Guild-Gazette: March 2017

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We did some amazing work in February.

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Only because of  doggedness did the public learn that two small fires broke out in the Liberty Bridge construction zone days before the Sept. 2 blaze that shut down the span for weeks. Neither the contractor nor PennDot ever mentioned the earlier fires, which Ed discovered while reviewing 155 pages of Occupational Safety and Health Administration documents he obtained through a FOIA.

Transportation is a busy beat. Between folos on the bridge closure and sundry other stories, Ed easily could have passed on the FOIA or let the formidable stack of documents just sit on his desk. But he went the extra mile, and it paid off with a big Feb. 22 story that shed new light on the Liberty Bridge mess and caused PennDot and the contractor to look very silly indeed.

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Andrew Schneider, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize while working at The Pittsburgh Press in the 1980s, was something of a legend here at one time. He’d been away for many years, though, and more recent and younger residents probably never heard of him. Jill Daly’s obit on Andy did a great job of rekindling memories among those who new him and sketching out his life for those who never crossed paths with him. Obits are a strength here, as Jill’s effort showed.

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The local pages may be thin these days but they’re chock full of good stuff. Case in point: On B2 in the Feb. 18 paper was Lake Fong’s great shot of the Penguins’s mascot, Iceberg, talking with students at Heinz Field the day before the big Stadium Series game. Iceberg dominates the foreground and the makeshift ice rink fills out the background.

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All news reporters know about the hilarious and off-the-wall things that happen in magistrate’s court. Diana Nelson Jones decided to let district judges share some of those stories, and it made for a great A1 piece on Feb. 5. How to explain district court to the uninitiated? Diana summed it up beautifully: “If there is anything like the principal’s office in the grown-up world, it is District Court, where the poignant, the hilarious and the weird mix with the same old stories about traffic and parking tickets, nuisance animals, rubbish, rotted porches, overdue rent and add-ons without building permits.

She also included this precious exchange between a defendant and District Judge Richard King:

“I didn’t know it was a ticket,” said one young man.
District Judge King winced. “How old are you?”
“Twenty-four.”
“There was a big orange thing on your windshield that says Mount Oliver Police on it,” the district judge said. “You threw it on the ground.”
“Was it orange?” the man said in wonder, as if he had stumbled onto a defense. “I thought it was yellow.

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The departure of Wendy Bell from WTAE last year was a big story. Her name has surfaced every now and again since then, but what’s she been up to? Reinventing herself, according to Maria Sciullo’s Feb. 19 takeout.

Bell still has a loyal following–one that surely devoured Maria’s illuminating story.

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It’s the kind of tale that makes you wonder: How often are accidents mislabeled homicides or homicides successfully passed off as accidents?

The county medical examiner’s office ruled Mark Kleist’s Jan. 25, 2016, death a homicide, saying he suffered a fatal fall because of seizures he began having after he was assaulted outside a Duquesne bar 11 years earlier. Were it not for the assault, the reasoning went, there would have been no seizures and no fatal fall.

The problem, as Jon Silver pointed out Feb. 11, was the lack of evidence pointing to an assault on Mr. Kleist. True, he was found unresponsive on the ground outside the bar. But there was nothing to suggest that he was pushed or hit. Maybe he fell.

After Jon pressed medical examiner Karl Williams, who didn’t seem to know how his office arrived at the homicide designation, the doctor said he would revisit the case. Reporters thrive on accuracy; we force others to be accurate, too.

If you cover politics these days, you best have a sense of humor. It’s good to be able to share a laugh with your readers, too, as Chris Potter did in his lede on a Feb. 9 story about the new signs of life in U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr.:

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey’s reputation is so low-key, an old political joke has it, that he could get arrested for loitering at his own press conference.

These days, though, the citation would more likely be for creating a disturbance. And some Democratic allies are excited about the shift.

In recent weeks, Mr. Casey has blasted some of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees. He’s promised to fight the White House “every step of the way” on potential cuts to government health programs. And when Mr. Trump abruptly imposed limits on immigration from several majority-Muslim countries last month, Mr. Casey appeared at the Philadelphia International Airport, decrying the policy and the confusion it created.

“He’s been quite vocal — especially for Bob Casey,” said Christopher Borick, a Muhlenberg College pollster. “He’s put himself out there more than his history would suggest.”

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In 1987, the University of Illinois Press published “Making Their Own Way,” Peter Gottlieb’s illuminating book about the black migration to Pittsburgh in the early 20th century.

What’s happened since then? The Post-Gazette more than answered that question with its February project, “The Black Experience “ which chronicled gains, losses, challenges and reverse migration with stirring narrative and strong images in print and online.

Congratulations to Rebecca Droke, Tim Grant, Nate Guidry, James Hilston, Haley Nelson, Gary Rotstein and Andrew Rush for their outstanding work.

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This is not a comprehensive list of the outstanding work our members did in February. There isn’t space for that. We do, however, want to make shout-outs a regular feature of the newsletter and we want to cover as many newsroom departments as possible. So when you notice good work, please let us know.

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Monthly Guild raffle

Congratulations to Karen Kane, winner of last month’s raffle of two tickets to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

This time, with spring in the air, let’s raffle a gift card for garden supplies at Home Depot, Lowe’s or another store of the winner’s choice.

To enter, send an email to joesmydo@hotmail.com by April 8. Put “garden raffle” in the subject line.

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Save the Dates:

gold-star-2-1Join your colleagues for an evening of food, drink and frivolity.

The Guild’s annual spring party will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at Pints on Penn, an establishment owned by our own Matt Freed.

Last year’s party also was held at Pints on Penn, 3523 Penn Ave. in Lawrenceville, and we received many favorable comments.

 Admission for Guild members is free. Each member also may bring a guest for free.

gold-star-2-1The Guild’s summer outing at PNC Park is scheduled for July 15, a 7:05 p.m. game against the always-competitive St. Louis Cardinals. We have reserved 100 tickets for the game, which will include hat and T-shirt giveaways.

Our pre-game tailgate will be the same place as last year’s–the parking lot at the corner of Ninth and General Robinson streets. Stay tuned for details about ordering tickets.

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