While I never have a shortage of opinions, I don't talk about myself much. Today, I'm making an exception.
Professionally, 2006 was a good year for me. In 12 months, I went from a small but loyal following at a regional newspaper to a much bigger audience in every corner of Pennsylvania (and beyond).
After toiling in front of a computer for years, I was able to get out of the office and share my views in a variety of new ways. I expanded my horizons in 2006 to include radio (21 apperances) and television (3 invitations on "Journalists Roundtable" on the Pennsylvania Cable Network) and all over the Internet (at least 20 Web sites and blogs carry my columns or link to them on a regular basis.)
I also found myself enlisted in a hard-fought political campaign. Rep. Jim Gerlach used quotes from my columns in his campaign mailings, newspaper ads and television spots during his battle with Lois Murphy in the 6th Congressional District. I can't tell you how many people came up to me and asked if I was the same Tony Phyrillas they saw quoted on the ads (like there could be another). I even had a person from New Jersey that I used to work with e-mail me to say he saw the Gerlach commercials on the Philly TV stations.
For the record, while I voted for Gerlach, I had nothing to do with his campaign. Nobody informed me ahead of time they were going to use my endorsement in the political advertising. But the fact that Jim Gerlach won re-election while most of the other GOP Congressmen in Pennsylvania lost leads me to one conclusion. I put Gerlach over the top. (I'm still waiting for a 'thank you' card, Jim.)
The biggest thrill for me in 2006 was being a panelist on "Journalists Roundtable." Some people dream of being on "American Idol" or "The Apprentice." My dream was alway to be on "Journalists Roundtable." And to be invited back twice was just icing on the cake. By the way, it's true what they say about television adding pounds. I'm really not that big.
(I'd like to thank Bill Bova and the wonderful staff at PCN for inviting me on the program last May, July and September.)
The Internet is amazing. I've been posting opinion pieces on this blog for the past two years without really knowing if anybody reads them, but during 2006, hundreds and then thousands of people started finding me. I've had more than 3,500 visitors to this blog in the past month alone.
My columns also started popping up in all sorts of Web sites, including Web sites for Lynn Swann, Rick Santorum, Russ Diamond, William Scranton, Pat Toomey, Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania, Operation Clean Sweep, CasinoFreePa, The Club for Growth, the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition, the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association, the Green Screen and the American Center for Voting Rights.
Politicians, take note. My columns were e-mailed all over Pennsylvania by people who wanted to share them with friends and relatives. One person can e-mail 100 others in seconds. I started hearing from people in places I never knew existed. Maybe politicians should stop putting so many campaign signs along roads and start using the Internet more.
The other neat thing that started happening in 2006 is that I began receiving invitations to speak to groups. While nobody is paying to hear me speak, I can proudly say that nobody has walked out during my rambling talks.
I'd like to thank the Spring-Ford Rotary Club, the Pottstown Area Senior Citizens Discussion Group and the Kiwanis Club of East Penn Valley for inviting me to speak at their meetings. I also visited journalism classes at Coventry Christian School and Owen J. Roberts High School to talk to young people about the future of this business. What future, you're probably thinking.
I mentioned earlier about my budding career in talk radio. Here's some memorable radio apperances from 2006:
The Mike Faust Show on WEEU 830 AM in Reading
The Bob Durgin Show on WHP 580 AM in Harrisburg
The Fred Honsberger Show on KDKA 1020 AM in Pittsburgh
The Lowman S. Henry Show on WHYL 960 AM in Carlisle
The Nick Lawrence Show on WPAZ 1370 AM in Pottstown
The Bruce Elliot Show on WBAL 1090 AM in Baltimore
The John McGinnis Show on WRTA 1240 AM in Altoona
Nick Lawrence even invited me to guest host his show while he was on vacation. I have a newfound appreciation for talk radio hosts. It's not as easy as it looks. Thanks Nick.
I also won an award for column writing in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists, Philadelphia Chapter. While it's always nice to be recognized by peers, the biggest honor of 2006 is having been named twice to the list of "The Top 10 Conservative Idiots" in the United States by the Democratic Underground, which is some sort of liberal political action group.