George Hancock’s runs across the Johnstown region have inspired observations and columns about issues facing our communities.
Now he’s part of a group working to help those same communities through news coverage in The Tribune-Democrat and its affiliated digital platforms and print products.
The new Tribune-Democrat Reader Advisory Committee has begun to meet and discuss the work of the news media against the backdrop of local revitalization efforts and a divided national political climate.
The members unanimously agreed that the Cambria-Somerset region needs fair and sustained news coverage to help the region move forward – including the timeless medium of ink on paper.
“Communities need a strong viable daily newspaper,” Hancock said. “Newspapers offer in-depth stories and not sound bites. The trend to digital publications to me is troubling. So, I appreciate this opportunity to serve on the new Reader Advisory Committee. Perhaps our perspectives will help the Tribune remain strong and a community voice.”
Committee member Edward T. Makuchan added: “Based on my collective life experiences, I wanted to offer a reader’s perspective to the news organization that may benefit and enrich the freedom of the press in the Johnstown and Cambria County communities.”
Westmont Hilltop High School student Sophia Tuinstra said she likes to be informed and hoped to become “a voice for younger community members.”
The 10 volunteer committee members, alphabetically, are:
• Dianne Frye DeLisa, resident of Southmont, corporate writer with Concurrent Technologies Corp.; family – husband Jeffrey, children Maria and Anthony.
• James Edwards Sr., resident of Richland Township and former chief executive with WJAC-TV and the Johnstown Chiefs hockey team; family – wife Mary Carol “Butchie”; sons Jim Jr., Mitchell, Jason.
• George A. Hancock, resident of the Mine 40 section Scalp Level Borough, retired from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown; family – wife Brenda and son Cory.
• David A. Knepper, resident of Sidman, executive director with Forest Hills Regional Alliance; family – wife Mildred, son John (and four grandchildren) and daughter Sandra.
• Edward T. Makuchan, resident of Westwood, retired psychological services specialist with the state; family – wife Karlice.
• Edward C. (Ted) Nichols, Ph.D., resident of Richland Township, retired vice president of academic affairs and student services at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College; family: wife Judith Ann DeMeester.
• Debra Orner, vice president with Cambria Regional Chamber.
• Joseph R. Stains, resident of Mount Hope, pastor of Mount Hope United Methodist Church; family – wife Lucy, daughter Katherine and her children – Margaret, Kendall and Jadon, and son Joseph G., a Naval Lieutenant Commander in the Baltimore area.
• Roxanne Tuinstra, resident of Westmont, writer, Girl Scout volunteer and national delegate; family – husband Tim, children Sophia, Patrick and Elena.
• Sophia Tuinstra, resident of Westmont and a Westmont Hilltop High School student; family – parents Tim and Roxanne, siblings Patrick and Elena.
The Tribune-Democrat is asking the group to serve various important functions:
• Provide analysis and professional criticism of our news coverage – including tone, reflection of community values and representation of important local topics and events – and also Editorial page content.
• Serve as liaisons with the community, and enhance our transparency, as members learn more about the staff and processes of the newspaper, TribDem.com website, social media channels and Johnstown Magazine.
• Act as a “sounding board” for ideas being developed by editors and others at The Tribune-Democrat.
Those areas are a perfect match for DeLisa, who has a degree in journalism from IUP and started her career as a news producer/director at WJAC-TV.
“Beyond my background in news, I am an unashamed Johnstown cheerleader – I care deeply about my hometown and want to do anything I can to help it thrive,” DeLisa said.
“Now more than ever, we need a robust fourth estate, both nationally and locally. I am happy to contribute to maintaining and even enhancing the relevance of The Tribune-Democrat in the community that I love.”
Stains recalled delivering The Tribune-Democrat as a Cambria County youth.
“I have always been interested in the role of news media in the lives of our communities and nation,” he said, “and in the maximizing its quality, accuracy and integrity. ... As I have returned to this area, my interest is refreshed.”
Roxanne Tuinstra, Sophia’s mother, said: “I’m passionate about my community and helping to make it a better place. I’m interested in shedding light on issues, learning about our area and improving myself in the process.”
Nichols said he hopes to “learn more about the newspaper industry” while helping to support “a valuable, historic regional resource.”
He also hopes to “support quality journalism, local news reporting, in recognition of the role newspapers play in protecting our First Amendment rights and in advancing community and economic vitality.”
Knepper wants to help “make The Tribune-Democrat an even more outstanding newspaper for the people of our region.”
Edwards’ response when asked why he volunteered was a blunt assessment of the news world: “The opportunity to help extend the life of the printed version of The Tribune-Democrat.”
This group comes together at a turbulent time for the news industry, when trust is slipping and the gap dividing our society is widening.
I thank them for their service – and for the crucial support they will provide in the months ahead.
If you encounter one of these folks at work, at church, at the store or wherever, feel free to ask them about their work with the advisory group and share your thoughts about The Tribune-Democrat.