Best job in America (it ain't plumbing)

Written by Susan Mannella on .

Tom Waseleski

You can get a little jaded in this job. I've been an editorial writer at the Post-Gazette for 18 years. Every year there's an election; actually, there are two -- the primary and the general.

It's the practice of the Post-Gazette Editorial Board to interview candidates for possible endorsement in contested races in Allegheny County and statewide. That means, every year, our group hosts a steady stream of office-seekers, in the spring and the fall. One year it's people running for Pittsburgh mayor, City Council and school board. Another year it's governor, U.S. Senate, county executive or County Council. This year it's president, of course, U.S. House and state House and Senate.

If you're not careful or interested, the continuing parade can begin to feel like the same old same old. Not for me. Just when you think you've heard it all before, some visitor drops a bomb, makes a headline and creates news in the course of a routine interview.

That's what Congressman John Murtha did Wednesday when we interviewed him for endorsement in the 12th District race. We asked him about Barack Obama's prospects and that's when he let loose with a few words he now wishes were better chosen: "There's no question Western Pennsylvania's a racist area," he said at the start of his analysis. (Here's the Murtha video.)

Murtha is a Democrat who is being challenged by an unknown and little-funded Republican, William Russell. With 34 years in Congress under Murtha's belt, it's hard to imagine him being unseated this year. Even so, the PG editorial board took the time to interview both candidates, and we'll have a recommendation to make in this race soon.

Before the Nov. 4 election, we will have interviewed more than 40 candidates in more than 20 races. Our time is worth the investment not just for the endorsement, but also for the news we can generate from the time spent.

The editorial board has done that a lot this year. Although Gov. Ed Rendell and Sen. Bob Casey are not on the 2008 ballot, both made news with their own remarks to the editorial board on the role of race in this year's presidential campaign. (Check Casey's video.)

So even those of us who've been doing this a long time have not heard it all before. That is what makes this one of the best jobs in America. On the PG Editorial Board, we're not only paid to have opinions, but we also can never tell what our interview subjects will say next. And that is the essence of news.


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