BURNHAM - Several concerned community members came together for the WGAL Town Meeting Monday night at the Quality Inn and Suites in Burnham.
The meeting, co-sponsored by The Sentinel and WMRF-FM (Merf Radio), invited community members to come share opinions about the problems facing the area, as well as ideas for stories they felt needed to be reported.
WGAL Weather Forecaster Doug Allen mediated the gathering, with WGAL President and General Manager Paul Quinn also among the television station's representatives in attendance.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Bob Ingram, left, of Lewistown, and his wife Ellen speak with WGAL-TV weather forecaster Doug Allen during the annual town meeting held Thursday evening at the Quality Inn in Burnham. Representatives from The Sentinel, WGAL-TV and WMRF-FM (Merf Radio) were on hand to answer questions presented by members of the community.
Sentinel Managing Editor Frank Jost and WMRF-FM News Director Mary Lee Sheaffer were also in attendance, answering the questions of the audience.
Though attendance was light, the community members brought several concerns to the event.
One member of the audience, who wished not to be identified for recording purposes, stated that many times she felt the news being reported via radio broadcast was "old news," also saying that the public needed to be better informed when accidents and various other big news events occurred.
Sheaffer responded that whether or not information can be reported is dependent upon getting information from emergency response personnel.
"Information on Twitter and through email can't just be put on the air," she stated. She assured the public that WMRF-FM did everything in its power to inform the public of traffic tie-ups.
Jost also interjected that information being reported on social media like Facebook can't be counted on to be accurate.
"Law enforcement focus on their job. Informing the media isn't always top priority," he said.
The same member also said that she always went to radio and then television to get the fastest source of news, but television doesn't really report in the area.
Sheaffer said that though television coverage in Lewistown was minimal, she gave credit to WGAL for trying to form relationships with the community.
Wally Stafford II, of Lewistown, also shared his wish for some type of traffic reporting, much like KYW 1060 traffic radio in Philadelphia.
Quinn responded that in order to have that kind of reporting, a media group needs a tremendous amount of employees and a system in place. There are Pennsylvania Department of Transportation cameras that make this task easier, but these types of things don't exist in Lewistown.
Someone suggested listening to scanners in order to get information faster. Jerry Gramley, who said he is involved with fire departments and EMS companies in the area, discouraged people from doing this, saying it often leads to more issues as people travel out to see the situations for themselves.
Sam Stewart, owner of Laskaris Restaurant in Lewistown, shared his own concerns. He stated that he had really hoped to see elected officials at the town hall meeting. However, none were in attendance, much to his and other audience members' dismay. He said that more activity was needed by groups to encourage business in the area, and local leadership was key to bringing jobs, businesses and people to Lewistown.
Allen then sat down with Bob and Helen Igram and asked them what was on their mind. Bob said that recently he was having issues with his television service and the new high definition equipment he recently had to install.
Following the installation, it seemed as though the volume of the commercials being played was significantly higher than the regular television programming, and that he was constantly "diving for the clicker" in order to remedy the situation. Ingram was unsure if it was his actual television or his television service provider.
Bob Good, of WGAL, asked him, "Is it all of the channels?" when Ingram replied with a "yes," Good responded that it was the service provider.
"Is it a problem with your neighbors too? Yes?" then said the name of the service provider again jokingly. Good assured Ingram that it was recently decided that all television stations must regulate the volume of commercials, and that action was being taken to fix the issue.
Kevin Doebler addressed WGAL representatives directly, asking if the Olympics would be covered, or if there was a way to get coverage. Quinn stated that WGAL would be the area's exclusive carrier of the Olympics, via NBC's network coverage. WGAL is an affilate of NBC based in Lancaster.
"People don't always watch local news. However, with the Olympics, America comes together," Quinn added, showing his excitment for the event.
The topic of A.J. Peachey & Sons Inc, who served the heart of Big Valley for more than 55 years with a bakery, butcher shop, grocery store and a notable restaurant and cafe, was brought up as a story idea. Several audience members began to question what had happened to the process of rebuilding the original structure, which was destroyed by a fire.
"It is my understanding the funding just wasn't there," Sheaffer said. "There just isn't enough to do a story. Peachey's is doing the best that they can. They're good about press releases."
"I have the same impression," Jost said from a newspaper standpoint. He added that he would love to see the facility restored close to what it was previously, sharing that people came to Big Valley just for breakfast at Peachey's.
"They had a buffet no one else could touch!" Jost joked. WGAL representatives acknowledged this business and how important it was to the community.