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In a challenging era for news media, the CMI provides ongoing financial support for journalists

Investigative reporting already was taking a beating before the pandemic, and since then things only have gotten worse with newsroom layoffs, buyouts, cutbacks and closures.

With that in mind, we are pleased to offer some relief by bringing back the Doris O’Donnell Innovations in Investigative Journalism Fellowship for a second year – and to be giving away more money this time around.

We will be awarding $20,000 to the first-place winner, $5,000 to the first runner-up and $2,500 to the second runner-up.

We want to hear your ideas for investigative projects that engage diverse populations and that reach into news deserts, or places that do not see a lot of local reporting. The fellows will have the 2020-21 academic year to do their reporting.

For more details and to apply for the funding, read below and visit

– Director Andrew Conte and CMI staff

Header graphic created by Olivia Valyo. Doris O'Donnell photo provided by 

CMI’s $20,000 media fellowship returns during a pandemic-induced time of crisis for local media 

Click here to watch the 2020 Doris O'Donnell Fellowship Announcement

Journalism outlets around the country have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University will be offering support with the return of the $20,000 Doris O’Donnell Innovations in Investigative Journalism Fellowship. The fellowship, now in its second year, was designed to spotlight and take on the growing problem of underserved media markets known as news deserts. The formal announcement and application period occurred on May 12.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for local newsrooms, both here in the Pittsburgh region and around the country,” said Andrew Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation. “We want to provide substantial support to enterprising journalists who need it the most right now.”
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 made possible through a three-year grant from the Allegheny Foundation.
The fellowship winner will have eight months to report and publish or broadcast the final story or series of stories. In addition, the honoree will be required to come to Point Park University’s Downtown Pittsburgh campus three times, including an event to celebrate their work.
Last year’s fellowship winner, Erica Hensley, a health/data reporter and Knight Foundation Fellow at Mississippi Today, spent the past year working on a project that examines how Mississippi handles the threat of lead poisoning. Her work compares data from state and nonprofits to examine high-risk areas, where testing, interventions and data collection are sparse and uncoordinated. The results of Hensley’s investigation will be published in late June.
Journalists and media outlets can apply through June 30 at Finalists will be announced in August, and the ultimate winner will be announced in September.

Pittsburgh Playhouse announces 2020-21 season, including Media Innovators Speaker Series

Click here to watch the Pittsburgh Playhouse 2020-21 Season Announcement

Point Park University’s Pittsburgh Playhouse has announced its 2020-21 season, an exciting lineup of compelling theatre, extraordinary dance and thought-provoking speakers.

The Media Innovators Speakers Series, presented by the CMI and the Pittsburgh Playhouse, will feature three outstanding speakers who will discuss topics ranging from media and politics to humor and entertainment.


Donna Brazille - Friday, Sept. 18

Veteran Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile is a teacher, author, syndicated columnist and television political commentator. Her best-selling memoir is entitled Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics.

Al Franken - Friday, October 16
Speaker Series headliner Al Franken is a writer, comedian, politician, and media commentator who served for nearly a decade as a United States senator from Minnesota. He became well known in the 1970s and 1980s as a staff writer and performer on NBC's Saturday Night Live.

Salena Zito - Tuesday, January 19

Pittsburgh native Salena Zito is a national political reporter who writes for the New York Post and the Washington Examiner. She has served as a political analyst for CNN and is the author of The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics.

Subscriptions are on sale now. New this year, subscribers can build a custom subscription package. Subscribers are Playhouse VIPs, and receive the best possible seats, discounts to shows, a 100 percent money-back guarantee, free parking directly across the street at the PNC garage, one free drink voucher (redeemable at the Tomayko Bar at the Playhouse), advance notice of new events and priority seating and free exchanges.

Subscriptions may be purchased by calling 412-392-8000. Individual tickets go on sale on July 1 at the Playhouse box office, online or by phone.

For more information: Visit or email

CMI expands online discussions for young journalists

With the transition to online learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CMI launched its first Virtual High School Media Day on March 20. Live sessions were hosted every Friday until the beginning of summer break in May.

Check out all of our spring sessions here: We hope to see you in the fall!

A Valid Podcast, which focuses on issues affecting the disability community, expands to additional platforms 

The All-Abilities Media Team continues expanding A Valid Podcast, featuring news, information, and lively conversation for the world’s largest minority – the disability community. The program is now on Apple, Google, Stitcher, and other podcast platforms.

A Valid Podcast is live on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. with an audience on zoom invited to ask questions and participate in the conversation. More info on joining here.

The show’s lead producer is Nick Tommarello, a rising senior in Point Park University’s broadcast journalism degree program. This work is conducted in partnership with Unabridged Press. All content is available for republication and reuse with credit.

“Pandemics and Mental Illness: The Best of Friends,” was published on Medium by a new analyst on the show. Rachel Kallem-Whitman, a psychology professor and the author of the new memoir “Instability in Six Colors,” talks more about her experience on the podcast.

To learn more, or to participate in this work, contact or 412-339-0748.

– Jennifer Szweda Jordan, founder of Unabridged Press

McKeesport Community Newsroom celebrates One-Year Anniversary of Tube City Writers 

Tube City Writers celebrated its one-year anniversary during a May 14 session on Zoom. In the first year, more than two dozen Mon Valley residents have participated in the bi-monthly writers' group. "Working with such a diverse group of writers has been an amazing experience, and the importance of engagement, storytelling, and documenting the lived experience of people in McKeesport has only been highlighted by this global pandemic, when so many lives, and their stories, have been lost." said Dr. Nicole Peeler, the group’s facilitator.
Guests who have participated in conversations with Mon Valley writers (via Zoom) include:

— Martha Rial

Photos by Martha Rial. Right: Vickie Babyak of Dravosburg attended the first Tube City Writers meeting last May and has been involved ever since. 

Point Park University's Honors Program Celebrates Class of 2020

“These students have worked hard, and they are ready for their chosen careers or future academic studies. These wonderful young people have not been deterred by this crisis that closed our campus, city, state, nation and world. I am so pleased that we can still make this happen for them in so many ways” ⁠ — Helen Fallon, M.A., Honors Program director and professor of journalism

Read more

Alumnus Samiar Nefzi Credits Real-World Education, Guidance from Experienced School of Communication Faculty for Career in Broadcasting

"I'm not sure I would have landed this job or my internship at KDKA-TV without the training I received while at Point Park. Not only did I have a job before graduating from Point Park, I was about to start reporting before my spring graduation."

Read more

Multimedia Major Jordyn Hronec Awarded Press Club of Western Pennsylvania's $2,500 Scholarship

"Receiving this award has truly given me a sense of validation for what I do. I work incredibly hard at balancing running The Globe as editor-in-chief, managing class work, and I have a strong passion for the field of journalism, so to receive this award from the Press Club meant, to me, that I must be doing something right!" 

Read more

On Media: Journalism in Pittsburgh demands enterprise reporting. Eric Eyre is a great example.

Reporters have to cover certain stories to make the economic model work -- and they also have to pursue enterprise stories that uncover corruption and hold powerful people accountable. The job demands both.

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

Read more

News about news: Covering graduations, anti-lockdown protests and more

Poynter: Here’s how student journalists are covering graduations in the age of coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic has sidelined universities’ and high schools’ plans for traditional graduations, but students are still celebrating the accomplishment. It just looks a little different this year. Here’s how student journalists around the country are covering the end of an unconventional school year.
Journalism currently has no industry standard for how to cover such rallies. Newsrooms and journalists are making it up as they go along, adjusting strategies as the gatherings grow more volatile.
Journalists covering the pandemic have faced the wrath of people who are against social-distancing restrictions.
There is no freedom of the press without the press. And the press is threatened, as never before, by the coronavirus pandemic.
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Newsletter compiled by CMI Studio Tech Olivia Valyo

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

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