reviews The Color

Bob Labriola at knew Bill Nunn Jr. personally and has done more over the years to chronicle the team than almost anyone. It was especially important for me then to see what he would say about The Color of Sundays. His review is out today, and I really appreciate his kind words and deep understanding of the book and its themes…

Bob Labriola

Bob Labriola

“Bill Nunn is one of the most significant men ever to be involved in the scouting aspect of professional football, and his skill at this job is evident in the names etched on those six Lombardi trophies on display at the Steelers practice facility. Conte tells some of that story, but the real value of his effort is the context of the time in America when Nunn was growing into manhood.”


Check out the full review at Reminder: I will be talking about some of the stories behind the book at 6 p.m., Thursday, at Point Park University, Downtown. Registration:


Getting sources on the record

An old, bearded photo of me hosting Essential Pittsburgh at WESA-FM.

An old (bearded) photo of me hosting Essential Pittsburgh at WESA-FM.

The thing about covering cybersecurity is that some of my best sources never want to be identified. They know just how bad things can get with hackers and so they stay out of the limelight. As they tell me, “You don’t need to name us. Just know we’re here working to keep people safe.”

That’s fine, but it doesn’t fill newspapers (or the Internet, for that matter).

I finally got three top cybersecurity experts in Pittsburgh to sit down with me for interviews. Because the moment was so rare, I told them I would do a story for the Tribune-Review — but I also wanted to know if they would do the interviews on Essential Pittsburgh, the daily talk show on WESA 90.5 FM, Pittsburgh’s NPR station.

A cool shadowy photo of FBI agent Chris Geary. Taken by the Trib's Stephanie Strasburg.

A cool shadowy photo of FBI agent Chris Geary. Taken by the Trib’s Stephanie Strasburg.

They all agreed. First, you can hear two Pittsburgh FBI agents — Mike Christman, assistant special agent in charge of cyber, and Chris Geary, who heads one of two Pittsburgh-based cyber investigations teams. They talk about growing up nearby and how they take threats to Pittsburgh companies as a personal issue.

Later, I interviewed Maria Vello, president emeritus of the National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that tracks down black hat hackers — and that keeps such a low profile you’ve probably never heard of them. Maria’s description of the precautions she takes with her own debit card and online persona will freak you out. It did me.

images_0Finally, I talked with Peter Singer, author of a new fiction book (with nonfiction footnotes) about the consequences of a cyber attack on the United States. We figured that interview would round out a solid hour of cyber talk!

Point Park & the Trib collaborate again


Thom Baggerman, chair of faculty in the School of Communication, describing the layout out the new Center for Media Innovation.

I have been working at Point Park University for 10 years since we started the Point Park News Service program there. Over that time, we have published more than 900 pieces of student work and Trib Total Media, our founding partner, has paid students more than $8,600 for their work.

Now, we’re building on that foundation. I’m excited to finally be able to talk about our new project — the Point Park University Center for Media Innovation. This will be a place for training journalism students in all of the disciplines of our craft. And it will be a place for working journalists to come and figure out the way forward.

It was a big deal to see the announcement in the Trib this morning. And it was great to hear local leaders giving their take during the press conference. It will be even more exciting over the coming months to see this place actually come together. Looking forward to it.


City Paper’s take on The Color of Sundays

Author event — 6 p.m., Thursday, 10/29 @ Point Park University. Registration:

Pittsburgh City Paper has a great take on The Color of Sundays… The reporter Jodi DiPerna took the time to read the book, talk with me and understand the nuances of the narrative. Check out the full review here.

CityPaper“Pure football fans will learn how Nunn found key pieces of those dynastic Steelers teams…

“But the book is also about race in America and race in sports. It’s about the Pittsburgh Courier. And it is about the segregated era of the NFL (1934 to 1946), an era that many fans are unaware of and that the NFL is happy to keep swept under the carpet.” 

Art Jr. talks about Chuck Noll’s job interview with the Steelers

Me with Art Rooney Jr.

Me with Art Rooney Jr.

Art Rooney Jr. summoned me to his office. When you’re a Pittsburgh kid and that happens, you go. Every time.

We had a terrific conversation. He told me about the day Chuck Noll came into the team’s offices at the old Roosevelt Hotel, Downtown, for his job interview. The other guys — including Art Jr.’s dad and older brother, Dan — were lobbing softball questions. Noll had been working as an assistant coach to Don Shula with the Baltimore Colts. The guys wanted to know whether Noll had been watching the Orioles baseball team, who he knew throughout the league, stuff like that.

Art Jr. walked into the room and elbowed his way into the conversation. He asked first how Noll felt about the BLESTO scouting combine — in which the Steelers shared information about college prospects among other NFL teams. Noll said that was fine as long as the team had good scouts of its own.

Art Jr. made postcards from the fight program of the Conn-Louis bout.

Art Jr. made postcards from the fight program of the Conn-Louis bout.

Then, Art wanted to know something else. By then, he had decided the Steelers could not win by excluding black players. A previous coach Buddy Parker had been notorious for getting drunk after every team loss and then berating the players — using the N-word at times to talk about the black players. He also had been the coach when the team drafted black quarterback Roy Curry — who never got to take a snap under center. Curry ended playing wide receiver and then getting injured.

Art Jr. asked Noll point blank: How do you feel about black players?

Noll, who had played under Paul Brown in Cleveland, was ready: I don’t care about the color of a player’s skin, he said. Noll said he was more interested in whether a guy was intelligent about the game — and whether he would be a team player.

What if an assistant coach didn’t go along with that approach?, Art Jr. asked.

I’d fire him on the spot, Noll answered.

During my work on The Color of Sundays, Bill Nunn Jr. was adamant that Noll’s openness about black players was every bit as essential as Nunn’s own ability find them. The team could have scouted all of the best black players in the world but it wouldn’t have mattered if they never got a chance — especially at key positions. By all accounts, Noll was as good as his word.

Art Jr. gave me another of his books -- about Steelers great Jack Butler. And inscribed it with another nice passage.

Art Jr. gave me another of his books — about Steelers great Jack Butler. And inscribed it with another nice passage.

Author event: From Civil Rights to the Super Bowl

Updated Front CoverI will be talking at Point Park University on the evening of Oct. 29 about the Steelers’ secret strategy for finding black players that other teams could not see. This will be a chance for me to tell about the process of writing The Color of Sundays and to put the story into the context of the times. Bill Nunn Jr. lived at an interesting time — and he had a front-row seat. Also, I expect to have at least a couple of special guests in the audience.

When: 6 p.m., Thursday, Oct 29

Where: Point Park University’s Lawrence Hall, Room 200

Registration required:


Off-Road Politics looks at The Color

IMG_4767My friend Salena Zito helped me connect with the Rooney family when I first started reporting on The Color of Sundays. As a North Side girl — ahem, I mean, Allegheny City girl — she has that kind of street cred.

Salena brought it back around today by having me on her podcast to talk about the book. We had a great conversation and got a little more into the book’s larger themes. You can listen to us here.

Reminder: Book signing Saturday at Fort Days in Ligonier. I’ll be at Second Chapter Books on Main Street, somewhere near Jim O’Brien!

PA Bar Association journalism award

dt.common.streams.StreamServerJust found out the Pennsylvania Bar Association picked my cybersecurity reporting as the winner of its journalism competition for a special report/series. This is a big deal for the Trib and a nice recognition from a group of professionals that I respect.

The story looked at how hackers are targeting lawyers because they often have great information on their clients that is propriety, highly valuable and typically very well organized! The Bar Association plans to give out the William A. Schnader Print Media Award for Special Report/Series in November.

Essential Pittsburgh: The bigger story of ‘The Color’

Essential_Pittsburgh_LogoWhile The Color of Sundays is definitely a football story, it also has strong themes tied to the history of American Civil Rights and the role of the Pittsburgh Courier, as the nation’s voice for black Americans during much of the 20th Century.

That larger story comes out in my conversation with Paul Guggenheimer, the host of Essential Pittsburgh, a daily talk show on 90.5 WESA-FM, Pittsburgh’s NPR station. He really wanted to know a lot more about Bill Nunn Jr.’s early years, his motivations and the challenges he and other blacks faced.

It’s definitely one of my favorite interviews so far. You can listen to it here.

Bill Nunn Jr.

The Westinghouse High School basketball team with Bill Nunn Jr., top row, third from the right. Teammate Chuck Cooper, first row, second from right, went on to become the first black player drafted into the NBA.



“Inspired, but also angered” – College Football Hall of Fame


College Football Hall of FameFor anyone into football history, few jobs could be better than the one Kent Stephens has.

He works as historian and curator for the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. The building now also houses the Black College Football Hall of Fame. Kent has been working on an exhibit about the Black College All-America teams that the Pittsburgh Courier started naming in 1925.

Kent took out a little time to read The Color of Sundays. His take…

“There are countless untold stories tracing back through the history of racially segregated sports. Conte tells the Bill Nunn, Jr. story in a way that will leave you inspired, but also angered at the injustice that he and millions of others had to endure. This biography will leave you with a desire to learn more about this aspect of football’s past.”



Launch Party 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct 6. Clark Bar & Grill. Free parking.