The Best Sound Bites

Summer is traditionally a slow news period. Sure, there are the typical flash thunderstorms that wreak havoc in neighborhoods causing unfortunate damage and injuries, but there have been so many times when producers and editors end up scratching their heads as they ponder the old adage: when in doubt, lead with the weather.

This summer has been dominated by the BP spill cleanup and the fall out for the gulf region as well as the corporate world and the government. Locally in Philadelphia, corruption and sports always top people’s minds and two sound bites have occurred in the past 24 hours that warrant some notice.

Three police officers found themselves at a routine tripped alarm call near Pat’s Cafe in lower northeast Philadelphia’s Frankford neighborhood. Locals recall that the taproom was the site of  the killing of Officer Gary Skerski during a robbery in 2006. This week, officers were called to Pat’s when an alarm at a neighboring business went off in the middle of the night. Pat’s was closed at the time, but apparently a door at Pat’s and the safe were open. While two uniformed officers were doing the right thing at Pat’s and trying to track down the owner (all caught on surveillance tape), the third officer helped himself to $825 in the safe (also caught on videotape).

At a news conference four days after the corrupt act, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey help a news conference where he announced the cop with sticky fingers would be suspended with intent to dismiss in 30 days. It was during this news conference, Ramsey had one of the greatest sound bites I have ever heard:

“The police badge is a symbol of public trust and authority; it’s meant to cover your chest – not your butt.”

Outstanding! You will see and hear that bite all over the local news. Whether Ramsey came up with that nugget on his own or his crack PR staff word-smithed it, doesn’t matter. It’s short, sweet and is outrageously effective in getting the point across: Ramsey and the department won’t tolerate corrupt  cops.

The other great sound bite came from the just-traded Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ. He was the lead player traded by the Phillies in the deal with the Astros to get pitching ace Roy Oswalt. Happ had an emotional afternoon Thursday, saying goodbye to the teammates he won a World Series with and the 2009 National League East Championship (quite a resume for this young pitcher who still has much growing to do). In his post-trade news conference, he showed superb class and smarts as he said, “Baseball doesn’t wait for anybody. I have to turn the page.”

These are the type of sound bites that you can’t make up. But either through keen reporter questions and having a conversation with the newsmaker rather than worrying about getting good sound bites, these sound bites happen naturally.

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