A newsmaker you should know: Point Park director writes book about his friend's crime

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During the last presidential election, Steve and Joanne Hallock, like many couples, discussed the leading candidates.

“We were frustrated with how some of the politicians were talking and about their attitudes towards women. I started telling my wife that I didn’t think a lot of attitudes had changed over the years,” Mr. Hallock said.

As the Mt. Lebanon couple talked, Mr. Hallock, now 64, shared stories of when he was a young man in the 1960s and 1970s in Denver. Many young men were angry and disrespectful of women at that time, he said, and, as he talked, he remembered how one of his friends had been arrested and pleaded guilty to rape.

Mr. Hallock is director of the School of Communication at Point Park University and has more than three decades of journalism experience. So he could tell what was a good story.

“I said to my wife, ‘This would make a good book,’” he said of his experiences at the time, including the story of the friend who committed rape.

His book, "In Cheesman Park," was published late last year.

After his arrest, the friend called Mr. Hallock from jail.

“He was drunk and angry and admitted to the rape. I wanted to look at what really drove him to be a rapist, what caused him to do what he did,” he said.

Mr. Hallock said he came from an extremely dysfunctional family, which nearly drove him to drop out of high school.

“My goal was to just get out of high school. I tried to drop out of school and join the Navy at 17, but they wouldn’t take me. Thank God,” he said. 

He did get out of high school, “barely graduating” in his words, and moved out on his own at the age of 18, living with a Navy veteran who was 10 years older than him.

“The guy was really into beer drinking and chasing women. It was where I saw some of the attitudes against women that I talk about later,” he said.

Mr. Hallock worked full time but knew he wanted a college degree, so he started taking night classes at the University of Colorado.

“My dad was a salesman, so I majored in business, but I found I really liked and was good at my writing courses,” he said.

He decided to major in journalism and loved college.

“You hear people say that high school was the best four years of their lives. I hated high school, but I loved college. That was the best four years of my life,” he said.

Mr. Hallock said his love of journalism shouldn’t have come as a surprise – his first job as a kid was delivering the Denver Post, and he would read the paper for an hour before delivering it.

“And I had a journalism teacher in high school who was really good and turned me on to it. Ironically, I didn’t do as good in her class as I did in others,” he said.

After he received his bachelor’s degree, he moved to a small town in Wyoming to cover sports for a daily newspaper with a circulation of 4,000. After a fellow reporter suggested they swap beats for a couple of weeks, the editor permanently made him the business writer.

Mr. Hallock did what many young reporters did: He moved every few years to bigger papers, covering a variety of topics including education, features, books and music. Then came the move to Pittsburgh.

“My wife was from Pittsburgh, and once I saw it, I really liked it. I decided to look for a job here,” he said.

He was offered a part-time job at The Pittsburgh Press as a copy editor, a position that paid more than his reporting job, so he accepted. The couple moved to Pittsburgh, only to find the job no longer existed because of a strike and the demise of The Pittsburgh Press.

“So we were stuck here, but, fortunately, I found another job,” he said

Then the academia bug bit again. Mr. Hallock received a graduate assistant position at Point Park and completed his master’s degree in journalism. He had begun to consider teaching at the college level.

“I would find myself looking over the shoulders of the young journalists and helping them write better. I enjoyed it so much that I thought I would like to teach,” he said.

After completing his master’s degree, Mr. Hallock and his family moved to the Midwest, where he accepted an editor’s position and, once again, an opportunity arose for him to get another degree.

“I was accepted into the Ph.D. program at Ohio University with a fellowship, and it was too good to pass up,” he said.

When he finished his doctoral studies, the Hallocks decided they wanted to return to Pittsburgh, and he called his good friend and former professor and mentor at Point Park University, Helen Fallon, for a reference for an opening at the University of Pittsburgh.

“She told me no, and I said, ‘What do you mean no?’ and she said, ‘We have an opening here,’” he said.

Mr. Hallock loves his job as at Point Park, and wrote his book while working. It took him two years to complete the book.

Despite a changing climate in the world of journalism, Mr. Hallock believes teaching young writers is important.

“I’ve always been an idealist. I honestly believe I can make a difference, as hokey as it sounds, but that is why I teach,” he said.

Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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