Ed Gildea and I worked together at The Evening Courier in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, in the 1960s. I remember him as low key and a very good interviewer and writer. I once went on an assignment with him to the site of a forest fire where he interviewed a homeowner, a double-amputee, about how close the fire had come to his house. Ed was very good at getting people to talk, even in a high-stress situation such as a fire, using such “tricks” as nodding and saying “uh-huh.”
Ed died recently at the age of 82.
A 1952 Penn State journalism grad, Ed eventually left the Courier to become editor of the Times-News, and in later years he and I engaged in a scholarly exchange about journalists running for public office. I was somewhat shocked when his publisher returned one of my epistles, saying Ed no longer worked for the paper.
Ed, then in his mid-40s, had been fired.
While working at the newspaper, he started a monthly devoted mostly to history, although he included a story about the occasional current issue that wasn’t being covered by his own paper. The Valley Gazette was printed at the Times-News. At some point, Ed objected to an increase in his bill and one thing led to another. He admitted later that he had “nibbled at the hand feeding him.”
In his new life, he also started the Weekly Gazette, which focused on current issues. He was a crusader for transparent government, a clean environment and a healthy lifestyle. To that end, he was also a fervent runner. Ed didn’t just cover the issues; he became part of them. He would write letters to, say, a school board demanding answers and then publish a story about the request.
He loved consumer complaints and would name names when he could. If he couldn’t, he’d publish the address of the state consumer board for others to file a complaint.
In a story I wrote for the Penn State Journalist in June of 1974, Ed said:
“Sometimes I’ll get personally involved in a story, then stand back and write about it as though somebody else was writing it—in the third person. We have few active civic groups—no taxpayers’ associations—in the Panther Valley, so I’ve perceived it as my duty to act as a public citizen and develop issues, ask questions, initiate complaints if they seem justified and bring unprecedented light into some of the darker corners of local government. If I hear about some shady thing, I’ll dig into it and get the story if I can—and if I can't, I'll tell who won't give it to me. I keep looking for stories behind stories, and if I run into a blank wall trying to find something out I'll write a story about that.”
I don’t recall how long the weekly lasted. Ed set his own type and pasted up the paper in his house. He relied on advertising to make a modest profit, and he did admit it was modest. At some point, someone told me he had gotten a full-time job. That’s not mentioned in his obituary, but the obit does mention the Gazette.
That’s as it should be.
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