Death of the Daily News opens with an historic moment in the nation’s history involving a public debate between two future presidents:
Two first-term members of Congress, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, boarded the Capitol Limited train at Washington’s Union Station on the Monday morning of April 21, 1947, headed to McKeesport, Pennsylvania, the economic and spiritual center of the Monongahela River Valley and home to 100,000 unionized industrial workers. As the two newest members of the House Labor and Education Committee, the lawmakers were scheduled to appear that night at the Penn-McKee Hotel before more than 100 people at an event sponsored by the local Junto Forum, a business-minded civic group.
Like much of the Mon Valley, the Penn-McKee Hotel has seen more glamorous days. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently ran a story highlighting what has been lost in McKeesport, block by block. The closure of The Daily News takes place against this backdrop of a community in crisis.
Many news deserts exist in places that suffer a variety of economic losses. A study by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism points out one more growing divide across America: Places that are relatively well-off tend to have robust local news while those that are struggling often also lack original journalistic reporting. Lead researcher Penny Abernathy put it like this:
“The people most likely to live without news are those in communities that need it the most, those that are economically struggling communities, those communities that have been traditionally underserved. We’ve had a collapse of the for-profit, business models that sustain local news organizations in those communities for a number of years.”
Community leaders in McKeesport have been trying to decide what to do with the Penn-McKee: Tear it down to remove the eyesore – or attempt to salvage what’s left? For now, the building remains standing, albeit with broken windows and graffiti. A historic market memorializing the day of the debate sits behind a chainlink fence.
As a contributor finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Bill Nunn Jr. finally has started getting the widespread recognition he’s due for the Steelers’ successes over the years and for the work he did to recognize so many talented Black athletes. I have been gratified to play a small role in helping people discover Nunn by writing about him in my book, The Color of Sundays.
I’m pleased that Sheldon Ingram of WTAE-TV was able to spend a little time this week reporting on Nunn’s story and the Hall of Fame announcement on Saturday, Feb. 6. You can see his report here…
Traveling throughout the United States in the early 1830s, French social scientist Alexis de Tocqueville saw something unique about American life that separated it from what he had witnessed among Europe’s monarchies:
“In aristocratic countries, you group readily around one man,” he wrote, “and in democratic countries around a newspaper, and it is in this sense that you can say that newspapers there [in America] take the place of great lords.”
The unsettling moments we Americans witnessed on Wednesday as a mob inspired by President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol Building and interrupted the democratic process, underscore the need to sustain and restore journalism, especially at the local level.
Free expression and the open debate of ideas – rather than violence and the taking up of arms – underpins our democracy. It reminds us of who are as a people. It’s literally the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing our rights to religion, assembly, redress of grievances, free speech and, yes, the press. Read more…
The Post-Gazette’s treatment of Black reporters who have been pulled from the coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement underscores why we all should care about this — and gives some clues for what we must do.
Pittsburgh already has so few Black journalists, and many who are here say they feel mistreated, left out and stuck in dead-end careers. Read more…
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.”
We celebrated the CMI’s one-year anniversary by focusing on #MediaPioneers who are doing something truly new and different. The disruption that has run through the media industry has caused a lot of pain and caused all of us to rethink how we value news and access it. But it also has created opportunities that never existed before. For my latest media column, I focused on some of these people who are doing truly exciting work – and starting figure out ways to pay their bills.
Frank Murgia, executive producer at the Pittsburgh Podcast Network, discusses the YaJagoff podcast and how it’s starting to make money.
“YaJagoff” can express exasperation or endearment, as any Pittsburgher knows. But John Chamberlin also sees it as his brand.
He hosts the YaJagoff Podcast , and as the name implies, he focuses on all things “yinzer,” from pierogies to basement potties. It is one of five core offerings from the Pittsburgh Podcast Network, which has started making money in its fourth year, executive producer Frank Murgia recently told me.
“It finally feels like it’s a real thing and we’re starting to see opportunities,” he said.
Recent years’ disruption that has shaken news companies also has produced media pioneers. Large outlets are becoming nimble by experimenting with innovative platforms and content. Startups are redefining the industry with concepts no one has tried. This energy creates opportunities for older journalists seeking to rediscover the craft and for students who want to engage in storytelling and try something new. Read more…
AmyJo Brown, founding editor of new media startup Grant’s Hill, talks about her business plan.
Journalism is a business. That always has been true (as a reader reminded me this week) but disruption in the industry has changed the way that journalists must think about their jobs. On a recent visit to Boston, I caught up with a friend working at the Boston Globe’s new spinoff, Stat News, and I met with Josh Benton at Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab. Both talked about the need for reporters to be aware of their company’s bottom line. That used to be taboo. My latest column looks at the changes taking place…
The experiment should have been a disaster: Take 15 advanced journalism students and challenge them to spend a semester thinking about money, spreadsheets, marketing ideas and business plans. But it wasn’t.
A decade ago, it would have been heretical for journalists to think about making money. Today, that thinking has become essential for media businesses to survive — and for creative people to support themselves.
After seeing journalists forced reluctantly into becoming entrepreneurs, I ran the experiment at Point Park University this spring. We talk often about using technology to tell stories in innovative ways, but young journalists — especially — also must think creatively about selling their ideas. Read more…
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…
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.
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.
So 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.