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Trading Chaos for Calm: Richard Maloney Set for Retirement

Andrew Busch
SEPTA Press Officer

SEPTA was in the news. There was controversy. Richard Maloney's name was in the newspapers.

On most days over the last 40 years, this wouldn't be considered unusual. Maloney has become widely known in the Philadelphia area as a journalist and a spokesman for SEPTA.

But this was different. Maloney was the news. In March 1977, his exclusive report for KYW Newsradio about a memo promising additional state funding was blamed by some for sparking a work stoppage that shut down most of the transit system. Maloney owned an exclusive on the story after a source leaked the memo to him.

"Everyone was (mad)," Maloney recalled. "My editor stood by me, and the story passed."

The strike did, too - after 44 days.

Fast-forward three-plus decades. Maloney, now SEPTA's public relations ace, is making the rounds on local television morning news broadcasts to discuss the current work stoppage. As he was waiting to go on the air at one station, a Regional Rail train caught fire. News helicopters arrived at the scene just in time to capture the dramatic video for Maloney's live segment.

"I saw the chopper video on the monitors before I went on, but I had no idea what was happening. The station was holding my cellphone because they didn't want it to go off while I was on-air, so I couldn't call anyone," Maloney said. "I had no way of finding out what was happening. I had to wing it."

Fortunately, the fire proved to be little more than good TV. No one was injured in the accidental blaze.

As exciting as it has been to both cover and respond to these kinds of major, high-profile breaking news events, Maloney is ready for a little bit of a different day-to-day routine. A proud husband and father of two, he's looking forward to spending more time with his family - and with some waves, beaches and boats - when he retires at the end of March.

"I'm not gonna work anymore," Maloney said with a laugh when asked to describe his upcoming plans. Also on the agenda for the near future: A trip to the Caribbean with his wife. A U.S. Navy veteran, he'll also get to devote more time to one of his favorite leisure pursuits, boating.

"I'm going to relax," Maloney said.

He'll also get to look back fondly on a full career, particularly the last 14 years spent in SEPTA's Public and Government Affairs Department. Maloney leaves as SEPTA's Director of Public Affairs and Marketing.

Maloney spent the first two decades of his career at KYW Newsradio. He also worked in public relations roles for the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and Independence Blue Cross before joining SEPTA.

These experiences all helped ready him for the demands of the SEPTA press office. In particular, the training he received as a reporter - learning to run toward the burning building - has come in handy.

"One of the most important aspects of public relations, particularly for a large public organization such as SEPTA, is crisis communications," Maloney said. "Every time the phone rings, we go into crisis mode. There's always the potential for it to be a crisis."

He added: "We have built a press office that can handle anything. It's just phenomenal how everyone works here. I'm extremely proud of that."

Another point of pride is SEPTA's transparency, which has helped foster credibility with the media, and by extension, riders and the public in general.

"When questions are asked, we answer them," he said. "We give reporters access to our experts so they can get a better understanding of all the complex issues SEPTA deals with. The media knows that they can trust the information they're getting from us, whether it's good or bad."

Even though he's retiring, Maloney won't be a stranger to SEPTA. He and his wife will continue to make their home in the Philadelphia area. He's planning to volunteer at the Independence Seaport Museum.

"I'll be riding the system," Maloney said. "I'll be around."

Richard Maloney, SEPTA Director of Public Affairs & Marketing.

Maloney, then a reporter with KYW Newsradio, covering an event at the former JFK Stadium.

Maloney boating with friend and former KYW colleague, Jay Lloyd.

A preview of things to come? Reporter Maloney sports a SEPTA engineer-style hat.

Maloney at a recent press conference at Suburban Station.