An enemy of the people died last week.
I worked with him for a few years long ago in Pittsburgh.
I didn’t much care for Andrew Schneider personally, but admired the worked he did as an enemy of the people.
He won a Pulitzer prize for disclosing how wealthy people easily manipulated the organ transplant system worldwide so that they could jump to the head of the line, often at the expense of people who needed a new organ more.
A few years later, he scored another Pulitzer, this time for uncovering the truck-size holes in the Federal Aviation Administration’s medical screening apparatus for pilots.
Both series didn’t just win recognition that many journalists seek – sometimes too much to the point where they all but forget the people they’re supposed to be writing for.
The transplant system was overhauled. And the FAA reduced the chances of a pilot having a heart attack a few miles above land with a couple hundred passengers aboard.
With more than four decades of newspapering behind me, I’ve known a lot of enemies of the people.
I’ve been accused many times of being one of them.
Like the time the president of a union local representing grocery clerks and cashiers accused me of being anti-union when I disclosed how he and his cronies had awarded themselves fat paychecks while the membership was struggling to make ends meet because of the sweetheart contracts they negotiated.
Or when a Philadelphia councilman tried to block me from public meetings because I detailed his longtime friendship with the head of the local mafia and his chief of staff’s intimate involvement in a gang that sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in meth.
And I still remember a Pennsylvania governor’s press conference where he denounced my series on corruption, institutionalized racial discrimination and incompetence in the state police.
I worked with some enemies of the people over the years whose hateful acts awed me.
I remember the reporters who disclosed how babies in Philadelphia’s foster care system were dying of abuse and neglect at the rate of one a month.
I was amazed by the work of a reporting duo that produced irrefutable data showing the erosion of the middle class – 20 years before most people realized they no longer could stop it.
And I applauded the reporters who showed how Arizona’s disciplinary system for physicians who committed atrocious acts of malpractice barely got a slap on the wrist and sometimes even got an indirect pat on the back.
Here at the AFN, I guess we’re enemies of the people too.
We tell the community about your sons and daughters and your neighbors kids who win national recognition for making an intricate robot that works, who have labored for weeks to produce a Christmas ballet that has become as much an institution here as Santa Claus and who spend months wracking their bodies to play football or cheer the team on.
And who can ignore the enemy acts we commit when we tell you about the amazing ways some of your local businesses were born and the work that business organizations put into things like Ahwatukee’s Red White and Boom?
I won’t even detail our outrageous enemy acts of putting a spotlight on the individuals who freely give of their time to take orphaned senior citizens to get their groceries, those who equip needy kids with decent clothes and adequate supplies so they have a chance to succeed in school, those who spend so much of their time and energy serving their community.
Look at today’s paper.
The enemy in us is reporting on the businesses, individuals and nonprofit organizations recognized last week by the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce for their many selfless acts in the name of bettering the community.
And it introduces you to people like Realtor Jim Hunt, who gladly takes on the unpleasant task of hitting people up for money that the Ahwatukee YMCA uses to provide after-school care for the children of struggling couples and other services.
And it compels us to disclose the agonizing efforts of an Ahwatukee couple to help one of their newborn twin daughters survive a serious heart condition.
Yep, the enemy of the people, alright.
But with an enemy like us, who needs friends?