Grinding it out in ink

Newly minted Pulitzer winners seemed to be everywhere at the recent Scripps Howard Awards’ VIP reception in Cincinnati. I was fortunate to spend time with two of them.

One, Daniel Berehulak of The New York Times, spent weeks last year in the Philippines to chronicle President Duterte’s brutal “war on drugs.” I had been moved by the series when it ran, and it was fascinating to hear Berehulak talk about the experience. His images, like the one below, are graphic, disturbing and beautiful…

 

The other, Eric Eyre of The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia, impressed me for how unaffected he seemed by all of the Pulitzer hype. He represents the best of so many journalists I have known over the years, grinding out stories every day with the goal of having a positive impact on their community. He landed the story of his career by exposing just how many prescription opioids are pouring into West Virginia (spoiler alert: it’s a lot!).

Eric was kind enough to share more time with me after I returned to Pittsburgh. I featured his work in this month’s media innovation column

Eric Eyre always thought reporters had to write something like a nine-part series to win a Pulitzer Prize. It turns out all he had to do was keep grinding.

Eyre, 51, figures he writes about 250 stories a year as a statehouse reporter for West Virginia’s Charleston Gazette-Mail newspaper, circulation 37,000. He files a story almost every day, and another for the Sunday edition. Once a month, he works the night cops beat.

A couple of stories Eyre wrote in December changed the pace of his work, for now.

Read more here.

My new book: ‘All About Roberto Clemente’

I grew up in Pittsburgh. And I knew the legend of Roberto Clemente. It gets passed down from grandparents to parents to children around these parts.

But I never really knew his full story.

robertoclementefinalwebSo when my publisher asked if I would write a children’s book on the Pirates outfielder, I jumped at the chance. The book, All About Roberto Clemente, has just come out. It seeks to introduce a new generation to Clemente — the player, but also the man. The best way to understand his impact is to see how many contemporary players — especially from the Caribbean — still pay homage to Clemente today.

I also had two personal reasons for wanting to do the book: One, my cousin John David Charlton loved Clemente. He’s a little bit older, and understood Clemente’s greatness better than I did. I dedicated the book to John. The second is that my close friend Luis Fabregas grew up in Puerto Rico and made the same trek to Pittsburgh. This story is also Luis’s story.

The book is available at Barnes & Noble everywhere, Amazon and independent book stores.

Newspapers need to be more nimble

My latest media innovation column focuses on the upstart companies that curate or aggregate the news from other sites, adding their own slant or original reporting. The people behind these sites have a lot of different approaches and many of them seem to be making money. They largely depend on original reporting from other sources.

An editor at the Tribune-Review wrote the headline: “News aggregators need newspapers.” From my perspective, the newspaper could have said just as easily and accurately…

“Newspapers need to be more nimble.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 11.41.14 AMAdam Shuck started out two years ago this month with an email to 30 friends, sending them links to Pittsburgh news stories and offering his unique perspective.

He had no formal journalism training but his daily newsletter, “Eat That, Read This,” turned out to be popular. He now has 4,700 subscribers, sells advertisements and has turned writing the emails into a full-time job.

Shuck faithfully credits the original news sources and spreads around links to various media outlets.

He occasionally takes aim at journalists, too. Continue reading here.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 11.44.14 AM

 

 

Cam Newton, black quarterback

Cam Newton is black.

Normally, these days, one wouldn’t make that distinction about the Carolina Panthers’ quarterback. But he brought up the issue himself recently, questioning whether football fans are ready: “I’m an African-American quarterback. That may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to.”

Of course, he’s not the first. Charles Follis became the first black professional football player in 1904. Fritz Pollard in the 1920s played on the league’s first championship team and then served as the league’s first black coach. Willie Thrower became the league’s first black quarterback with the Chicago Bears in 1953. And, of course, Doug Williams, of Grambling fame, became the Super Bowl XXII MVP in 1988 with the Washington Redskins.

But Newton has a point. As much as we want Continue reading

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: https://colorofsundays.eventbrite.com

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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.

 

 

‘His impact on the Steelers is immense… ‘

BN at Forbes FieldThe challenge of writing about history is making the information as accurate as possible — but also relevant to a contemporary audience.

When I first thought about doing this book, I started out by meeting with Samuel Black, the director of African-American Programs at Pittsburgh’s Senator John Heinz History Center. He had put together a detailed exhibit on the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper and that gave me a lot of insight.

It was important to me, then, to get his take on the finished product. I sent Sam an advanced copy of The Color of Sundays, and here’s what he had to say…

Samuel Black

Samuel Black

“It was a great read because I am a fan of Bill Nunn Jr. … His impact on the Steelers is immense and I am glad you were able to get inside that history and bring it out. This book reveals a man’s journey through 20th Century American sports – highlighting Black College football and the professional ranks as well. His quiet journalism and eye on society helped to integrate much of professional sports and paved the way for open opportunities for players, coaches, and front office staff.”

Launch Party — 6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct 6 at the Clark Bar & Grill