The Post-Gazette rang in 2020 by announcing the promotion of longtime reporter Karen Kane as its new managing editor — still a premiere journalism job in the region.

Kane spent most of her 30 years at the newspaper as a reporter, before joining the editorial board over the past year. She was named deputy managing editor for the opinion section in August.

“My lifelong aspiration — since third grade — was to be a journalist,” she wrote in an email. “I’ve achieved that. And for that achievement, I’ve been so grateful.

“Then, to be able to carry out this calling (and I do believe journalism to be a calling) in Pittsburgh, my hometown, well, that’s been the icing on the cake. Now comes this new opportunity, another way to serve the noble mission of journalism.

“What can I say? I’m blessed. I’m grateful.”

The PG hiring once again blurs the lines between opinion and news; executive editor Keith Burris came into his job last year from the opinion desk, and he kept his title as editorial director when he started overseeing the news.

Kane, meanwhile, made her mark as an opinion writer in June when she called out UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff and the hospital system’s board of directors. She wrote:

“Instead of a crown, I bestow on you, Mr. Romoff, a thick terry cloth beach towel, a sand shovel and a fishing rod. You’ve earned yourself an extended vacation and, with the big bonus you collected for 2018 as UPMC CEO, I think you should take the members of the UPMC board of directors with you.

“It’s not just time for life-changing medicine by UPMC; it’s time for a change at UPMC.”

Having strong opinions comes with the job if you’re on the opinions desk; it’s actually required. But as head of the newsroom, Kane will be expected to set all that aside. She will be overseeing reporters who will be writing stories about UPMC (and other Pittsburgh institutions), and the public needs to trust that the coverage will be fair, for better or worse.

Kane takes over for Sally Stapleton, who left the newspaper in April and now heads up The Associated Press’s global religion team.

News Guild wins arbitration case

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which represents the Post-Gazette’s newsroom employees, ended 2019 by winning an arbitration ruling requiring the company to pay for health care premium increases over the past two years.

The arbitrator ruled that the company violated its contract with the Guild by raising the cost of employees’ insurance obligations. The Guild has been working without a new contract since March 31, 2017.

As a result of the ruling, the Post-Gazette must reimburse its employees for monies they paid for health insurance costs beyond what was agreed to in the previous contract.

Guild members instantly went to Twitter to celebrate:

“I cannot overstate how monumental this victory is,” unit chairman Jonathan Silver wrote.

Zack Tanner, another union leader, wrote: “For two years, @PGNewsGuild members hitting their health care deductible were essentially facing an illegal pay cut, as the PG’s refusal to pay premium raises resulted in deductibles that doubled. This ruling confirms that it was indeed illegal & those members will be reimbursed!”

The newspaper did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Comings & Goings

  • PG photographer Lake Fong announced via Twitter that he’s leaving the newspaper — but plans to stay in Pittsburgh.

Andrew Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, writes the On Media column at NEXTpittsburgh with support from The Heinz Endowments. You may find all of his columns here, and you may reach him at PittsburghPublicEditor@gmail.com