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Learning to Engage in More Meaningful Conversations About Race and Racism

White people, like me, have a hard time talking about racial issues, but we can no longer remain silent.
For too long, we have acted like Black people must solve the problems of racism. In reality, white people are the only ones who can break this cycle.
But, then, the question I have heard often this summer from the white people in my life is, how? Maybe the answer starts with doing the things we can, in our immediate communities and in the world around us.
For me, that has meant accepting an offer from the YWCA’s Barbara Johnson to co-host Among Neighbors, a Podcast About Race, Power and Privilege (read more about it below). Will I say all of the right things? I’m sure I will not. Am I an expert on these issues? No, but Barbara encouraged me to see that we’re all experts on our own perspective.
As we embark on this project, Barbara and I have simple goals: To get more people – yes, even white people – talking about issues of race and finding ways that we can work toward change.
By many people taking small but significant steps to acknowledge prejudices and privilege, to call out racism when we’re alone with our white family and friends, to be deliberate in our actions to be inclusive, and to have more intentional conversations with people who don’t look like us, our small efforts may accumulate into something none of us could accomplish alone.  

Our ability to impact change is greater than we imagine.

– Director Andrew Conte and CMI staff

Header: "Among Neighbors" co-hosts Barbara Johnson and Andrew Conte record a session with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter, Alexis Johnson. Graphic created by Olivia Valyo.

Inaugural Winner of the CMI's Doris O'Donnell Fellowship Publishes First Story in Three-Part Series

Erica Hensley, investigative health reporter for Mississippi Today and winner of the  inaugural Doris O'Donnell fellowship award, published the first story in a three-part series focusing on the impact of lead poisoning in Mississippi. Her story, "How many Mississippi kids are poisoned by lead? Massive undercounts, inconsistent testing provides officials few answers," was published on July 24. You can read the story here.

Hensley spent eight months traveling the state and beyond, poring over data, interviewing stakeholders and experts, and reviewing records to shape her findings. In addition to Mississippi Today, the story has been picked up by multiple outlets across the state. Also, Hensley had more than five health care professionals contact her for more data about the blood lead level findings, two of whom expect to expand on the findings.

The two remaining stories in the series are going to be released in the coming months. Check out this video to hear the impact of the fellowship on Hensley's work.

Applications for the second year of the fellowship have been received and are currently under review by our panel of five judges. The winner of this year's fellowship will be announced in September.

Many thanks to the Allegheny Foundation for their generous funding of this award.

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the "Americans with Disabilities Act" into law to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA Act affirms that access is a civil right, and that people with disabilities should be protected from discrimination in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and all other places that are open to the general public.

This year, for the Act's 30th anniversary, the Pittsburgh-based media organizations PublicSource and Unabridged Press have partnered to create, bringing you the voices of people with disabilities through reported articles and first-person essays, podcasts and video. 

Each story was either written directly by a person with a disability, or employed an adviser or producer with a disability, to evaluate the final product for ableism and to ask questions and make suggestions based on their expertise and experiences. 

The team also worked to make the website accessible through researching the best online tools, running audits on the site’s accessibility, and asking local users with various disabilities to test the site. A form embedded on each page solicits additional comments or concerns.

The centerpiece video of the project was filmed at the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University. This work employed several people from the All-Abilities Media Project that is a collaboration between the CMI and Unabridged Press.

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

"A Valid Podcast" Explores Intersectionality, Beauty Standards, Race and More

"A Valid Podcast" launched, just as the pandemic emerged, with the awareness that people with disabilities are two to four times more likely to die or to be harmed in a disaster. When medical systems are overwhelmed, people with disabilities are, historically speaking, not prioritized in treatment. “A Valid Podcast” challenges the use of the word “invalid,” which is still sometimes used to refer to people with certain disabilities and evokes discrimination and exclusion. 

Five people who had been part of the All-Abilities Media workshops stepped up to create this podcast about disability and COVID-19. Disability advocate Alisa Grishman took the mic on the day that most businesses closed. Now she is the show’s lead analyst, and like others we’ve met through workshops, mentors other people with disabilities in podcasting.

For Season Two, our co-hosts are two sisters who have what they describe as invisible disabilities. One has multiple sclerosis (Alana Gibbs) and the other has a bipolar diagnosis (Darah Thompson). Thompson previously participated in a podcast workshop through the All-Abilities Media Project. In an effort to support the voices of people of color, our Season One team reached out to the sisters and offered them the technical, editorial and production support they needed to guide the show. They immediately agreed.

“I’m excited to show a Black face for people with disabilities,”  Thompson said. "We are definitely underrepresented.” 

The sisters have led discussions with both our team reporters as well as disability icons Judy Heumann and Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins. We have provided captions and transcripts for many episodes and also added an ASL interpreter, Alison Bartley, to our live video programming. 

Click here to listen to Season Two of "A Valid Podcast".

To learn more, or to participate in this project, contact or by phone at 412-339-0748.

– Jennifer Szweda Jordan, founder of Unabridged Press

Above: "A Valid Podcast" Season Two co-hosts Alana Gibbs and Darah Thompson.

Literary Agent Advises New Authors in Tube City Writers' Final Summer Session

Tube City Writers welcomed Danielle Chiotti, of Upstart Crow Literary, for their final summer session.

Danielle Chiotti has worked in publishing for 18 years. Formerly an editor, she joined Upstart Crow when it was founded in 2009. She specializes in young adult and middle grade fiction, cookbooks and select nonfiction. Thanks to Chiotti's extensive editorial background, she enjoys working closely with authors to develop projects. She welcomes first-time authors with a unique voice and point of view.

Chiotti's session, Book Basics: A Field Guide to Literary Agents and Getting Published, streamed live on Facebook on July 28 where she provided insights and advice for first time authors navigating the book publishing world. Danielle explained to attendees what happens when you get a book deal such as how advances and royalties are paid.  Her advice to aspiring authors is not to write a sequel, if you have not sold the first book. She reminded writers that their creative time is precious and not to take rejection personally.

— Martha Rial

Photo: Self-portrait of Danielle Chiotti.

"Among Neighbors" Covers Issues Surrounding Race, Power and Privilege

The "Among Neighbors" podcast, a joint project between the CMI and YWCA Greater Pittsburgh, explores topics about race, power and privilege in the Pittsburgh region. This project is hosted by YWCA’s Senior Director of Race and Gender Equity Barbara Johnson, and CMI Director Andrew Conte.

In the latest episode, Andy and Barbara talk about the aftermath of the George Floyd protests and how support for the Black Lives Matter movement has evolved. They are joined by Alexis Johnson, a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who shares her experiences covering the protests in Pittsburgh. The discussion also covers the support Johnson received after she tweeted about the mess typically made outside of Kenny Chesney concerts, which led to her removal from protest coverage by the Post-Gazette. 

The podcasts can be seen and heard on Youtube, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn and more!

"Healing Hearts Podcast" Goes In-Depth on Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program

All seven first-season episodes of the "Healing Hearts Podcast," created to provide education, innovation and information about Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, are now available on Apple Podcasts and other platforms.

The podcast is a product of The Healing Center, Western Pennsylvania’s premier medical cannabis dispensary group, and was produced in partnership with the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University.

“'Healing Hearts' is an important project for us because it connects patients to the voices of pioneers in Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana program,” said Lisa Craig, director of marketing for The Healing Center and a part-time instructor in the School of Communication at Point Park.

“Together with the CMI, we have produced seven amazing programs for our first season,” said Chris Kohan, cofounder of The Healing Center. “We believe it gives the lay person a peek behind the curtain of the cannabis industry in Pennsylvania.”

Topics for the first season include heartfelt chats with The Healing Center cofounders, Chris Kohan and Jay Richards, who championed for cannabis in the commonwealth for a decade to get a bill passed, in-depth discussions with medical professionals in patient care and call-in interviews with growers/processors from across the state. Guests talk with radio host Mike Flick and The Healing Center panel about their passion for the program, their favorite strains and their cannabis coming out stories. 

Craig, Kohan and Flick are seasoned media professionals now working in the cannabis industry.

“The Center for Media Innovation is proud to be associated with the Healing Hearts Podcast because of the unique information and resources it provides to people seeking relief through medical marijuana,” said Andrew Conte, director of the CMI. “Many people still do not know a lot about this emerging industry in the state, and the podcast addresses a wide range of questions about managing pain, chronic illnesses and other approved conditions.”

The CMI has been producing and supporting podcasts since opening its doors in 2014, including both seasons of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s award-winning "True Crime Podcast," "Storybeat" with Steve Cuden and the "Are You Intuit?" podcast by Lillie Leonardi.

Find out more about the "Healing Hearts Podcast" here

Above: Host Mike Flick, The Healing Center Pharmacists Alina Teplitskaya and Jennifer Krasnicki, and General Manager Michael Butler record a session of "Healing Hearts" in the CMI Radio Studio (before COVID-19 shutdowns).

Congratulations Dr. Conte!

Join us in congratulating CMI Director Andrew Conte, for successfully defending his dissertation: "Advance of the Citizen Gatekeeper: A Case Study of the McKeesport, PA, News Desert." Well done, Dr. Conte!
Pittsburgh Media Partnership launches weekly newsletter 

Click here to sign up for the Pittsburgh Media Partnership's weekly newsletter for highlights on the most recent COVID-19 related stories.

For more on how Pittsburgh is coping with the pandemic, visit


M.A./MBA Graduate Student Spotlight: Meet Stacey Federoff '21

"At Point Park, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of new industries and built relationships with fellow students, faculty and industry leaders. It was a big decision for me to go back to school full-time, but I am so glad that I did,"  said Federoff, who begins her third year as graduate assistant at the CMI this week.

Read more

What happened the last time Pittsburgh had a newspaper strike.

Will they or won't they strike? While it seems unlikely, NextPittsburgh media columnist Andy Conte takes a look back at how different things were the last time the Post-Gazette went on strike.

Read more

News About News: Young Journalists Take Action as the School Year Starts

Are you a reporter at a college or high school paper? [The New York Times] would love to hear from you about how you’re planning your first few weeks of coverage. What are the obstacles? What has surprised you? [They] may feature some responses in the Coronavirus Schools Briefing in the coming days.

Quill & Scroll: For student journalists, there's no trouble like John Lewis' 'Good Trouble'.
Student journalists can learn a lot from the life and career of civil rights legend and U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-Georgia). Amid all of his adages and advocacy, speeches and laws, fights and friendships is his legacy of preaching and living out “good trouble.”
South Bend Tribune: Notre Dame student newspaper’s message to the campus: ‘Don't make us write obituaries’.
The Observer, the student-run newspaper for the University of Notre Dame, St. Mary’s College, and Holy Cross College, published a special four-page paper. The publication ran an editorial on the front page with the headline, "Don't make us write obituaries," calling on the tri-campus community to take responsibility and prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

Medium: The students behind that ‘clusterf***’ headline want you to focus on literally anything else.
The student journalists at the paper had been covering the [University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]'s rocky re-opening plan for months, and they even broke the initial story exposing the clusters of positive Covid cases on campus. Ever since the editorial ran, The Daily Tar Heel’s work has gone viral, drawing attention from the National Press Club and Anderson Cooper.
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Newsletter compiled by CMI Studio Tech Olivia Valyo

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