CMI 2020 Annual Report


Learn more about the work of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University during 2019-2020. If you want to be the first to know what's happening at the CMI, sign up for our monthly email newsletters:

McKeesport Community Newsroom

McKeesport Community Newsroom

Writers build community

through stories

By Matt Petras

people for a live reading from members of

the writers group.

“The mood was so loving and supportive,”

Rial said. “It was really moving for them to

get up on stage and to share their stories

with people and to see their families come

out and support them that night. It was an

incredibly touching evening.”

In addition to regular workshops, the

newsroom also invites guests for

special presentations about journalism and

storytelling. In the summer of 2019, Helen

Fallon, former director of Point Park University’s

Honors Program and a Pittsburgh

Post-Gazette copy editor, visited to do a

workshop about attribution, bias and sourcing,

for example. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Staff Photographer Michael Santiago also

came to present his work.

Busch regularly attends the writing

workshops, using them as an opportunity

to flex his writing muscles and hear the

diverse experiences of others.

“I like listening to the other

people’s stories and getting

some insight into different life

experiences that are different,”

Busch said. “They’re not what

I’ve experienced.”

Busch loves the newsroom’s location in the

former McKeesport Daily News building,

which shut down in late 2015. He admires

the building’s classic newspaper

architecture and history.

“I used to work occasionally in the

McKeesport Daily News building,” Busch

said. “I’m glad to see there’s something

happening there because I just think it’s one

of the coolest places on the planet.”

The Pittsburgh Foundation provides funding

for the McKeesport Community Newsroom,

led by project manager Martha Rial. The

program operates in conjunction with

YouthCAST, an afterschool program for young


Photo by Stephen Willing

Vickie Babyak, of Dravosburg, reads during Tube City Writers Live at Tube City Center in McKeesport in November 2019.

Jim Busch, a 67-year-old White Oak

resident retired from the advertising

industry, remembers McKeesport’s best

days fondly. Though he has witnessed the

city’s decline, the Center for Media

Innovation’s McKeesport Community

Newsroom gives him joy.

“I can remember when McKeesport was a

big deal, and I’m just glad to see something

positive happening here,” Busch said. “I

mean, it’s been bad news for most of my

life, but this is something good.”

The McKeesport Community Newsroom,

founded in April 2019 and based in the

former McKeesport Daily News building,

brings together Mon Valley residents for

storytelling and journalism programs.

The newsroom follows the CMI’s

McKeesport Media Oasis project from 2018,

which saw media professionals facilitate

writing and photography work from

McKeesport middle and high school

students. Martha Rial, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning

photographer based in the Pittsburgh

area, serves as the newsroom’s project

director, overseeing a bevy of writing,

photography and journalism programs and


“For me, it’s a way to build community

through storytelling,” Rial said. “Not only is

it a way to improve your written and visual

communication skills, but it’s a chance to

meet new friends, learn more about your

neighbors… [and] also how to share

information responsibly.”

Rial oversees the newsroom’s Tube City

Writers group led by Dr. Nicole Peeler, a fiction

writer and Seton Hill professor, as well as the

photography workshops done in partnership

with the Carnegie Library of McKeesport.

Both groups meet regularly, welcoming

aspiring storytellers of all ages.

Back in November 2019, the newsroom hosted

Tub City Writers Live, drawing about 35

Photo by Destiny Robinson

Kids participate in a “Pop Up + Play” event at Harrison Village in McKeesport in July 2019.

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