From Flint to Your Faucet


I always drink water straight from the tap. But lately I’ve been wondering whether that’s such a good idea. A recent event at Point Park University confirmed that I have good reason to be concerned.

We hosted a discussion on March 15 to mark the university’s new partnership with the Heinz Endowments on an environmental journalism program. This is an initiative I brought to Point Park after Heinz expressed an interest in helping us prepare students to cover environmental topics.

1690533_568538539976416_5963896699452129604_nFor the kickoff, we invited Curt Guyette, an investigative reporter for the ACLU in Michigan. I know, right? He’s the only one in that position, under a Ford Foundation grant to examine Michigan’s emergency manager law. He has been the lead reporter on uncovering the water crisis in Flint, Mich. Based on his reporting, you really can’t tell who to trust when it comes to the quality of water flowing out of your faucet.

After I led Curt through a Q&A on stage, we convened a panel that included Kathy Knauer from The Allegheny Front, Myron Arnowitt, state director of Clean Water Action, and Brentin Mock, reporter for The Atlantic’s

Many thanks to our co-sponsors at the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania, the Black Media Federation of Pittsburgh and Women’s Press Club of Pittsburgh.



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.


#Burgh: A social media event

#burghYou never know how it’s going to turn out when you invite 250 people to a party. But #Burgh @ Point Park ended up drawing an overflow crowd, generating lively discussion about social media and even trending on Twitter. The best part is that our students at the Point Park News Service really drove this event — giving it inspiration and pulling off its flawless delivery.

Continue reading

Bringing home the hardware…

It’s great to win journalism awards — but I’m finding it’s sweeter still to see students and former students picking them up. It’s awards season, and I have been watching many of my former students getting lots of hardware.

Three reporters from the Point Park News Service picked up top prizes from the Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association — Emily Balser in first, Megan Guza in second and Brian Reed with an honorable mention. (It’s worth noting that a Penn State reporter came in third).


Megan Guza, Emily Balser and me.

The Trib did very well this season too. The Pennsylvania Society of Professional Journalists named the Trib the state’s top paper, gave us the top two prizes for spot news and awarded Luis Fabregas and me with the Spotlight Award, the top overall prize for journalists in the state. We had many other winners as well.

Because only a couple other Tribbers showed up in State College for the awards ceremony, I got to bring home all of the glory…


Organizers of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists handing over all of the hardware.




Busted: Pulitzer winners in Pittsburgh this week

Ruderman and Laker are getting a lot of national attention for their new book, Busted. But Point Park student Marina Weis found a unique angle: The reporters feel like they’re breaking into the “man’s game” of investigative reporting. 

The authors will be at Point Park Thursday, March 27, for two events, at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Please plan to join us.  

Busted hc cBy Marina Weis, Point Park News Service:

When a confidential informant for the Philadelphia police narcotics squad walked into the Philadelphia Daily News and asked to speak with reporter Wendy Ruderman, she and her colleague Barbara Laker had no idea they would uncover the biggest police corruption scandal in the city’s history.

The women worked with few resources at a newspaper facing bankruptcy. They knocked on drug dealers’ doors and chased down witnesses to get the story. Their tenacity and hard-hitting journalism in the 10-month series Tainted Justice won them the Pulitzer Prize in 2010. They became the first female investigative team to win the investigative reporting award.

“Suddenly we were like this hot ticket, and it came as a surprise,” Ruderman told the Point Park News Service. “It’s usually like a man’s game, and even then if a woman wins, it’s usually on a team.”

You can find the rest of the story here.

PNC Park too crowded for ballhawks

Maybe you’ve heard of ballhawks. These are guys (and they all seem to be guys, fully grown) who go to Major League Baseball games to collect as many baseballs as they can — home runs, fouls, tossups from friendly players.

Point Park student Alex Stumpf profiles ballhawks this week. And in the process, he uncovers a gripe from one who used to clean up at a nearly empty PNC Park. The Pirates have become too popular, he says. Check it out — along with the great photos by student Matt Nemeth — and see if you agree.

Either way, two weeks to Opening Day on the North Shore.


Ballhawk Erik Jabs has a collection of nearly 3,000 baseballs. Photo: Matt Nemeth | Point Park News Service

By Alex Stumpf, Point Park News Service:

Ian Weir does not remember when he went to his first baseball game, but he remembers what he brought.

“I’ve taken my glove to every baseball game I’ve ever been to,” Weir, 20, of Oakmont, said.

Weir used his glove to snag nearly 200 balls last year and is a part of a distinct demographic of fans known as “ballhawks.”ballhawk3

A ballhawk refers to a fan that is able to collect multiple baseballs a game. They say they do this for a variety of reasons, from being able to tour stadiums around the country, to meeting fellow ballhawks nationwide and to boosting their memorabilia collections. The subject has spawned multiple blogs, a book and even a documentary narrated by Bill Murray.

Read the rest of the story here.

Reporter gets 15 minutes too

As a general rule, I teach students they should never insert themselves into a story. But when Abby Mathieu from my entrepreneurial journalism class turned in this story about The Warhol Museum using social media, it seemed too good to pass up. I encouraged her to have some fun with the situation — and she ended up getting her photo taken in the same place where Jay-Z sat for a photo that went viral. I hope you enjoy the juxtaposition.


By Abby Mathieu, Point Park News Service:

When hip-hop artist Jay-Z came through Pittsburgh last month, he took the time to check out the North Side’s Andy Warhol Museum and kicked back on a red velvet couch similar to one the pop art creator once owned.


Writer Abby Mathieu gets her 15 minutes of fame at the Warhol. Photo: Submitted

After being posted to Instagram, the photo went viral. More than 7,600 people “liked” it and Endia Howze, a singer in Minneapolis, chimed in with: “Get ur feet off the couch lol.”

In this Internet age of instant access and global reach, The Warhol Museum engages with, not only customers in its building, but also fans of the artist from around the world through social media, museum administrators said.

Andy Warhol is a figure known worldwide, so the museum’s social media accounts engage viewers living anywhere from New York City to Hong Kong, said Emily Meyer, the museum’s assistant communications manager. Because of this diverse audience, as well as the uniqueness of the brand itself, the museum chose to pave a new road for its own social media tactics. Read more.

This story appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review as well.

Gutting out a Christmas story

Every reporter knows that feeling of coming up against deadline without a story. Point Park student reporter Emily Balser dealt with that pressure by following her gut instincts. She wandered into this Blawnox restaurant and found a nice holiday story. The piece ran in today’s Tribune-Review, and another version appeared on the Point Park News Service.

Spirit of Christmas volunteers prepare for the start of a fundraiser at Bob’s Garage Lounge in Blawnox on Dec. 7. From left: Heidi Corwin, Norma Marencik and Bob's Garage bartenders Melissa McKown and Geneva King.

Spirit of Christmas volunteers prepare for the start of a fundraiser at Bob’s Garage Lounge in Blawnox on Dec. 7. From left: Heidi Corwin, Norma Marencik and Bob’s Garage bartenders Melissa McKown and Geneva King.

Bob Paganico spends about $2,200 a year to transform his Blawnox eatery into a spectacle of lights and ornaments for the Spirit of Christmas, a nonprofit that raises $50,000 yearly to donate gifts to children in need.

Bob’s Garage Lounge on Freeport Road has become known for its elaborate Christmas decorations — lights, garland and ornaments to attract customers and their charitable donations throughout December.

“You’d be surprised at how many grandparents and mothers and dads say, ‘This is all they have,’ ” Paganico said of the gifts his team distributes on Christmas Eve.

Photo 3Paganico hosts 50/50 raffles, prize giveaways and celebrity guest bartenders at the lounge during the fundraising drive. This year’s bartenders include Craig Patrick, former Penguins general manager, and Bill Hillgrove, play-by-play announcer for the Steelers and University of Pittsburgh.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

Read more:
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

Whirl finds fashion to go

I enjoy taking my students into the community to meet with local, working journalists. Christine and Jack Tumpson have been gracious to talk several times about how they have built a publishing powerhouse around Whirl and Edible Allegheny magazines. Starting this month, they are running some of the students’ best stories on their newly redesigned website. Reporter Emily Bastaroli found this gem on four wheels…

The Broke Little Rich Girl fashion truck parked in the South Side. Photograph from Sarah Cunningham, Point Park News Service.

The Broke Little Rich Girl fashion truck parked in the South Side. By Sarah Cunningham, Point Park News Service.

A blue blouse with glimmering gold buttons hangs on a rack of colorful, unique clothing outside the Style Truck, enticing shopper Brittany Bauer to take a closer look. Inside, the truck holds even more fashion treasures, from patterned dresses and sweaters, to workout gear, handmade jewelry, and handbags. A “cat dress” catches Bauer’s eye.

“It’s just so cute and unique,” says Bauer. “There’s a big variety — something I could wear, something my mother could wear. The prices are good. I know I’m getting good quality. I know I’ll get a good wear out of [the clothes].”

The Style Truck, typically parked near 23rd Street and Penn Avenue in the Strip District, is one of four “fashion mobiles” launched in Pittsburgh. Owner Jackee Ging of Scott Township was one of the first to stake a claim on this trend. After seeing a New York City fashion truck in InStyle Magazine a year ago, Ging decided to start one in her city. She “pimped out” her truck to resemble a boutique with cabinets built into both sidewalls, shelves for jewelry displays, a fitting room, and hardwood floors. “It seems to be a trend popping up in different cities,” says Ging. “I thought the idea was brilliant.”

To read more of the story, click here. It also appears on the Point Park News Service.

Talk to strangers

Sometimes the best stories come from doing what your mother always told you not to do: Talking to strangers. PPNS reporter Joel Anderson and I were walking through Pittsburgh’s South Side this fall when we stopped to talk with a man picking up litter. Joel turned it into this article about one man’s Sisyphean obsession with cleaning up his neighborhood — and how others are helping out.


Dressed in his Sunday best of khakis, a button-down shirt and a Habitat for Humanity hat, Adam Christian walks the streets of the South Side carrying a white bucket, red broom and dust-pan. Christian is doing his best to keep his neighborhood clean.

“I’m looking for any kind of honest work,” he said. “I have some spare time, so I’ve been pitching in and cleaning litter around the house, literally around the house – not in the house.”

For the residents of South Side, trash is an everyday problem. As soon as they make headway cleaning up the barrage of garbage, party crowds of 20,000 to 30,000 non-residents visit the area’s amenities, messing it all up again.

“I love the South Side,” Christian said. “I think it’s the greatest place I’ve ever lived. That’s why I try to help keep it clean.”

To read the rest of the story, click here.