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Preston Moretz Kisses the Blarney Stone in Ireland, 1977

PRESTON MORETZ, CLASS OF 1976
Thriving on Both Sides of the
Journalist's Hat

From City Hall Reporter to Managing
Temple's Communications & Policy
in the Government Affairs Office

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Preston at 1984 Roosevelt Mall 20th
Celebration with Our Gal Sal, Sally Star.

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LinkedIn

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Preston in Cinderella in 1974

Ambassadors of Song in Ireland 1975
Ambassadors of Song in Ireland 1975
Ambassadors of Song in Ireland 1975
Preston in Ireland 42 Years Later

Inspired by Howard Cosell

When I was a kid, I was big into sports.  I played baseball, football and hockey in the street with friends.   I was always fascinated by the announcers—the guys that called the games on the radio.  Then, Monday Night Football on ABC became big, and I was really fascinated by Howard Cosell.  I used to imitate him.  I wanted to be a play-by-play announcer or a disc jockey on the radio.  

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Cosell rose to prominence in the early-1960s, covering boxer Muhammad Ali, beginning from the time he fought under his  birth name, Cassius Clay. The two seemed to have an affinity despite their different personalities, and complemented each other in broadcasts. 

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At Harding Middle School, they had closed-circuit television.  In 7th grade, we did the news every morning.  We even had a 45 that used the Action News theme, the same one they play today.  This is where my interest in news and broadcasting soared.   Mrs. Regan, a Harding teacher, was in charge of our daily broadcast.  One day, she had a visitor with her.  I was in the studio, when Mrs. Regan showed  her around.  The woman asked, where is the best place to go to study broadcasting?  Mrs. Regan answered, Temple University.  

 

From that point on, I never wanted to go anywhere else.

Drawn to the Temple Owl

Initially, I looked at Temple University’s School of Communications (formerly SCAT) Radio, Television and Film program.  (Today, Lew Klein College of Media and Communication) A guy I hung around with, who graduated from North Catholic a few years before me—he went to Temple to study journalism. 

 

Shortly, thereafter…he began writing a column for the Frankford News Gleaner, a weekly newspaper.  I was with him for some of his early columns, joining him on assignments.  Two years later, it was my turn to attend Temple.  I decided to study journalism.   After accompanying my friend on assignments, I wanted to report the news—and got hired at the Frankford News Gleaner.

A Dream Seat in the White House Press Room

When former Philadelphia Mayor and Former Police Commissioner, Frank Rizzo, tried to secure a third turn as mayor—I began covering the political beat.   I wanted to be a White House Reporter.  I read the Boys on the Bus written by Timothy Crouse.    Timothy Crouse was assigned to Hunter Thompson, Rolling Stone Magazine writer, and the founder of gonzo journalism—a movement where the writer becomes part of the story.  Thompson was at ground zero of this innovative movement. 

Crouse covered the White House Reporters and National Political Reporters.   He wrote the groundbreaking Boys on the Bus based on his experiences with this impressive band of journalists.  I wanted to be one of those guys.  I wanted to be a boy on the bus.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Hunter Stockton Thompson was an American journalist and author who founded the gonzo journalism movement. He rose to prominence with the publication of Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, a book he spent a year living and riding with Hells Angels motorcycle gang to write a first-hand account of their lives and experiences.  Duke, a Doonsbury character is based on Hunter. 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Uncle Duke is a fictional character in the comic strip Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau. He is Zonker Harris's uncle…an "uncle by courtesy" only. Duke appeared in the strip July 1974 and was originally a straightforward caricature of the gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. 

My Desk Inside

City Hall’s Press Room

My reporting journey began at a desk inside City Hall’s press room where I covered City Council meetings.  I was there when Mumia Abu Jamal worked as a radio reporter.   I reported on local politics for the News Gleaner.   I was also a Philadelphia correspondent for Today’s Spirit, a now defunct daily suburban newspaper and a  stringer for UPI, United Press International

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Mumi Abu Jamal was a radio reporter/host for WHAT, WCAU and NPR.) 

 

Walking Through an Open Door in Media Relations

In 1984, I jumped on an opportunity to work at Drexel University and joined their media relations department.  I thought to myself, now I can be on the other side.  I’ll be helping to get the news out.   I was ready for this next challenge.  I walked through the door and never looked back—and spent 16 years working in Drexel’s Media and Alumni Relations, from December 1984 to March 2000, including  four years in Drexel’s Government Affairs

 

Missing the Thrill of Writing

But eventually, I wanted to get back to writing.  Another door opened at Temple where I could write about science and technology.   For 15 years, I worked as a science and technology writer, covering science, technology and research.  I wrote about the latest scientific research and technological advancements at Temple.   It didn’t go unnoticed.

Someone in Temple’s Government Affairs Office I knew from reporting and my time at Drexel—became the head of Temple’s Government Affairs.  He asked me to come back to government affairs. 

What’s Government Affairs?

Temple is a state  university.  We receive appropriations from the state.   The Commonwealth provides appropriation to discount tuition for students.  Higher education is partly a business.   Our Government Relations Department is the liaison between the university, state government and local government.   We watch those dollars and advocate for more dollars for research.  There are all kinds of legislation we have watch.

For example, if  Temple wants to build a building, we apply for permits;  and we work with the planning and construction to ensure that the proper zoning is in place, etc.

 

In my current capacity as Manager of Policy and Communications/Office of Government Affairs, I ensure  that people who are interacting with government and elected officials have the important Information they need.  I compile information for when they meet with state representatives and other elected officials, like how many Temple students and/or alumni live in an elected official’s district…  Our president appears before the Pennsylvania House & Senate appropriations committee.  I’ll compile information that answers the questions they might ask.

We have an advocacy outreach—Owl Advocacy.  You can sign up for that.  I’ll send out communication when we need people to contact their senator.  We help individuals reach out to elected officials,  advocating on behalf of the University. 

The Proof is in the Students

I took 30 students to Harrisburg to the various State Representatives, and showed them our typical students.  This is what your money is doing.  It’s giving them access to high quality education, so they’ll become productive members of the Commonwealth.

Frankford on My Mind

Who inspired me at Frankford?  The overall atmosphere inspired me.  You were proud to go there.  Everyone was proud to be from Frankford...to be a Frankford Pioneer.  We wore our sweat shirts with pride and most showed up for pep rallies and football games. 

 

I almost missed becoming a pioneer.  In 4th or 5th grade my parents bought a house in the far Northeast that was being built.  I was supposed to attend George Washington High School.  I was so disappointed that I couldn’t go to Frankford.  Fortunately for me, the house was never built…it fell through.  Somebody was really watching out for me. 

 

My Frankford Days in

Red, Blue and Gold

I sang tenor in the Ambassadors of Song Choir and acted in the school’s presentation of Cinderella in 10th grade.   In 11th & 12th grades, I ran cross country and on the track team.  I met a lot of great people  and had great experiences.

I would’ve never received an opportunity to travel to Ireland if I hadn’t attended Frankford. In December of 1943, my grandmother signed papers for my father at 17 to enter the Navy, which was when he went overseas to fight the Germans.  My father flew when he was in the war, but my mother had never flown on a plane.  She didn’t leave the country until 1979, when my parents and I cruised to Bermuda.

 

Over the Ocean and

to the Blarney Stone

And here I was a 15-year-old kid in the mid-seventies traveling to the Ireland with his choir.  It opened up a whole other world, and showed me how people lived in other countries.   Ireland was a very different living experience 40 years ago.  In the hotels, there were no televisions and phones in rooms.

I went back to Ireland in 2019 for my 60th birthday and my 30th wedding anniversary.  It was not the same country as I remembered 42 years prior.  There were now towering skyscrapers in Dublin, including Google’s European headquarters.   I heard people speaking different languages who lived there.  There were suburbs.  We didn’t see suburbs forty-four years ago.  We  saw mostly farmland  and small villages.

Off the coast of Kerry are these islands called the Skellig Islands.  Skellig Michael, the biggest of the islands, was where they filmed two Star War movies.  Also, the Titanic was built in Northern Ireland and had a final call in Cork.  Every place you go in Ireland, they’ll tell you about the Vikings raid or the Titanic.

EDITOR'S NOTE:

SKELLIG MICHAEL— The final scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was shot on Skellig (Michael) in July 2015, with additional filming taking place there in September 2015 for The Last Jedi, the following film in the series. The remains of the Skellig Michael monastery appear in the film, representing an ancient Jedi temple.  Earlier, the Skellig Islands served as a location in the WernerHerzog 1976 movie Heart of Glass, where the islands feature in one of the prophecies by the seer Hias.  Certain scenes from the 2012 movie Byzantium were also filmed here.

When I was a freshman at Temple, I returned to Ireland with the Ambassadors of Song in 1977.  At that time, my father was the head of the Parents-Teachers Association (PTA), and Dr. King, who was still the choir director, said I could go.  The second time, we were there for 15 days. 

EDITOR’S NOTE:   In March of 1975, Frankford’s Ambassadors of Song visited Killarney and sang in Carlow, Limerick and Dublin.  In Dublin, they performed and met the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the President of Ireland and the U.S. Ambassador.

Back to the Future   

 

If I could time-travel back to 1975, I would tell myself to do pretty much what I did.  I wanted to pursue journalism, so I did.  My first journalism class was in the Spring of 1977.   By then, the Bulletin, Inquirer and Daily News reporters wrote their stories on computers called Video Display Terminals (VDTs).

My philosophy was this—the medium might change, but until they can teach that computer to go out and interview, then write the story—computers are not replacing reporters.  The computer isn’t interviewing me, the computer isn’t creating the story, the only thing the computer is doing is displaying the story.  They’re still going to need reporters. 

 

I also was involved with Temple’s WRTI, public radio.  I was well-rounded in multi-media.  Not only was I able to write news stories for print, I also learned how to write radio news copy.  I knew that not all stories go across all medium in the same way.  A  television news story takes two minutes and radio one minute, but print can go longer in several parts and as a feature.   This became an asset when I joined the media relations side. 

   

So, whenever I called KYW and said there’s a story, they knew there would be sound.  It’s important to know the needs of each medium.   I learned that when the television crew came, they would want pictures, which was different from radio.   Radio reporters wanted an expert to get a sound bite.  I learned pretty early about the different medium’s needs.

 

Assignment editors were impressed I didn’t waste their time by giving them stories they couldn’t do.  TV stations often send a camera guy, so I learned how to write a voice-over like a script to make it very visual.  I would write my press release and an advisory in a way that was helpful for the news media.  The more work you can do for them, the more likely they’ll cover your events.  I pitched my stories to the media outlets based on their needs. 

 

I attribute this acquired skill to the training  I received at WRTI and the broadcast news course I took at Temple.  When I was a reporter, I was able to develop stories and watch up close how TV reporters work.  When I watched the news at an event I covered, I paid attention to how each station presented the story, as opposed to a print reporter’s approach. 

 

Preston’s advice to Frankford students interested in pursuing journalism...

 

Look for opportunities where you can write a story.   Do your research.  For example, find out about a college freshman or sophomore who was a high school sports star in a small town and currently playing on a prominent city college team.  Contact the weekly newspaper in that athlete’s town and offer to write a story for free.  You don’t have to look far for opportunities.   Don’t worry about the money, the money will come—get your experience first.

 Or  perhaps an aspiring actor from a small town is appearing in a Philadelphia theater group’s production.  Offer to cover it for their local media outlet.  As you find more reporting/writing opportunities, you build samples for your portfolio.  This is what potential employers want to see for staff writing and freelance positions.

Overall Advice to Today's Students

Never give up.  Your dreams will happen if you stay the course.

DUBLIN TODAY

1970S DUBLIN - HENRY STREET

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Dublin - Henry Street 1970s

Dublin - Henry Street 1970s

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How Do I Become a Journalist with No Experience
1.  A bachelor’s degree in journalism or communications is a common requirement for working as a professional journalist, so anyone looking to enter this field should start here.  A journalism program will teach students the basics of good reporting, including techniques, ethics, basic skills such as writing and more. Students can also gain some important network connections during their time in school, such as at a school newspaper, magazine, radio and television station.
2.  Get Clips (Writing Samples) stringing (reporting) for a community weekly, writing for online blogs, or starting a podcast which requires many common journalistic skills to do, including interview skills, research skills, writing skills, speaking skills and more.
3.  Get an Internship -- Internships provide students with the ability to gain hands-on work experience while still in school that they can then detail on their resumes when beginning their job search. These opportunities also give students the chance to form valuable professional connections and get references from their internship supervisors, which help at landing a job.
4. Create a News Blog, and find and report your own news stories.  Get a website and content management system, and use your iPhone or Android to record news events an add to your stories.  Learn optimization and add important social media links.  You can promote your news stories/profiles on social media.
5.  Leverage Connections - Network connections can make finding a job much easier, especially for recent graduates lacking in experience. Consider anyone with a personal connection who works in the journalism industry and talk to them. Ask questions, get a feel for what they do and let them know you are looking for a job.