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Honoring the Legacy of Doris O'Donnell

My favorite photo of Doris O’Donnell shows her leaning over a ballpark railing to chat up Boston Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams before a game. She’s working as a journalist but wears a dress, jewelry and what looks like a white glove on her left hand. She stands behind a railing, suggesting that she did not enjoy the same access as white male reporters.
Doris put up with a lot of restrictions, but she did not let any of them stop her from working as a journalist to tell important stories.
We honor that legacy by giving out a $20,000 Doris O’Donnell journalism fellowship to a reporter working anywhere in the United States. We hope they will use the money to reach diverse audiences in underserved communities known as “news deserts.” This year, we also will be giving additional prizes of $5,000 and $2,500 to the runners-up.
The application period opens Feb. 9. If you are a journalist who could use some additional cash to tell an important story, take a few minutes to tell us how you would use the money. If you’re anyone else, please take a moment to share this opportunity with your favorite media outlet so they may apply:

– Director Andrew Conte and CMI staff

Header: Doris O'Donnell with Ted Williams. Image courtesy StoryWorks.TV

Point Park's Center for Media Innovation to Relaunch $20,000+ Media Fellowship

The Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University  will relaunch the second year of its $20,000+ Doris O’Donnell Innovations in Investigative Journalism Fellowship on Tuesday, Feb. 9 after pausing during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has highlighted two conflicting truths about local journalism – the public wants and needs access to original reporting, and the newsrooms that generate that content are more fragile than ever,” said Andrew Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation. “The O’Donnell fellowship addresses these needs by helping local newsrooms tell enterprising stories in areas of the United States that remain largely uncovered.”

The deadline for applications is March 23. The winner will be announced April 14.

With the goal of making an even bigger impact, the fellowship this year also will award second- and third-place prizes of $5,000 and $2,500. The fellowship is generously funded by the Allegheny Foundation.

The fellowship winner will have eight months to report and publish or broadcast stories. The honoree will be required to come to Point Park University’s Downtown Pittsburgh campus to meet with students and attend a celebration of their work. If the ongoing pandemic does not allow an in-person visit, other arrangements will be made.

A panel of seven distinguished judges with credentials in innovative and investigative journalism will evaluate applicants based on value, innovation, engagement, diversity and ability.

“Right now, journalists have little spare time or energy to think about anything beyond their work and the daily challenges they’re facing,” Conte said. “We have made the application process as painless as possible, and it’s our hope that these additional two weeks will make it even easier for journalists who need support.”

Journalists and media outlets may apply beginning Feb. 9 through March 23 at
The Doris O'Donnell Fellowship is a project of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University.
The fellowship is made possible through a three-year grant from the Allegheny Foundation.

Learn more about the potential for platforms such as Twitch and TikTok or topics such as esports to inform and entertain audiences with content that speaks directly to them.

Featuring members of WGBH’s Emerging Platforms Initiative, the program will explore the work they have done to use new story forms in their mission to spread good journalism. Pittsburgh Tech Council and 90.5 WESA are teaming up with the CMI to host this free, hourlong virtual discussion at 7 p.m. Feb. 17.

Register Here!

Award-winning Journalists Mentor Mon Valley Teens in Free Weekly Workshop

Voices from the Valley is a free weekly workshop open to Mon Valley teenagers on how to develop audio and interviewing skills to make their own podcast. Students will learn to interview members in their community in order to tell untold and underreported stories. Students will learn how to use audio apps like Audacity and create a narrative with recorded interviews, scripts, music and world-building sounds.

Valley teens can learn how to produce podcasts
– The Mon Valley Independent

The workshop’s leader, Brittany Hailer, an award-winning freelance reporter, educator, author and poet, said she stumbled upon her love of community teaching by instructing creative writing classes at the Allegheny County Jail and Sojourner House as part of Chatham University’s Words Without Walls program. 

She now teaches digital storytelling and podcasting at the University of Pittsburgh.

Martha Rial and Brittany Hailer, the creators of Voice from the Valley, have more on the workshop.

The five-week workshop runs through Feb. 26. Sessions are held on 
Friday afternoons from 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.

Learn More and Register Here!
The McKeesport Community Newsroom is a project of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University. Funding for the McKeesport Community Newsroom is provided by the Cicerella Fund, Einar and Lois Rygg Fund, Jack and Tally McKee Memorial Fund, Quentin and Evelyn T. Cunningham Fund, Lewis Fund,
Sachs Family Fund, and the W. Howard Larkins Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation.

Media Partners Collaborate to Document Challenges of Online Learning

Our partners from the Incline, The Mon Valley Independent and McKees Rocks Gazette 2.0 collaborated on a story depicting the struggles students in the Pittsburgh area face accessing internet services.  

Work began on the in-depth story “Endless Buffering” in early October. Reporter Jamie Wiggan, of Gazette 2.0, said that even though 10 percent of the student population in the Sto-Rox School District reported not having internet access, he had to overcome the challenge of finding students willing to talk on the record. “It can be a daunting thing to be vulnerable about your struggles and frustrations in a public news story,” he said.

Nate Smallwood, the photographer for the piece, had to make sure the sources he worked with also felt safe as the pandemic raged on. “Shooting-wise, in addition to keeping six feet apart and wearing masks at all times, I made sure that each [person] photographed felt comfortable meeting for a portrait and spelled out ahead of time the precautions that would be taken.”

Colin Deppen, of the Incline, the lead writer on the story, pulled information from notes others shared with him. “I worked on this story from home, alongside my seven-year-old daughter who was also working from home as an online learner. We are privileged to have reliable and relatively high-speed internet in our house. Unfortunately, many students across our commonwealth aren’t as lucky. And that’s the story we set out to tell, and I’m really glad we did.”

Read the full story online at

— Zoey Angelucci, Pittsburgh Media Partnership News Assistant 

Header: Preston Rathway, 12, of Fayette County, works on schoolwork using a mobile phone hotspot for internet access while at home on Jan. 4, 2021. Photo credit: Nate Smallwood
Want to stay in-the-know with the latest editorial work from our partners? Sign-up for Pittsburgh Media Partnership’s weekly newsletter:
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The Pittsburgh Media Partnership has been made possible with the support of
The Heinz Endowments and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

Recognizing News Literacy Week

To recognize #NewsLiteracyWeek, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Martha Rial and reporter Stacey Federoff discussed what makes something newsworthy, fact-checking tools, the importance of supporting local journalism and why news literacy matters.

Rial serves as project manager of the McKeesport Community Newsroom and Federoff serves as graduate assistant at the CMI.

Watch the full discussion here.

All-Abilities Media Director Featured in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In a feature article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, columnist Tony Norman spotlighted the many contributions of All-Abilities Media Director Jennifer Szweda Jordan. He wrote:

Despite years of writing and broadcasting stories about Pittsburgh’s disabled community with affection and insight, Jennifer Szweda Jordan, the co-founder of Unabridged Press, doesn’t consider herself an activist or an advocate.

The 50-year-old Scott resident refers to herself as an old-school journalist who doesn’t "advocate anything but the truth as faithfully as I can discover and share it."

Publisher of Unabridged Press since 2015, Ms. Jordan outlines its mission as "the whole story from the whole person." She describes it as "a for-profit LLC with B-corp principles, i.e., people, planet, profit, triple the bottom line."

Unabridged Press is home to All-Abilities Media, a production company that puts people with disabilities front and center in the creation of podcasts and videos that explore health, wellness and the arts.

This is why Ms. Jordan is adamant about not being "an advocate" for people in a community who are capable of being their own advocates. "What I hate most about so-called advocacy is that when we form groups, we inevitably compromise our individual voices and get things wrong," she said in an email interview.

“I suppose I advocate for people’s unfettered voices. I saw that what many call the world’s largest minority is often spoken for by agencies, families and not often enough in their — our — own words. I’m sure my own history of mental illness has also played a part in all this.”

Read Tony Norman's complete feature on Jennifer Szweda Jordan.

Above: Photo of Jennifer Szweda Jordan courtesy of the All-Abilities Media Project

Visit the All-Abilities Media website!
Want to know more about what we do or help out? Email us at
All-Abilities Media is a project of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University,
in partnership with Unabridged Press. This project has been made possible
with the support of the FISA Foundation and an anonymous trust.

The CMI is pleased to present our very first,
in-depth annual report, covering the memorable year of 2020.

Click on the image to read the full report!

Annual Report compiled and designed by Practicum Student Kaitlyn LaBelle
M.A. Degree Contributes to Career Success for Alumna Working for Scholastic, Rachel Ray Show, Watch What Happens Live and the Clinton Foundation

"I chose the M.A. program because I wanted to further enrich my skillset in journalism and mass communication research ... From writing and creating engaging copy and applying my research background to social quantitative and qualitative data, this program provided me the skills I needed for my career." —Bridget Benjamin

Read more
McKeesport Community Newsroom: Exploring Carrie Furnaces Historic Landmark

The Mon Valley Photography Collective, in partnership with Venture Outdoors, recently explored and documented the former steel mill that at its peak employed 15,000 laborers and produced 1,000 to 1,250 tons of iron a day.

View Gallery

On Media: It’s Time to Defend the Fourth Estate. Why Local Media Matters More Than Ever.

Amid the unraveling of our democracy [last month], it was the media as much as any other American institution that held intact our government and our way of life.

Read more in CMI Director Andrew Conte's latest column for NEXTPittsburgh.

News About News: Point Park's Helen Fallon Memorializes Alum Ginny Frizzi; LA Times on Capitol Rioters

Columbia Journalism Review: Five Lost Lives
For the final installment of The Kicker for 2020, CJR tells the story of five journalists lost this year to covid-19, as told by the colleagues who loved them.

Helen Fallon, president of the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania and a journalism professor emerita at Point Park University, memorializes Ginny Frizzi, 66, a freelance writer and a leader in the region’s journalism organizations. 
When the livestreamer known as Dick NeCarlo entered the U.S. Capitol last week with a mob incited by President Trump, he said he wasn’t there to join the insurrection but to report on the mayhem shaking the nation.

But NeCarlo was treading a blurred line between journalism and activism for a far-right cause.
A recap of notable moments from the historic inauguration of the 46th president ... and the unusual departure of the 45th.
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305 Wood St., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222

Newsletter compiled by CMI Studio Tech Olivia Valyo

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The Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University is a state-of-the-art incubator and collaborative space designed to prepare students for success in a media industry intertwined with the latest technology, while also supporting professional journalists and educating the public at large. The Center features TV and radio/podcast studios, a photo studio, a multimedia newsroom, and a transformational presentation and gallery space. The Allegheny Foundation provided a $2.5 million grant to start the CMI in 2016. Visit to learn more.

Point Park University, immersed in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh, focuses on student success through innovative experiential learning opportunities. Point Park enrolls approximately 4,000 students in over 100 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs offered through its Conservatory of Performing Arts, Rowland School of Business, and schools of Arts and Sciences, Communication, and Education. The University’s alumni and students represent all 50 states and 34 countries around the world. Visit to learn more.

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