Chip Minemyer: The leader of the band

Nov. 14—Over a career in the radio business, Terry Deitz has had countless opportunities to hear the hit song "Leader of the Band," written by the late Dan Fogelberg for his dad, a longtime band director at schools in Illinois.

For Terry Deitz, the song "sounds like my life" as a member of a media family, starting with father Harry Deitz Sr., who received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association last week in Harrisburg.

Terry, 61, was in Johnstown from 2006 to 2018 as vice president and general manager of market for Forever Broadcasting, then Forever Media, overseeing seven radio stations.

Before that, he was based in Meadville, Crawford County, from 2002-06, managing 13 stations in northwestern Pennsylvania, and he now serves as general manager with Times-Shamrock Communications in Scranton, Lackawanna County.

His brother, Harry Deitz Jr., spent 45 years in the newspaper business as a photographer, sports writer, sports editor, design editor and editor.

Harry Jr. retired in 2018 after 10 years as editor-in-chief of the Reading Eagle in Reading, Berks County.

Then there's reporter/photographer Harry Sr., who will be 96 in April, but still takes pictures and who made his way to the stage to deliver an emotional acceptance speech at the PNA event, saluting his children and late wife Beverly.

"My dad has had a great life," Terry said. "He taught us a lot. My brother and I both, and my sister, we have that work ethic. It's how we grew up. You work hard. You get involved in the community."

Harry Sr.'s life is chronicled in the 2021 book "Our Father's Journey: A Path Out Of Poverty," written by Harry Jr. with his dad, and with contributions from Terry and their sister, Barbara Yates.

The book tracks Harry Sr. from his 1928 birth into a poor coal-mining family and growing up in Shamokin during the Great Depression, to the Army, where he learned to take photos and "developed an interest in newspaper work."

Harry Sr. went back to school after military service and wrote for his school newspaper before graduating in 1948. His first news job was as a photographer for the upstart Shamokin Citizen in 1949, where he later became a reporter-photographer.

He also wrote stories and took news pictures for The Milton Standard, his first daily newspaper job; the Shamokin News-Dispatch; and the Shamokin News-Item. Harry Sr. even worked for a time with his son at the Reading Eagle.

Harry Sr. took photos of class reunions and weddings on the side to support his family, and serves as a lay minister with a local Lutheran church.

"He still works. He still takes pictures," Terry said. "If he has a camera with him, and he usually does, and you pass an accident, he makes you stop so he can take pictures."

Harry Sr. occasionally submits photos to The Daily Item, a CNHI newspaper in Sunbury.

"Harry, even into his mid-90s, is the ultimate news hound," said Bill Bowman, editor of The Daily Item and Danville News.

"Out at all hours of the day, any kind of weather to get the image. He's always been quick with a tip, always followed by the, 'You didn't hear it from me.' He always seemed to find his way to the story."

Finding his way to the story often impacted Harry Sr.'s family.

Terry recalled riding along when his dad covered local news — fires, municipal meetings. Terry learned to write news reports and take pictures.

Terry estimates he was 12 or 13 years old when he had his first published photograph.

"It was just what you did," Terry said. "My brother was the same way. ... I remember going to the office with my dad on Saturdays and Sundays, and watching him work on an old manual typewriter, typing with two fingers. He was the fastest two-finger typer I ever saw."

In "Our Father's Journey," Harry Jr. writes: "Family drives on Sunday afternoons were often tied to a picture he had to take or a story he was doing. When the fire alarm rang, he was out the door, regardless of the hour. ... He was a classic old-time newspaperman who was on duty day and night."

Terry said: "Anyone who has been a family member of someone working in the media knows that you'll never be No. 1, because of the demands of the job. News is constantly changing and you have to be ready to move."

Harry Sr. has won numerous state and national awards. His photos have appeared in Newsweek and The Saturday Evening Post — along with numerous Pennsylvania publications and on The Associated Press wire service.

In the book, he says: "As a journalist and photographer for daily newspapers, it meant that I was obligated to the public, whose thirst for news events never slowed down."

In Johnstown, Terry Deitz chaired the AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival committee and led the annual Johnstown Halloween Parade for Forever Media, among many community activities.

"I left a pretty significant chunk of my heart in Johns-town," he said. "We had great times there, and I'm still in touch with a lot of friends from the Johnstown area.

"Not a day goes by that I don't think about Johnstown. I keep tabs on the music festival, what's going on around the town."

Terry recalled getting his media start while running a pizza shop in Shamokin, Northumberland County, and buying advertising on a local radio station. He got hired as a freelancer and then was named news director at that radio station.

He said: "They asked me if I could write a news story. 'In my sleep,' I said."

While his dad and brother have worked primarily in print media, Terry has run radio stations, fielding duties that have ranged from selling advertising to broadcasting live local sports, and hearing his family's story in a pop hit song from the early 1980s.

"In that song, Dan Fogelberg talks about how, 'The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old,' " Terry said.

"And there's a line that goes, 'My brothers' lives were different, for they heard another call.' ...

"Every time I hear that, I think about my dad. To call us a media family is, I guess, true. But we went different directions. I ended up in radio completely by accident."

Chip Minemyer is the publisher of The Tribune-Democrat and The Times-News of Cumberland, Md. He can be reached at 814-532-5111. Follow him on Twitter @MinemyerChip.