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One Generation to the Next, Revealing Difficult Truths

I idolized Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as a cub reporter in Washington in the 1990s, so I enjoyed learning that my students now still admire the journalists who exposed President Nixon nearly a half-century ago.

We are reading "All the President’s Men", as well as "Fear" and "Rage", Woodward’s books on our current president. Young journalists still geek out on the shoe-leather techniques these reporters used back then, and at the intimate details Woodward portrays in his contemporary work.

But even before I started class on a recent day, a star student already had posted a crestfallen tweet about Woodward: She shared concerns that he had withheld information about the President’s private knowledge about the pandemic as tens of thousands of Americans died.

Another student replied that at least Woodward had recorded the president to hold him accountable for his misinformation campaign.

We live in another challenging time for national politics, and now journalism also faces its own existential threats. Disruption of the media industry has inflated the importance of making money to sustain reporting. Financial need causes news outlets to churn stories for clicks, and perhaps it also drove Woodward and his publisher to delay the release of information to drive book sales.

As we face the realities of journalism, we must continue to uphold the core values of our work – to speak up for those without a voice and to hold power accountable. We work on behalf of the public, and when any of us acquires information that might save lives, we have a duty to make it known, as soon as feasible.

While I feel disappointed about Woodward delaying the release of what he knew, I have hope for a new generation of journalists who will to take up the work of asking hard questions and pointing out difficult truths – even among our own ranks.

– Director Andrew Conte and CMI staff

Header: CMI Director Andrew Conte with his online Advanced Reporting class.

Local Media Experts Share Experiences Navigating Sports During a Pandemic

Sports Media During a Pandemic was the topic of the Center for Media Innovation and the Pittsburgh Center for Sports Media and Marketing's virtual event on Sept 29. 

Moderated by PPU Alumnus Tom McMillan, Vice President of Communications for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Director of the Center for Sports Media and Marketing, the event featured industry professionals who worked inside, and outside, of the NHL "bubble" during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Each panelist shared their experiences navigating sports media during the challenges of the COVID shutdown:

"We had to find a way to get something on the air," said WTAE sports director Andrew Stockey. "People were hungry to see hockey again."

"It's an evolving situation and it's not ideal for anybody, so we just have to make the best of it," said Rob Rossi, senior writer of The Athletic.

Other panelists featured additional Point Park alumni including Jennifer Bullano Ridgley, Vice President of Media Relations for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Evan Schall, Director of Communication for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

You can watch the full panel discussion on Facebook and Youtube.


Salena Zito - Thursday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

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.

Additional information will be released as available on

Questions can be directed to the Playhouse box office by calling (412) 392-8000 or emailing

Inaugural Doris O'Donnell Fellowship Winner Publishes Second Story in Three-Part Series

Erica Hensley, health reporter for Mississippi Today, published the second part in her three-part series investigating the impact of lead on families in the Mississippi Delta. Her story, "Just one program in the state has helped remove lead paint for high-risk families," can be found here.

The story quickly gained momentum and was picked up by The Greenwood Commonwealth and the Daily Journal, exposing more people to the issues facing families who are living with the dangers of lead in their respective environments. Hensley's third piece, which focuses on schools, will be published in the coming months.

The second year of the Doris O'Donnell Fellowship has been postponed due to the impact of COVID-19 on news outlets and journalists. The Center for Media Innovation will open the application process again in the first quarter of 2021. More information will be shared as it becomes available.

The Doris O'Donnell Fellowship has been made possible with the support of the Allegheny Foundation.

CMI "Refashions" Pittsburgh Fashion Week Into An All-Virtual Event Series

The Center for Media Innovation was proud to help produce this year's Pittsburgh Fashion Week, which was reimagined as an all-virtual event in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The CMI team partnered with the Downtown Community Development Corporation, and Executive Director John Valentine, to present a creative take on the annual September event that spotlights Pittsburgh as a fashion city. 

The weeklong online celebration was packed with everything from photo galleries and workshops to music and dance performances. 

This year's event also featured new additions such as morning podcasts related to the fashion industry, Artist Alleys highlighting Pittsburgh-area designers and artists, and the inaugural Pittsburgh Fashion Week Film Festival.

PGHFW also partnered with other city Fashion Weeks across the country, including Columbus, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Nashville. The goal: to promote fashion communities in each city and create a larger network for fashion, film and the arts.

You can view all of the Fashion Week events here.

Above: Hosts Gina Vensel (Easy Street Promotions) and John Valentine (Downtown CDC & PGHFW) record at the CMI TV Studio for Pittsburgh Fashion Week 2020. Graphic created by Olivia Valyo.

YouthCAST Writers Explore Themes Surrounding Social Justice

Over the summer, YouthCAST students worked with writing instructor Matt Petras and youth empowerment expert Nathaniel Brown to develop writing about social justice issues. These local middle and high school students wrote about a wide range of topics that emerged as meaningful to them as individuals

Petras, a 2018 Point Park University journalism graduate, works as a reporter for outlets such as Pittsburgh Current and PublicSource and works part-time as a writing and journalism tutor for Point Park. Nathaniel Brown is the president and CEO of 5A Elite Youth Empowerment as well as founder and senior pastor at Harvest International Ministries. 

The students wrote about topics such as African-American history, racism, and religious discrimination. One of the students, Nya O’Neal, wrote about how her experiences in American history classes squared against research she’s done on her own as a black girl. “People who look like me are not a top priority in the ‘important stuff,’” she wrote.

— Martha Rial

Above: YouthCAST students Jada and Justice Chapman (left) and Dahnayl Champine (right). Photographs courtesy of the Chapman Family.
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.

All-Abilities Media Gears Up for Video Podcasts and Other New Projects

We’re bringing the band back together! Podcaster Erin Gannon is drafting her script and choosing an outfit for a splashy new video short about the All-Abilities Media Project. 

Erin founded and hosts a three-time Golden Quill award-winning podcast, “Look Who’s Here!” She has Down syndrome and is legally blind. She has worked with our team on journalism skill-building and has tested new smartphone apps for note-taking and verifying information in real time from photos or videos. CMI tech Nick Ruffolo even visited Erin at home this summer to get her set up to podcast via Zoom. Learning new technology at the CMI is especially meaningful to Erin. “I never went to college,” she said. “Watching everyone there and what they do ... It feels like I’m in college.” 

All-Abilities Media 
— a collaboration between the CMI and Unabridged Press that Erin inspired — has made possible unprecedented opportunities for many people with disabilities even during quarantine. Like many group home residents, Erin wasn’t allowed to leave the boundaries of her lawn for months in order to stay safe during the worst of the pandemic. 

Student Nick Tommarello is eager to get behind the camera again for the upcoming shoot in early October. Point Park alum and nationally published writer Francesca Dabecco is helping Erin with her script. Francesca is the All-Abilities Media project’s new assistant manager.  

Want to know more about what we do or help out? Email us at or

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


This project, and the All-Abilities Media Project, have been made possible with the support of the FISA Foundation and an anonymous trust.

Above: Erin Gannon hugging her Press Club of Western Pennsylvania Golden Quill award in 2018.
Photo by Ryan Haggerty (Work Hard Pittsburgh)

Two members of the Pittsburgh Media Partnership, Trib Total Media and Spotlight PA recently announced a collaboration. They are adding of a full-time reporter “who will focus on elevating the concerns of Western Pennsylvania throughout” statewide reporting, “not only better connecting Pittsburgh to Harrisburg, but fostering a better understanding between Pittsburgh and communities elsewhere in the state.” Trib Total Media joins the Philadelphia Inquirer and PennLive/Harrisburg Patriot-News as a governing partner in the organization, replacing the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which withdrew this summer. 

The Pittsburgh City Paper reported on what this could mean for the local news landscape: “Over the last several months, TribLive, the company’s website, has been making a series of moves indicating it’s on the rise, like hiring talented reporters and increasing city-centric news coverage.”

We are also very excited to announce a new member in our Partnership: The Incline! The news organization highlights the people who make Pittsburgh a better and cooler place. 

As part of its collaborative reporting project, the Pittsburgh Media Partnership also recently published a piece by freelancer writer Hal B. Klein: 

Pittsburgh’s Black farmers work to grow a new future: A small group of new farmers have seeded a movement to change the local food industry. Will COVID-19’s impact on the local economy set them back? Or will it — and the growing push for social justice — help?


To see the stories each week produced by the members of the Pittsburgh Media Partnership related to the ongoing pandemic, sign up for the weekly newsletter:
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The Pittsburgh Media Partnership has been made possible with the support of the The Heinz Endowments and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.
Point Park University Students, Alumni and Faculty Honored at Golden Quill Awards 

Point Park University students, alumni and faculty earned top honors at the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania's 56th annual Golden Quill Awards, held virtually on Sept. 3.

If you see any of these folks, be sure to congratulate them!

Read more
Alumna Taylor Fareri '13 Nominated for Second Emmy Award as a Television News Producer 

"Point Park really laid the foundation for my career in news. Unlike other schools, you get hands-on experience your very first semester."  — Taylor Fareri

Read more
School of Communication Alumnus Matt Desmond is a Creative Content Segment Producer for NFL Media 

"I really enjoy creating content with a great group of professionals who push the envelope on each and every project. The NFL allows you to flex your creative muscle resulting in content that engages fan bases across the world."  — Matt Desmond

Read more
Internship Leads to On-Air Reporting Co-op with WSAZ-TV for Marlee Pinchok '20

"I have always had a goal to begin my career before I graduate college, and I was able to accomplish that through Point Park University's co-op program." — Marlee Pinchok

Read more

On Media: A Post-Gazette shakeup. Top PA lawmaker sues journalists. And more news.

Who's out at the P-G? What's up with the potential strike? And more media news around town.

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

News About News: Student Journalists Excel; Local News Contracts as YouTube News Expands

A student-run newspaper with ties to New York University got a new editorial adviser: Kenna Griffin, a former reporter and editor who had taught journalism at Oklahoma City University for 16 years. She started advising the paper, Washington Square News, remotely from Oklahoma. On Monday, 43 of its student journalists — all but four people on staff — resigned.
The Washington Post: College newspaper reporters are the journalism heroes for the pandemic era.
Working for a college newspaper is a rite of passage for many budding journalists, who get hands-on experience in the kind of reporting and editing they learn about in classrooms. But the pandemic has also demonstrated how valuable this brand of journalism is for the broader public.

Columbia Journalism Review: Deconstructing the News Desert.
While the term “news desert” effectively conveys the extent of the local news crisis, there is no widespread agreement among journalists and researchers—let alone funders, policymakers, and the public—about how to define and measure one. When dealing with a crisis as urgent as the one currently facing local news, methodological questions might seem beyond the point. But any solutions to the problem of news deserts will be predicated on how we understand them. 

Pew Research Center: Many Americans get news on YouTube, where news organizations and independent producers thrive side by side.
Most Americans use YouTube, the massive, Google-owned video-sharing website where users can find and watch content on almost anything, from dancing cats to popular music to instructions on how to build a house. YouTube also has become an important source of news for many Americans. About a quarter of all U.S. adults (26%) say they get news on YouTube. And while relatively few of these people say it is their primary news source, most say it is an important way they stay informed.
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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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