Stephen Morse, a columnist at the Daily Pennsylvanian struck first on Oct. 12 with a video interview of Dan Savage, author of the nationally syndicated Savage Love column. Savage, in town to talk to the Philadelphians Against Santorum, gave the University of Pennsylvania senior "by far the most insane interview that I've ever conducted."
Speaking of the Green Party candidate who, until being kicked off the ballot, was poised to help Republicans by bleeding votes from Democratic Senatorial candidate Bob Casey, Savage said:
"Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there's nothing left but rope."
And later, "If Carl Romanelli gets back on the ballot, someone should run him over with a truck."
Blogger Michael Petrelis, a gay-rights activist from San Francisco, likened Savage to the left's Ann Coulter, saying Savage would be welcome in a political supremacist group in Texas, where in 1998 James Byrd Jr., a black man from Jasper, was dragged by the neck behind a pickup truck until death.
Savage has since apologized for the ill-chosen truck metaphor if not the thought:
Jeezuhs, never have three Hoegardens before someone points a camera at your face. But the Green in the race there is scum, and should be slapped - just slapped - and slapped hard. Not literally though. No violence.
He then told Michael Miner at the Chicago Reader he'd been "a mouthy idiot. I kind of regretted the words as they left my mouth." He described Petrelis as "someone I like and respect, and if he wants to let me have it, let it come."
Quite the storm for a few minutes of YouTube video posted to a college blog by an English and history major from Long Island.
Then went out and gathered another pelt.
On Sunday, Morse interviewed U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., when the Congressman decided to speak at the Penn Israel Coalition despite being the story of the day, word having just leaked that the FBI was investigating him.
To my surprise, Congressman Weldon was quite open with his views as to why he is now front and center in the media only three weeks before the November elections. Weldon asserts that his sharp criticisms of the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence organizations have made them want to get back at him, namely by opening this investigation.
Then Weldon alleged for the record that the source for the investigation was Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics, and a former associate of Congs. John Conyers and Charles Schumer.
The video was linked around the country, on blogs left and right. The New York Times wrote about it. So did Fox News, which attributed the Sloan allegation to Weldon's comments at a news conference the next day, as reported in the Inquirer.
Morse, a 21-year-old Penn senior, explained his method by phone Thursday. He's been working on a documentary for a history thesis, and grew interested in the U.S. senate race in Pennsylvania. When he sought an interview with Casey, the candidate's staff screened his questions. "The only question they would not let me ask was about Carl Romanelli - so I figured I was on to something."
He asked Savage about Romanelli. And he asked Weldon about him. But when Weldon went on about Sloan, the student journalist realized he had something that might hold interest for a broader audience than his history prof, and told his editors at the Daily Pennsylvanian that they had to post something online that night.
Morse's boss, DP editorial page editor Evan Goldin, said the two scoops have helped deliver nearly 10,000 hits over the past week, when the typical number of page views for seven days is much fewer than 1,000.
At the same time, the YouTube videos of Savage and Weldon have been viewed nearly 20,000 times.
Morse, he said, was a print columnist last year. When the student paper launched some blogs this semester, "he struck us as someone who would be a great blogger. ... Very punchy. Very outlandish. Very outspoken."