Welcome, interns. The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh publishes this newsletter to recognize the newsroom’s good work and to keep each other up to date on important newsroom and union matters. We ask you what we ask all Guild members: If you’re really impressed with something a colleague has done, let us know about it so we can include it here. You can email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
We did some amazing work in April/May.
Pittsburgh company Alcoa changed the physical, social and economic landscape of Suriname. But how many Pittsburghers knew about the tiny South American nation, what Alcoa had wrought there or how fraught Suriname’s future is?
Probably not many until the eye-opening project in April by Rich Lord, Len Boselovic and Stephanie Strasburg, who spent days there, compiling rich interviews and poignant photos of a country caught between the 19th and 21st centuries.
Warm applause for Rich, Len and Stephanie
But he surely drew guffaws with this great line in the fifth graph: “While efforts to attract more people from elsewhere are often discussed by civic officials, their capacity to stop residents already here from dying or coax them into abundant procreation is limited.”
It was a gem of a line that underscores Gary’s commitment to creative storytelling. There’s a lot of that here. We inform, and we entertain.
The sports team did a remarkable job chronicling the Pens’ post season, and there will be more kudos in next month’s letter. Today, let’s applaud one behind-the-scenes story that presaged the trade of the beloved Marc-Andre Fleury. Sam Werner went inside the family’s Quebec home for a May 17 story on how the Fleurys were coping. It was a must read for anyone who follows the Pens and has a soft spot for Marc-Andre.
The PG’s breaking news stories and second-day coverage are simply first rate. Just this consider this trio of stories on A1 May 16:
Darrell Sapp photo
A piece by Shelly Bradbury and Adam Smeltz on the fatal fire at the Midtown Towers that led with a survivor’s account of escaping the burning building, her hand clasped in a firefighter’s.
Mark Belko’s richly detailed account of the Southwest jet forced to land at the county airport in West Mifflin after running low on fuel [it had been in a holding pattern because of the Wings over Pittsburgh show at Pittsburgh International]. The show included extensive comments from an air show organizer, who insisted the show would have been stopped to allow the passenger jet to make an emergency landing.
Days after the initial fire coverage, our newsrooms weighed in with two more good stories: Adam Smeltz’s piece on the city’s interest in digitizing information about buildings’ fire-suppression systems and Elizabeth Behrman’s profile of fire victim Mary Louise Robinson.
Every day, our photographers and videographers add punch to the stories the PG tells. For proof, check out Stephanie Strasburg’s sad image of a McKeesport youth following a fatal shooting in his neighborhood and Peter Diana’s closeup of the Washington Capitals’ Tom Wilson scuffling with the Pens’ Chris Kunitz.
Peter Diana photo
We mine the newspaper and website each month, seeking good work to laud in this space, and there’s never a shortage of material to celebrate.
But we can use your help. When a colleague’s work impresses the heck out of you, let us know. Jon Silver has done so a number of times, and in this issue, he gives shout outs to Shelly Bradbury, Kate Giammarise, Paula Reed Ward, Steph Chambers and Rebecca Droke.
“Finally a terrific, insightful and touching piece by Kate Giammarise, who so cares about the downtrodden (I sit next to her and can personally vouch for how much she cares) and Rebecca Droke, who takes the time with projects like these to really connect viewers to her subjects.”
Jon also liked the coverage of the the Pens fan who photobombed the Capitals’ penalty box April 27, and he suggested we find out how it came about. Sean Gentille wrote the story and Pete Diana took the great photo. But it was a bigger team effort, as Sean explained:
“Once Pete’s photo started making the rounds that night [April 27], Edgar Ramirez reverse-image-searched[April 27], Edgar Ramirez reverse-image-searched it and saw that the kid had already made it his Twitter avatar. The next morning, all I knew was that I wanted to get ahold of him. When I came in, Tyler Batiste (via Edgar) already had his Twitter name. That’s how I contacted him, and things took off from there.”
Daniel Moore demonstrated great range with a pair of stories May 7.
One story not only gave details about a fire that leveled Riverside Inn in Crawford County but gave 200 years of context, explaining that the inn was part of the 19th-century mineral springs phenomenon and important to the community’s economy today.
Dan’s second story was an obit on Jules Melograne, who passed the bar without going to law school but tarnished his career as a DJ with a case-fixing scandal. Dan was a mere lad when Melograne fell from grace in the mid 1990s, but his story was as authoritative as if he’d covered it at the time.
This is not a comprehensive list of the outstanding work our members did in April and May. 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.
Join us in celebrating the publication of a new book about baseball that features work by two Guild members.
Diana Nelson Jones is co-editor of “The Love of Baseball: Essays by Lifelong Fans,” published by McFarland & Co. of North Carolina. Kevin Kirkland, one of the book’s 30 essayists, contributed a piece on the Negro Leagues.
According to the publisher, the book is structured like a baseball season, beginning “with stories of spring training optimism” followed by those chronicling the “guts and grinds” of the season and “the glory (or heartbreak) of the playoffs.”
The cost is $19.99. It can be ordered at mcfarlandpub.com, by calling 800-253-2187 or by writing to McFarland at Box 611, Jefferson, N.C., 28640.
Monthly Guild raffle
Congratulations to Sean Hamill, winner of the Pirates gift card raffle promoted in the last newsletter.
This month, let’s raffle a gift card to an ice cream shop of the winner’s choice.
To enter, send an email to email@example.com by July 15 and put “ice cream” in the subject line.
Save the Date: Saturday, July 15, 2017
A reminder to Guild members, including interns, that the Guild’s annual Pirates outing is July 15. The Pirates play the Cards at 7:05 p.m. Before that, we’ll have a tailgate in Gold Lot 1, across General Robinson Street behind the North Shore office. The food will be catered by Bistro to Go on the North Side.
Game tickets are $15 each. The tailgate is free. If you already have tickets to the game, stop by to eat. If you’re working that night, definitely stop by for dinner.
Tickets are on sale now. You can pay Ed Blazina in cash or with a check made out to the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.
And the best benefit: Instead of the usual Port-O-John, we can use our work ID cards to use the Post-Gazette bathrooms.
We did some amazing work in February.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by April 8. Put “garden raffle” in the subject line.
Save the Dates:
Join 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.
The 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.