WALTER M. BRASCH, PH.D.
2460 Second St. ● Bloomsburg, Pa. 17815
- MEMBER, National Society of Newspaper Columnists
- The Newspaper Guild/ Communication Workers of America
- Society of Environmental Journalists
- National Federation of Press Women/Pennsylvania Press Club (president, 2003-2009)
- Authors Guild, The Society of Professional Journalists (Keystone State president, 1992-2002)
Dear Mr. Bram and Dean Edmondson:
I like, and fully support, the Penn State Reads Program. And, as an author and journalist myself, I support the work of my colleagues—even those whose views and opinions I disagree with.
I’m not sure that Russell Gold’s work is the best possible book to require all freshmen to read, even though your program believes fracking is an issue that “would be good to engage students, faculty and staff about something that is going on right within our home state.” Despite all the assurances your program states about objectivity and that, “Everyone who read the book found it to be very balanced,” (a nice touch of PR to justify the selection of the book) the fact is that The Boom, while well-written, and while I admire Mr. Gold’s body of work, definitely leans one direction, just as Mr. Gold’s employer, The Wall Street Journal, definitely leans in one direction. Further, the book focuses upon the business of fracking.
Now, I didn’t expect Penn State to even consider my books about fracking (Fracking Pennsylvania, which preceded Mr. Gold’s book, and Collateral Damage in the Marcellus Shale)to be included in the program. My books lean the other direction and they focus upon social issues; my first book also includes a lot about the erosion of academic integrity in fracking issues, and has held up Penn State as an example of what happens when the industry has influence upon academic research. My next book, Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit (704 pp., mid-December 2015) goes into much more detail on numerous issues, including academic integrity. Like Mr. Gold’s work, it also is based upon extensive research, verifiable facts, and interviews with a variety of people–truck drivers, riggers, engineers, physicians, environmentalists, academics, and numerous people who are affected by the process and effects of fracking.
I am not trying, nor do I especially want, Penn State to include my books in its reading program. I am not sure 18-year-olds can handle the many complexities of this issue–or even if they care. There are many MANY books with Pennsylvania themes or written by Pennsylvania authors that may be more age-appropriate that challenge minds to look in many directions. (Anything by John Updike, a Pennsylvania resident whose books were printed in Pennsylvania, is just one possibility. Another possibility is David DeKok’s excellent true-life murder mystery, Murder in the Stacks, which has a Penn State focus, and raises numerous issues, some of which predate the recent Sandusky scandal.)
What I do want is for there to be a true balance of ideas at Penn State. Definitely have Mr. Gold speak with the students. But, make sure that all views are heard. There are many individuals, with strong credentials, who will present other information to your students.
I am not available to be a guest speaker, but I know many who might consider such an invitation. And, if you are the least bit curious about my own writing, I will be more than happy to have my publisher send you an advance review copy of FRACKING AMERICA.
Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D., social issues journalist
- Fracking Pennsylvania (investigation)
- Before the First Snow (historical fiction)