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Why is WITF’s journalism newsletter named ‘The Purple Buck’?

  • Scott Blanchard/WITF
Detail of The Purple Buck in various stages, from sketch to finished painting.

 Photos courtesy of Julia Lucich

Detail of The Purple Buck in various stages, from sketch to finished painting.

I didn’t know if Julia Lucich would remember.

In early 2021, the artist painted a big canvas as a thank-you to WITF and sent it our way. Her work found a home in a conference room. It sat in on newsroom meetings. We talked about it from time to time. It became part of our landscape.

Now, over two years later, it was about to become something more than that, and I wanted to talk to her about it. I emailed her: “I’m not sure if you will remember the email you sent (below) or the painting you so kindly sent us…”

The next morning, she wrote back:


Artist Julia Lucich.

“I absolutely remember the email exchange, the painting, and what prompted me to reach out to WITF to begin with.”

She had anguished over the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the first interruption in the peaceful transfer of power in American history. She said she could not believe there were politicians — who had sworn an oath to the Constitution — who would “callously, cravenly, cynically stand by or encourage that undoing.”

A month or so after the attack, WITF developed an accountability policy: Every time we aired or published a story quoting a state or federal lawmaker who had taken one of four actions in support of the election-fraud lie, we would note that action and how it contributed to the Jan. 6 attack.

That policy gained national attention, in part because few other news organizations were taking such a distinctive step to connect the dots between lawmakers’ actions and the attempt to invalidate legal, accurate votes – including those of millions of Pennsylvanians – in a bid to ignore the will of the voters.

Lucich, 76, grew up in Florida, has lived in Israel, California and Oregon, and now lives in British Columbia, Canada. She had never heard of WITF before she came across a story about our policy. It connected with her deeply.

“We had a stark contrast between, again, amazingly, some people who … still consider themselves to be law and order lawmakers who were just supporting a position that was not in keeping with that peaceful transfer of power.

“And here, WITF had said, no, we’re not going to give you a platform to continue spreading lies. And it struck me that was just, again, such a principled stance against incivility, against distortion of reality and truth.”

She wanted to thank us. She has a series of paintings called “Party Animals” — realistic portrayals of animals, but in unusual colors (like a teal-blue bear), because she got bored and “decided to push the color over the edge just to generate a different level of energy.” She talked with WITF’s associate director of development Kevin Ditzler, who suggested using Pennsylvania’s state animal — the white-tailed deer.

Lucich went to work, eventually settling on the composition showing a purple buck amid other realistically-colored deer; two of them are fleeing.

Photos courtesy of Julia Lucich

Detail of The Purple Buck in various stages, from sketch to finished painting.

“… it doesn’t matter that the others are unwilling to accept that (deer). It’s what’s real. It doesn’t need the acceptance of the others to recognize that its stance is appropriate, is strong and it’s positive and it’s real.”

Her message to WITF: “You’re singular. You’re doing something that does stand out from the rest. You’re not willing to run.”

“The Purple Buck” resonated with us since the day it arrived. We talked about a lot of different names for this newsletter. But ‘The Purple Buck’ fit. We’re going to be talking with you about our core values of transparency, engagement, solutions and accountability. We’ll invite you into our newsroom to help us do those things better so we can give you fact-based, useful stories to help make sense of what can be a confusing wilderness of news. We’ll ask you to share ideas on what makes for trustworthy news that can strengthen communities and promote civic participation and civil dialogue.

In short, we’re doing journalism differently. To take Julia’s words, we’ll be “strong, positive and real.”

We’re glad you’re in the room with us. Look over your shoulder, there on the wall, and you’ll see The Purple Buck is here, too.

Read past editions of The Purple Buck.

Scott Blanchard / WITF

The Purple Buck at home in a WITF conference room.