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As new year approaches, reflect on 2019 then make bold plans to move forward

The merger of the nation’s two largest media companies, Gannett and GateHouse Media, has many people concerned anew for local journalism, both within those companies and outside them.

Last month at Newsgeist, a Google-sponsored event for media and technology professionals, discussions shifted perceptibly to whether the traditional models are sustainable, or whether it’s time to boldly invest in something new.

The Center for Media Innovation was founded on the idea that we must continually press forward into moments of disruption to discover new ways of delivering information and generating income to support the people who report it.

For us, that means giving people opportunities and resources to tell their own stories, experimenting with new methods such as collaborative storytelling, amplifying the voices of people who have not always been heard, and supporting local reporting in places that do not have much of it.

As we move into the holiday season, we encourage all of you to take a moment to reflect on the good work you have accomplished this year – and to make bold plans for the new one. 

– Director Andrew Conte and CMI staff

Above: For World Kindness Day on Nov. 13, 2019, many of the CMI staff members wore cardigan sweaters to honor Mr. Fred Rogers (paper cutout, center).

'Tube City Writers Live' lifts diverse array of Mon Valley stories from page to stage

Above: Isaiah Johnson, an eighth-grader at Founders Hall Middle School in McKeesport, recalled his first day of sixth grade with his story. "It was like a boxing match between me and the bell: Every time I would get the upper hand, it would ring and hit me with a right hook."

On Nov. 21, eight writers from the McKeesport Community Newsroom stepped into the spotlight during Tube City Writers Live, showcasing their work through the CMI project, facilitated by Pulitzer prize-winning photographer Martha Rial and Seton Hill University associate professor Nicole Peeler.

Peeler, director of the Writing Popular Fiction Program, summed up the evening in her opening remarks:

Most people talk about two McKeesports: the one that used to exist, and the one that exists now. The first narrative usually focuses on a nostalgic, romanticized version of a past that only existed for some of its residents. Meanwhile, the second is a narrative often shaped by outsiders who have very little experience of the actual city. My goal was to resist both of these narratives and to focus on the real lives of people who live in this area. These storytellers have done a beautiful job doing just that.

We begin with stories that take you back in time, to when childhood was seemingly limitless in its potential. We will interact with figures who straddle and symbolize the generational shifts of this area, and we will hear about a beloved car that represents an American Dream that fruited here, so briefly and only for a lucky few. We will also hear from those for whom that dream was a mirage, and for whom “progress” has meant being treated as less than human. We will hear a story about saving the most vulnerable in our society, and a story about someone saving herself from other people’s definitions of her and her life. Finally, we will return to childhood, and what it’s like living here now.

Read more in the Tribune-Review preview of the event and see Mon Valley Independent coverage here.

Doris O'Donnell Fellowship winner visits Point Park from Mississippi

Erica Hensley, health/data reporter and Knight Foundation Fellow at Mississippi Today and winner of the inaugural Doris O'Donnell Innovations in Investigative Reporting Fellowship, visited Point Park last month.

Hensley is examining how Mississippi handles the threat of lead poisoning by comparing data from state and nonprofit targeted high-risk areas and intervention strategies.

During her visit to Point Park, she spoke to two journalism classes, conducted interviews and research with local sources, and attended a meet-and-greet with staff and students. Hensley will continue to involve students in her research and reporting, and will visit campus again in the spring.

The annual fellowship is made possible through a three-year grant from the Allegheny Foundation.
Read more here.

On Media: What can Pittsburgh do about the diversity/racism problem in our media (and city)?

In this two-part column series, CMI Director Andy Conte, who serves as NextPittsburgh's public editor, highlights a new report about racism and diversity problems in Pittsburgh media and the city. "Change starts at the top — with management," said Tory Parrish, a regional director for NABJ. Read more here.

All-Abilities Media premiere celebrates year of raising voices of people with disabilities

A silent disco inside Point Park's GRW Theater capped off a celebration of a year's worth of work by All-Abilities Media, a project of the CMI and Unabridged Press.

The All-Abilities Premiere, a watch party, featured video pieces covering a wide-range of topics related to the disabilities community, like learning how to kayak, representation in film and theater, and military veterans' mental health challenges.

 See work by All-Abilities Media and Unabridged Press on YouTube.

Outreach to Pittsburgh-area high schools shows increase in media literacy

New survey data from the High School Workshops hosted by the CMI showed an increase in student participants' media literacy and fake news awareness.

With about 50 students participating from four different high schools this fall, students were surveyed prior to each workshop, then given the same survey afterward. As part of each workshop, a session led by CMI graduate assistant Stacey Federoff discussed these media literacy topics.

All reported a better understanding of news when compared to information, facts versus opinions, what makes something news or newsworthy and how to spot fake news. All questions showed an improvement in the number of students who "agree" or "strongly agree" on a five-point scale.

Teachers, if you and your class are interested in participating in a spring workshop, which also includes broadcast and podcast sessions plus lunch and information from a Point Park admissions counselor, save these dates: March 20, April 3 and April 10.

For more information, email Lisa Knapp, CMI administrative assistant, at

News about news: In search of fearless journalism, P-G byline strike and more

Pittsburgh City Paper: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette journalists enter second week of byline strike
On Nov. 18, the guild announced a vote of "no confidence" against management and started a byline strike in protest. Freelancers also joined the byline strike ... "We are unified and resolute in protest of the unprecedented, unconscionable atmosphere of fear, hostility, and intimidation that Burris and the Blocks have created in the North Shore newsroom," said guild president Michael Fuoco in a press release. "And we stand united in our quest for economic justice." 

The Editorial Board of The Pitt News voiced its support of the byline strike as did the Pittsburgh Current, which used its Dec. 10 issue to hold its own byline strike in solidarity.
Pittsburgh Foundation: New $5,000 Award Program to Honor Fearless Journalism
The Kalson Award is meant to support writing “that doesn’t necessarily reflect a popular or dominating political view,” said [Ed] Feinstein [Kalson’s husband for 26 years]. “This program is our small effort to encourage people to look for and report stories that go against the grain, despite that they implicate powerful interests.”
BuzzFeed News: These Hugely Popular Local News Sites in the U.S. and Canada are Fake 
The Albany and Edmonton sites have not been updated in months, have no employees associated with them, and list no larger corporate entity. Their homepages are filled with bland, out-of-date rewrites of local stories first reported by real news outlets. Beyond the homepage, the sites are chock-full of old celebrity content that has nothing to do with the cities they supposedly cover. They do not have active social media accounts, nor do they list an office address or any contact details.
New York Times: News or 'Trauma Porn'? Student Journalists Face Blowback on Campus 
“We just internally want to see more done to address the concerns on campus and not uphold this quite cold front that ‘We are a newspaper at the end of the day, and that is before anything else,’” [said Danu Mudannayake, 21, a senior who is an illustrator at the Harvard Crimson] and suggested that the era called for a different kind of journalism, particularly for student journalists. “We can still be serious student journalists, but still have more empathy. I think the question of empathetic journalism is, at least for us on the inside, what’s at the heart of it.”
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305 Wood St., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222

Newsletter compiled by CMI Graduate Assistant Stacey Federoff

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Point Park University Center for Media Innovation · 201 Wood St · Pittsburgh, PA 15222-1912 · USA

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