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Meet Kevin Flowers
Hello everyone. I have worked for the Erie Times-News since 1989. I am one of our senior reporters and focus on city government and various types of in-depth coverage. I also do some data-based reporting and have covered crime and county government for the Times-News. I have been part of numerous data-based reporting/investigative projects over more than three decades, I’ve supervised some of those projects, and I have taught beginning reporting at Edinboro University as an adjunct instructor.
I am an Erie native and McDowell High School graduate who attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and earned a bachelor’s degree in English/journalism there. I played basketball and ran track in high school and attended Miami on a full track and field scholarship. I was a two-year captain of the men’s track and field team with the high jump being my specialty event: my personal best was 7 feet, 3 ½ inches and I won three straight Mid American Conference high jump titles.
Since college I’ve had two knee surgeries, have torn my right Achilles tendon and I live with two compressed discs in my back so the cumulative impact of leaping full-speed into sand pits and over fiberglass bars has definitely been felt.
I am also the proud president of Erie News Guild Local 38187, the union representing journalists and many other employees at the Erie Times-News, and I am an elected member of The News Guild’s national Executive Committee, currently serving my third term.
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Why I became a journalist
Since childhood I’ve been interested in journalism and its place in our society. I love literature/reading/words, something I give my mother, Virginia Flowers, credit for because she does as well.
I also — very seriously — was hugely inspired by the TV show “Lou Grant” as a kid. The staff at the fictional Los Angeles Tribune seemed like real people who did the mundane but necessary work it takes to gather information, publish stories and inform people, even when doing so was personally inconvenient. I ate it up.
I believe journalists have a deep responsibility to inform the community with accuracy and detail, and to hold people and institutions accountable. As a Black man, I also believe diversity and representation are vitally important as we cover/report/tell stories. I absolutely love this profession.
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What I like best about my job
Interacting with a diverse mix of community members. Producing stories that help people, create change or spark serious community discussion of a critical issue. The constant learning required in order to be able to explain a story to people in context. I also love and embrace the challenge of being in a business where the entire world can review your work each and every day. It keeps you on your toes. My byline is my credibility in this profession, and I do not run from that.
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A story I worked on that has had a lasting impact on me
There have been so many.
— Covering the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
— The April 1998 shooting by a student at an eighth-grade dance in Edinboro which killed a teacher who was chaperoning the dance and wounded two of his classmates.
— Numerous homicides, including the case of a group of young men who stabbed one of their best friends to death and disposed of his body in Presque Isle Bay because they thought he would “snitch” on them about an assault they all took part in.
— My one-on-one sit-down interview with former President Barack Obama in April 2008 following a campaign rally at Penn State-Behrend. Obama was seeking the Democratic nomination for president at the time.
— A mortgage fraud scheme I reported on for several years which led to federal indictments/prison time for five people who preyed on low-income buyers who had little knowledge of the homebuying process. Some of the buyers lost their homes, but I’m especially proud of the fact that many were able to keep their houses after local, statewide and federal agencies reached out with assistance in the wake of the Erie Times-News’ reporting.
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Another which stands out is a piece I wrote in 2008 about the 40th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, focusing in part on a woman who was discriminated against by an Erie landlord years prior because she had a Black boyfriend at the time. That woman filed a successful housing discrimination complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission against her landlord her, who was fined $23,000.
The woman had trouble collecting that fine for years. That changed after publication of my story. The woman received her money her and she and her now-husband her used it as a down payment on their first home her.
What is the biggest challenge I face?
There’s never enough time to get to all of the stories you know about. Further, many people don’t read physical newspapers anymore, so our industry has had to adapt to providing news on multiple platforms. Journalists are also frequently attacked by the public with “fake news” cries for simply doing their jobs, especially in the Internet age where the public has virtually instant access to both you and the work you produce.
I’ve noticed this over three-plus decades: There used to be a much wider acknowledgment of a common set of facts regarding issues, even if some folks don’t agree with or like the coverage of said issues. But too often these days, journalists are confronted with a “if you don’t cover this issue from my preferred viewpoint, you are biased” mentality. That is disappointing because every journalist I’ve known takes his or her job and responsibilities to the public very seriously. This is a business where you need to have compassion for others, a passion for learning/digging, the ability to think critically and thick skin. And journalists, by and large, don’t separate who they are from what they do. Those things are intertwined. We live this.
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What I like to do when I’m not working
I love to work out, read, cook (I make my own seasonings for example) and listen to music — hip-hop, R&B, rock and jazz are my favorites. I also watch lots of movies, sports and television shows in my family room home theater, made up of old-school components and speakers including a Yamaha Dolby Digital surround amp, Blu-ray player, streaming devices, two subwoofers and a 55-inch high-definition television. Hell I still have a laserdisc player from the 1990s. I enjoy all of the above as well as traveling (when we can) with my girlfriend Molly. I’ve been a volunteer youth mentor and sports coach, including travel basketball for Erie Crossover Basketball, and I’m a member of YMCA of Greater Erie’s board of directors.
I also love to spend as much time as I can with my three children.
Brevin, 22, is a recent honors graduate of Gannon University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics who works in Erie as a data analyst and recently moved into his first solo apartment.
Breya, 21, will graduate with honors in April from Eastern Michigan University with a degree in marketing. She is one of the funniest and most insightful people I know.
And my youngest, Kamryn, turns 17 next week and is a junior with a 4.2 career GPA at her siblings’ alma mater, Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy. Kam wants to be a nurse practitioner; she is a member of the National Honor Society who works part-time and starts at small forward for Erie High School’s varsity girls basketball squad. Go Lady Royals!
Favorite event or Erie-area tradition
I enjoy visiting Presque Isle State Park and Erie’s bayfront and Waldameer Park & Water World whenever I can. I’ve always enjoyed the Blues & Jazz Festival at Frontier Park. I also like to frequent the many unique family owned restaurants and stores in our area, and there are plenty of good ones.
Why journalism matters
Journalism is a bedrock of democracy. That comes with huge responsibility for journalists, because people and institutions entrust us to tell their stories accurately and fairly. Powerful people and institutions need to be held accountable; the public deserves to know what’s happening in its community and what it all means; and there are orchestrated efforts in play each and every day by individuals and groups to mislead people. And maybe most importantly, journalism helps give a voice to people who often don’t feel like they have one.
More from Kevin Flowers:Reporter bio, article links
Contact Kevin Flowers at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ETNflowers.
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