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Director: Kevin Zwick,