About Andrew Conte

Andrew Conte serves as the founding director of Point Park University's Center for Media Innovation. He has worked 25 years in journalism, most recently as an investigative reporter at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, where he remains a contributor. Andrew authored the nonfiction books "The Color of Sundays" and "Breakaway."

Pittsburgh media column

“We are all passionate in our belief that strong journalism is essential to a strong community.”

I’m excited to be partnering with NEXTpittsburgh on a new media column. Inspired by my work at the Center for Media Innovation. Because journalism is too important to ignore or let die.

Please check it out…

Andrew Conte speaking in June 2018 at The First Amendment for the Twenty-First Century conference in Pittsburgh. 

 

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#1APgh: The freedom to care

I was humbled and honored to participate in Pittsburgh’s first First Amendment conference this month. The Pittsburgh Foundation and Heinz Endowments asked the CMI to pull together a panel on how technology both threatens and expands our freedoms of speech, assembly and religion. We put together a killer group that included Trevor Timm from the Freedom of Press Foundation; Stephanie Whited, who “directs communications” at The Tor Project; and David Greene, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

It turns out that, yes, you should be afraid … of some lurking threats such as increased government surveillance and government crackdowns on whistleblowers. But I insisted that everyone provide some reason for hope as well, and the panelists had no trouble offering evidence for feeling good. They cited the Supreme Court’s narrow decision requiring law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before accessing cell phone records.

In addition, WESA offered me a prime slot to speak on The Confluence next to Robert Rosenthal, executive producer for the Center for Investigative Reporting, and Indira Lakshmanan, who teaches journalism ethics at the Poynter Institute and is a columnist for the Boston Globe. You may hear the interview here (starting around 36:00). 

 

 

Seedlings for journalism

Erin Gannon with her Golden Quill. Photo by Jennifer Jordan.

Like seedlings taking root after a fire, small journalism outlets are rising up amid the massive disruptions taking place across our industry. How do I know? My latest column features media outlets that did not exist until recently – but that won big at the Press Club’s annual awards dinner. The most inspirational: Erin Gannon beat out established media outlets. The catch? She has Down Syndrome and would not have had access to traditional media in the past. The revolution is finally happening.

Please check out (and share) my column: http://triblive.com/opinion/columnists/andrewconte/13674497-74/andrew-conte-more-voices-being-heard-in-journalisms-walled-garden.

It’s a small world…

How small is the world after all? I creeped up on this guy wearing a Trib Total Media Pirates shirt near the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan outside of Mexico City.

MEXICO CITY – The strange car pulled up outside of our rental house at 4:30 a.m.

None of us in my family of four knew the driver, but we walked up to the Volkswagen in the early morning darkness, handed the man our luggage and climbed inside.

We felt comfortable riding with our Uber driver even in the middle of the night. He has a rating of 4.83 out of 5 possible stars, has been driving for the past year and has received 83 rider compliments for excellent service. Other customers had spoken up and validated him. Besides, we knew that Uber would track the path of our ride.

We often think in the United States about how technology makes simple tasks easier, but here smartphone apps and other innovations of the so-called sharing economy also have made life safer while creating new job opportunities. The sharing economy refers to businesses in which people loan out their homes, vehicles and other possessions to strangers who are willing to pay for their use. Read more…

Young people showing way forward via social media

It’s an inspiring time to be the parent of teenagers. From my latest column…

Emma Gonzalez.

Emma Gonzalez barely knew how to use Twitter on the morning of Feb. 14, but six weeks later, she had tweeted more than 1,200 times and had 1.23 million followers.

Of course, her life changed that day, along with the lives of her Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School classmates in Parkland, Fla., when a former student with an assault rifle killed 17 people. After Gonzalez gave an impassioned speech about gun control in the days following the attack, her social-media prominence swelled. Now, she uses the platform to connect with, recognize and elevate other users — particularly young people.

Since the attack, high school students nationwide have used social media like never before, inspiring organic collective action such as school walkouts across the country and this weekend’s “March For Our Lives” in Washington.

As Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight data analyst, noted a week after Parkland , “Something is different this time.” Keep reading…

Trust in being challenged

I have struggled, like many, to understand the times in which we live. Certainly social media has changed the way we communicate but, more directly, it has allowed us to avoid challenging situations. That’s the wrong direction. We all need to be challenged on the assumptions we hold, and the best journalism does that by upholding the truth – even when it’s unpleasant.

I’ve been reading Timothy Snyder‘s short book, On Tyranny, with lessons for today from the rise of fascists and communist dictators in the 20th Century. “Post-truth is pre-fascism,” he writes. He goes on to exhort people to support a local newspaper or journalism outlet:

“The better print journalists allow us to consider the meaning, for ourselves and our country, of what might otherwise seem to be isolated bits of information. But while anyone can repost an article, researching and writing is hard work that requires time and money.”

Journalism is hard, but brings deep rewards for the strength of our democracy and our communities, while social media is easy and, when abused, it threatens the core values of our society. From my latest column in the Tribune-Review

“Americans must rethink their relationship with the news too. We have come to a point where many people put more faith in unverified information on social media — because it squares with their personal beliefs — than in trusting hard-working journalists who often challenge the opinions we hold. That has to change.”

You may read the full column here.

Trump’s enemies list

Sure, President Richard Nixon had his enemies list, but not even he thought of giving out awards in the 1970s to his least-favorite reporters. I only wish he had.

Even before graduating from college, I had the good fortune of landing a job with Jack Anderson’s “Washington Merry-Go-Round” column. With white hair, a round belly and braces holding up his pants, he joyfully touted his moniker as the “Mormon muckraker,” known equally for his devotions to religion and to rousting out government corruption. Staring as a World War II correspondent, he later joined investigative columnist Drew Pearson, taking over after Pearson died. Anderson never bowed to anyone nor shirked from exposing backroom dealing, righting a wrong or embarrassing a public official who abused taxpayer money.

The column reached 40 million Americans at its peak, appearing in hundreds of U.S. newspapers. The Washington Post ran it in the comics section, to which some disgruntled editor had banished it years earlier. Anderson loved that: More people read the funnies than the editorial page anyway.

My first summer with the column… Read more