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Building Community By Rebuilding Journalism

We had been hosting an in-person writers group before the pandemic in the city of McKeesport, a place that lost its daily newspaper after 131 years. We had started out with the goal of helping citizens start telling their own stories to replace the professional journalists who longer existed.
About 8 to 16 people were coming out a couple of times a month to work on journalistic storytelling with Martha Rial, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who heads up the community newsroom, and Nicole Peeler, an English professor from nearby Seton Hill University. The Pittsburgh Foundation has put $150,000 into the two-year program.
The pandemic threatened this project: Several of the participants do not have computers or smartphones. One participate uses a typewriter to craft his stories, while another hand-writes her stories and we use an optical scanner to turn them into digital text. We could hold virtual events, but who would attend?
It turns out that almost everyone found a way to attend. Martha worked to keep everyone connected, and she provided a laptop computer to the woman who did not have one. When the writer’s group celebrated its one-year anniversary this summer, Martha drove around to each person’s house and delivered a boxed-up cupcake so everyone could celebrate when they met online.
Through this year, the group not only has continued to meet – but the citizens created an anthology of their writing (detailed below). We learned two things: Citizens are able to generate meaningful original content, and they are building community as they do so.
This year has presented many unique challenges, and many hardships with people dying, getting sick, losing jobs, suffering in isolation. Moments such as these ones with the McKeesport Community Newsroom have carried us through the difficult times and helped us see the value we find in those around us.
Happy holidays, and happy new year from all of us at the CMI.

– Director Andrew Conte and CMI staff

Header: Holiday greetings from the CMI team. 

Tube City Writers and Mon Valley Photography Collective Debut Anthology

Members of Tube City Writers and the Mon Valley Photography Collective have published their first anthology, Tube City Tales. The magazine features original writing and photographs that celebrate the Mon Valley experience by Mon residents. 

You can pick up your copy at the Carnegie Library of McKeesport or the McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center for a $5 donation.

Anthology cover photo by Vickie Babyak.
The McKeesport Community Newsroom is a project of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University. Funding for the McKeesport Community Newsroom is generously 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.
A Growing Community of Pittsburgh News Organizations 

As the year comes to a close, we look back on months of tumultuous and trying times across the globe. Despite this, in our growing Pittsburgh community of news organizations, there have been several positive highlights within our group of partners. Here are some memorable moments of the past year:

The Pittsburgh Media Partnership provided over $18,000 in technology grants to partners, and helped facilitate access to over $30,000 in grants. was formed as a collection of all things COVID-related, while at the same promoting partner collaborations that benefitted individuals, institutions and the greater community by amplifying voices and more.

The partnership received several grants, including $150,000 from the American Journalism Project which will allow the partnership to undergo an ecosystem assessment. “We've put in place a number of projects to help with the infrastructure of the local media ecosystem. We've got a couple of those projects underway, and we'll be bringing on some additional people to help with those,” said Pittsburgh Media Partnership project editor AmyJo Brown. “The biggest one, and the one that I'm really excited about, is that we are going to have a paid internship program.”

We’d be remiss to not look forward to 2021 and the plans that it holds. AmyJo Brown and her team have many projects in store for the new year. “The general theme is going to be inequality… we're in the process of working through some brainstorming sessions to narrow that focus a bit more,” said Brown. “Every partner will contribute a little bit differently to the work, so every partner is thinking about the story for their own audiences. They're a piece of the larger narrative that we're putting together.”
Want to stay in-the-know with the latest editorial work from our partners? Sign-up for Pittsburgh Media Partnership’s weekly newsletter:
Sign Up
The Pittsburgh Media Partnership has been made possible with the support of
The Heinz Endowments and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

Doris O'Donnell Fellowship Returns in 2021

Point Park University's Center for Media Innovation is excited to announce the relaunch of the second year of the Doris O'Donnell Innovations in Investigative Journalism Fellowship.

Due to the effects of COVID-19 across the industry, we postponed the award and are reopening the application process on Tuesday, February 9 with a virtual launch!

Please stay tuned for more information in our next newsletter, including the announcement of two additional judges. We look forward to receiving applications in the new year.

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.

New Podcast Series Features Conversations on Business and Economic Issues

Law firm Dickie, McCamey, and Chilcote recorded their first installment of The DMC Report at the Center for Media Innovation. This series of podcasts presents a conversation about issues and challenges for business and the economy.

Take a listen to their first episode featuring Christopher T. Lee, Managing Attorney of the Pittsburgh office and Founder and Chair of the Food and Beverage Industry Group, in a discussion on the impact of the coronavirus on the restaurant and food service industry.

A Tribute to a Storyteller who Made an Impact

Every person we meet leaves their mark on us, for good or ill, (often a little of both). One man I knew through the All-Abilities Media Project left an undeniably positive impact on me, though we only talked briefly before he died.

His name was David Hale, and in January he came to the Center for Media Innovation to read a passage from the Americans with Disabilities Act. The reading was in a video as part of ADA at 30: Accessibility in Pittsburgh, co-published by PublicSource and Unabridged Press.

After recording David’s reading, our production crew had extra time. David was happy to share more of his story for over an hour. He started by saying he had spina bifida. “When I was 4, my mother told me that there was a purpose for my life,” Hale said. “And that really helped me to feel like there was something for me here in this world to do.”

What he did was share personal stories to encourage youth and others. He didn't gloss over the difficult parts of life. He speaks of isolation and faith in this podcast.

“He was passionate about opening minds to the lessons found in the lives of great people of the past — and within each of us,” said local disability advocate and writer Tina Calabro. “David affected many, many people through his openness for sharing himself and caring for others’ personal growth.”

The All-Abilities Media Project amplifies the stories of people with disabilities, and we were incredibly privileged that David allowed us to share his story.

Read the full tribute to David.

– Jennifer Szweda Jordan, project manager and founder of Unabridged Press


Above: All-Abilities Media Project member David Hale at the CMI studio spaces.

While we wanted to use this space to honor David this month, we also are pleased to let you know that our new All-Abilities Media website is now live! 

We hope you'll take some time over the holidays to enjoy with us the gift that this project is to us, to you, and to the community.

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

Writers for The Globe Student Newspaper Honored at 2020 Robert L. Vann Media Awards

Congratulations to Nardos Haile, Jared Murphy, Jordyn Hronec, Rosalie Anthony, and Andrew Brinker from the Point Park Globe for winning the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation 2020 Robert L. Vann Media Awards student contest in their respective categories! 

These awards "honor excellence in journalism coverage of African American and African diaspora communities, individuals and issues."

Learn more.
Alumna Kayla Snyder is the First Permanent U.S. Employee to Work Remotely for Battenhall, an Award-Winning Communications Agency in the U.K.

"From my first day at Point Park and my very first class, we were learning real-world knowledge about the industry. On top of that, Point Park’s emphasis of experiential learning allowed me to complete five internships during my four years. The professors were knowledgeable and taught us everything according to industry standards, which prepared me greatly for my first job."

— Kayla Snyder

Read more
UPMC Hires Alumna Amanda (King) Finkenbinder as a Manager of Marketing Communications

"My hands-on courses and internships allowed me to gain skills that the communications industry covets — from writing scripts to producing and editing videos ... My multimedia background, which I developed at Point Park, has allowed me to stand out from other job applicants."

— Amanda (King) Finkenbinder

Read more

On Media: PG cements move to the right, Guild elects new leader and Beaver County Times keeps shrinking

Who will tell the stories going forward? That's the question for the Times after losing so many writers with years of experience and knowledge.

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

News About News: Biden and the Media; College Journalists Report on Holiday Travel Risks 

Is most of the media that covers national politics happy that Joe Biden won the presidential election? If so, are they actually happy that Biden won or would it be more accurate to suggest that they are happy that Donald Trump did not?

There’s a difference.
For many college students this year, the decision to go home for the holidays is not an easy one. Spikes in COVID-19 cases and statewide restrictions on gatherings mean what used to be typical trips home need to be considered carefully.

Three college students recently reflected on their 2020 Thanksgiving experience and what their plans are for winter break.
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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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