The impending closure of the Youngstown Vindicator, which just marked its 150th anniversary, serves as a warning that we seem to be on the verge of another great inflection point for traditional print media.
The last time this happened, in 2007 at the start of the Great Recession, losses for local newspapers and journalism quickly piled up: the U.S. had 126 fewer newspapers in 2014 than it did 10 years earlier, according to the Pew Research Center.
But something unexpected has happened, too: Journalists and individual citizens have created new startups and taken on the responsibility of following local news in places where no one else is going to do it.
I think of my friend Greg Brown, a former newspaper reporter and editor, who created BeaverValleyToday.com and spends his free time going to township meetings because fewer paid journalists do that kind of work anymore. As he recently said on Facebook, “I do what I can, but have a full-time job to pay the bills.”
With all this change swirling around, we’re starting a new feature that will attempt to chart where local news outlets and journalists are coming and going in southwestern Pennsylvania. So please let me know when you hear about a startup or a closure, new job opening, or when a local newsperson makes a move: PittsburghPublicEditor@gmail.com.
Here are some notable moves to start the discussion:
Whirl Magazine, which Jack and Christine Tumpson first launched in 2001, has quietly taken a break from publishing since releasing its January/February issue with Sidney Crosby on the cover. The magazine has long served as the place where Pittsburgh’s glitterati showed off their best party outfits, and it profiled many of the city’s most notable faces. Whirl’s sister publication, Edible Allegheny, has been on hiatus even longer.
Jack Tumpson told me he’s considering selling both magazines and has been talking with potential buyers. He expects that Whirl will be revived in some fashion by this fall.
“It’s still a very good project,” he says. “It’s been around for 20 years and has one of the strongest brands in the area. We’re making sure whoever we sell it to will continue to publish it in the spirit in which it has been.”
Sally Stapleton, former managing editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, will be managing a new global religion team for The Associated Press, along with Religion News Service and The Conversation. Lilly Endowment Inc. provided a $4.9 million grant for the project.
The Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, which I run, has named Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Martha Rial to lead its new initiative, the McKeesport Community Newsroom. She will be spending 16 hours per week on the project.
“Our goal is to provide Mon Valley residents with the skills and resources they need to share stories that will lead to meaningful change,” Rial says.
The Newsroom, housed in the Tube City Center in McKeesport, supports citizen journalism and storytelling by residents of the Mon Valley’s largest city and the surrounding area. The Tube City Center was the long-time home of the McKeesport Daily News until its closing in 2015. The Pittsburgh Foundation has funded the project.
Beau Berman, who had been a reporter at WTAE-TV since 2015, has taken a job with Neshannock Township School District in Lawrence County to help launch a digital video production program. He explained the move on Facebook by saying that he wants to give back: “As a proud public school graduate myself, I’m looking forward to shaping tomorrow’s leaders, and maybe even inspiring a new journalist or two.”
John Allison, an editor at the Post-Gazette for 24 years who gained local fame for his frequent appearances on the newspaper’s TV news partner, KDKA, has started in a newly created position at the Tribune-Review. At the PG, John worked as editor of the opinions section, then switched over to become the Sunday editor, and then ultimately oversaw the editorial page. After leaving the newspaper, he briefly worked for the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.
As “director of content” at the Trib, John told me he will be working as an editor across all of the company’s platforms.
Jim Iovino, the Post-Gazette’s deputy managing editor, is leaving to work as visiting professor of innovation at West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media.
Adam Shuck, the founder of the Eat That, Read This daily lunchtime email news roundup has moved his shop to Postindustrial, the long-form magazine startup by Matt Stroud and Carmen Gentile, which focuses on the Rust Belt and Appalachia. Adam’s summary of news headlines has been rebranded as The Pittsburgh Record, and he’s also doing a daily “ride home” podcast for Postindustrial. People can sign up for a free subscription here.
Annie Siebert, Postindustrial’s founding editor, left the magazine after it published its first print edition in May to do freelance writing and editing. Kim Palmiero, a former Trib editor and the immediate past president of the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania, is working with Postindustrial to help produce some upcoming events and doing some editing and writing for the August print edition.
Courtney Linder, the Post-Gazette’s technology reporter, is heading to Easton, Pa., to start work on August 12 as senior news editor at Popular Mechanics magazine, owned by Hearst Communications. She will still be writing about some of the coverage areas she carved out in Pittsburgh such as artificial intelligence, robotics and self-driving cars.
Pittsburgh Current is celebrating its one-year anniversary. The biweekly newspaper launched last summer after owners of the Pittsburgh City Paper fired former editor Charlie Deitch, and he then started a rival publication. Pittsburgh Current’s managing editor Haley Frederick is leaving to work at a Washington nonprofit. Meg Fair, the City Paper’s former music writer, will take over as ME in a part-time role. The Current also plans to add Rebecca Addison as a part-time copy editor.
WhereBy.Us, the media company that recently purchased The Incline, is hiring a sales executive for Pittsburgh.
Andrew Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, writes the On Media column with support from The Heinz Endowments. You may find all of his columns here, and you may reach him at PittsburghPublicEditor@gmail.com.