A news van belonging to WTAJ Johnstown-Altoona was a
casualty of the rioting at Penn State Wednesday night, in the wake of the
announcement that beloved football coach Joe Paterno had been dismissed.
WTAJ is the news leader in DMA No. 102. News Director David Kaplar says he
doesn't think the station was singled out. "It was a question of
convenience," he says. "We were parked on the street, and that's what
Kaplar pulled WTAJ's crews out when it got violent. No employees were injured.
Rioters first pelted the van with rocks, then quickly assembled to tip it over and
break the windows. "It's dead," Kaplar said of the vehicle, which had
the station's call letters and the CBS logo on the side.
Paternowas let go by the Penn State board of trustees Wednesday night following a sexscandal involving a longtime assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, who is
accused of molesting eight boys. Paterno alerted university officials after an
incident involving Sandusky and a young boy was brought to his attention in
2002, but some feel he should've done more.
The New York Times wrote of last
night's violence: Students pounded on the sides of upright news vans, and as
officers herded them down the street they shouted, "Flip it over!"
Some took off their shirts and tied them around their mouths for protection
from the fog of pepper spray that left countless students hacking. A few wore
ski goggles. Many climbed on the tops of parked cars, denting and sinking the
roofs, to get a better view of the spectacle.
A video of the incident on WTAJ's wearecentralpa.com
shows a delirious crowd erupting in jubilation after the van has toppled. Other
videos on YouTube show people throwing rocks at the van prior to toppling
it. Kaplar calls it the actions of "a few out of control kids."
It's been a rough couple of weeks for local TV reporters, with some in New York
and Oakland, among other locales, feeling the brunt of protestor anger at the
various Occupy Wall Street protests.
Many of the rioters in State College blame the media coverage for Paterno's
downfall. Kaplar says an anti-media sentiment may have played a role in the
van's demise, but says comments on the stations Facebook have come down in
defense of the station. "Misdirected anger if I've ever seen it,"
commented Nancy Hayes.
"I was in Denver during Columbine, and they hated us," Kaplar says.
"We haven't gotten to that point yet at Penn State...until last
Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
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