CMI 2021 Annual Report


Learn more about the work of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University during 2020-2021. If you want to be the first to know what's happening at the CMI, sign up for our monthly email newsletters:

Annual Report






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The Center for Media Innovation at Point Park

University stimulates creative thinking about

the present and future of storytelling among

young people, professionals and the public,

focusing on narrative, entrepreneurship

and community engagement.

On the Cover

Comocrea Johnson took the cover image when she became a member of the Mon

Valley Photography Collective and toured Kennywood park before it opened for

the 2021 season (pg. 8). She captured a photograph of fellow participant Jennifer

McCalla in action.

About the photographer:

Hello, I’m Comocrea Johnson, and I love photography! I work in social service at Pittsburgh-area nonprofits and reside in

the Mon Valley with my husband and children.

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed landscape, nature and street photography. During the pandemic, I picked up

a camera on a whim. I had no idea how much photography would nurture my soul or how much I would need it! I haven’t

set my camera down since, including as part of the Mon Valley Photography Collective through the McKeesport Community


Post-pandemic, I hope to continue connecting with others and learning through photography about patience and

authentically seeing the beauty in all that life has to offer.


Join me on this journey on Instagram @c.johnson.photograpy.


It’s been a while since we last got together.

I mean, we’ve seen each other on Zoom and Teams, and we’ve connected countless

times on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. But we haven’t been together in person

for quite a while.

Don’t worry: We have stayed busy.

Over the past year, we found innovative ways to make connections.

We hosted a series of virtual workshops for high school students,

and we featured sessions for professionals and the public on topics

such as TikTok marketing and political campaigns. To our surprise,

some of these events drew viewers from around the country, farther

than we could have reached with in-person events.

We built on these lessons to help nonprofits reach wider audiences

too. Our virtual programming clients this year included Humane

Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh, the Corporate Equity & Inclusion

Roundtable, the Downtown CDC, League of Women Voters, South Hills

Interfaith Movement and more.

Within our own programs, we persevered in often unexpected ways.

At our McKeesport Community Newsroom, more than a dozen people contributed

to a community pandemic diary – and one person, Jim Busch, wrote an original post

every day for a year. He talked about how he had to sit in the parking garage while

his wife learned about having cancer, and he wrote about people dying from and

living with COVID-19.

Photograph By Emma Federkeil

The Pittsburgh Media Partnership shared regional stories about the pandemic and

helped its 20-plus news outlets survive. Now, it has taken aim at another unexpected

outcome of the crisis, mental health concerns, with a new round of reporting.

Our All-Abilities Media project looked for benefits that might come from the pandemic

as people with mobility challenges were able to gather virtually online. Our

new show, A Valid Podcast, featured conversations with leading newsmakers such as

Sen. Bob Casey and directors of the Oscar-nominated Crip Camp documentary.

The Doris O’Donnell Fellowship relaunched in early 2021 and drew a record number

of proposals from across North America. These pitches remind us that many

journalists still believe in their ability to uncover revealing stories that make our

communities stronger. The $20,000 recipient intends to find out what happened to

thousands of children in the Navajo Nation who disappeared from official attendance

records when schools went remote.

When we finally are able to get together again, we will be prepared to draw from the

lessons we learned during this crisis. You can be sure that our programming will be

even more dynamic and relevant than before. We will see you soon!

— Andrew Conte, Ph.D.

Director, CMI


CMI Projects

All-Abilities Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

McKeesport Community Newsroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

Doris O’Donnell Fellowship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

Pittsburgh Media Partnership . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14


High School Workshops . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

Student Profiles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

Alumni Profiles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20


Emerging Technology In Journalism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

What Every Communicator Needs To Know About TikTok . . . . . . . .24

Sports Media During a Pandemic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

From Our Studios . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

The Center for Media Innovation was founded in 2016 with generous support from the Allegheny

Foundation. Philanthropic support is critical and the CMI team is grateful to our project funders.

Allegheny Foundation

Doris O’Donnell Innovations in Investigative Reporting Fellowship

FISA Foundation, individual donors, and an anonymous trust

All-Abilities Media Project

The Heinz Endowments & Henry L. Hillman Foundation

Pittsburgh Media Partnership

The Pittsburgh Foundation

McKeesport Community Newsroom



Phone 412-392-8055

Physical Address 305 Wood Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222

Mailing Address 201 Wood Street, Pittsburgh PA 1522




Twitter @pointparkcmi


Newsletter Sign-Up

Andrew Conte, Ph. D.


Tara Maziorz Myers

Administrative assistant

AmyJo Brown

Project director, Bridge Pittsburgh Media


Martha Rial

Project manager, McKeesport Community


Jennifer Szweda Jordan

Project manager, All Abilities Media

Chris Hays

Project manager, Doris O’Donnell Fellowship

Stacey Federoff

Graduate assistant

Eddie Robas

Studio tech

Jake Balistreri

Studio tech

Olivia Vaylo

Studio tech

Annual Report compiled by

Alexis Wary Honors Student

Annual Report designed by

Cassandra Pittas Practicum Student


All-Abilities Media

A Valid Podcast features newsmakers such as

‘Crip Camp’ directors and U.S. Senator Bob Casey

By Jennifer Szewda Jordon

The All-Abilities Media team launched A Valid Podcast

just as the pandemic emerged in 2020, bringing

awareness to the fact 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. The 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.

Recorded remotely, the show focuses on conversations

among people who have disabilities and newsmakers

such as U.S. Senator Bob Casey and an official from the

Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies. An episode

with directors of the Sundance-winning film Crip Camp,

which documents the Woodstock-era roots of the disability

rights movement, streamed live on Facebook and reached

more than 17,000 viewers.

The podcast’s first season also explored the “joy of sex” for

people with disabilities—a group often considered

asexual and even historically restricted from physical

intimacy. Disability Pride Pennsylvania’s parade director

previewed the online event, which also included

conversations about sexuality in the disability community

among its educational workshops.

The podcasts have featured several people, starting with

disability advocate Alisa Grishman, who took the mic at the

beginning. She later served as the show’s lead analyst, and

as a podcasting mentor to other people with disabilities.

For Season Two, the co-hosts were two sisters who have

what they describe as invisible disabilities. One, Alana

Gibbs, has multiple sclerosis, and the other, Darah Thompson,

has a bipolar diagnosis.

Thompson previously participated in a podcast workshop

through the All-Abilities Media Project. In an effort to

support the voices of people of color, the 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 All-Abilities Media team

reporters as well as disability icons Judy Heumann and

Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins.

In an effort to reach as many people as possible, most episodes

have captions and transcripts, and the live video programming

features ASL interpreter Alison Bartley.


A Valid Podcast features discussions with newsmakers, disabilities advocates and journalists. This episode includes

freelance reporters Mary Niederberger and John Miller, and offers ASL translation

A tribute to a storyteller who made an impact:

First-person essay

By Jennifer Szweda Jordan

The All-Abilities Media project launched a new website in 2020 that pulls together the content it creates to give

everyone a place to learn more information about its programming.

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.”

people with disabilities, and we were incredibly privileged

that David allowed us to share his story.

Then, several months after David visited with us, his sister,

wrote to tell me he’d died. He had cancer, but his sister

Tonya Hale, said his death was owed to multiple infections.

David was 40.

I headed over to his Facebook page and saw posts celebrating

David’s life. One of them was from Calabro, who pointed out

that he last spoke on stage with the Woodlands camp at an

event at the August Wilson African-American Cultural Center.

She passed on a quote from Hale’s talk:

“What’s my purpose?” Hale asked aloud. “It’s to join in on the

good work of making this world a better place. That’s a

purpose we all can unite around in the big story of life.”

What he did was share personal stories to encourage youth

and others. He didn’t gloss over the difficult parts of life. He

spoke 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


New opportunities spring from pandemic for McKeesport

Community Newsroom

By Martha Ria

McKeesport Community Newsroom

At first, it seemed like the pandemic threatened to derail all of the

work the McKeesport Community Newsroom has been doing to

bring citizens together to tell their own journalistic stories through

words, images and sounds. Instead, the crisis created new

opportunities for people to collaborate online and outdoors.

Some highlights include:

• Tube City Writers and Mon Valley Photography Collective

Debut Anthology: Members of Tube City Writers and the

Mon Valley Photography Collective published their first

anthology, Tube City Tales. The magazine features original

writing and photographs that celebrate the Mon Valley

experience by Mon Valley residents.

• Award-winning Journalists Mentor Mon Valley Teens in Free

Weekly Workshop: Voices from the Valley provided a free weekly

workshop for Mon Valley teenagers on how to develop audio and

interviewing skills to make their own podcast. Students learned

how to interview members in their community in order to tell

untold and underreported stories. Students also experienced

using audio apps such as Audacity to create a narrative with

recorded interviews, scripts, music and world-building sounds.

Kennywood - Jennifer McCalla

• Mon Valley Photography Collective explores Carrie Furnace

and Round Hill Park: The collective partnered with Venture

Outdoors to hold outings at two local sites. Participants explored

the Carrie Furnace Historic Landmark, a former steel mill in

Rankin that at its peak employed 15,000 laborers and produced

1,000 to 1,250 tons of iron per day. On a separate day in winter,

they visited Round Hill Exhibit Farm and Park, an 1,101-acre

park and its exhibit farm of animals in Elizabeth Township

operated by Allegheny County Parks Department.

• YouthCAST documents faces of McKeesport for a photography

mural: McKeesport Community Newsroom worked with local

students from YouthCAST, a youth leadership program based in

McKeesport, to photograph more than 20 Mceesport residents

representing a wide range of ages and backgrounds at Gergely

Park, Renzie Park and Kane Community Living Center. The

resulting images will be displayed in a larger-than-life

photography mural that celebrates McKeesport’s diversity

and community spirit.

Winter - Comocrea Johnson


McKeesport Area High School junior Nya O’Neal (left)

photographs Sheriyah Price (right) and her brother Shylor Price, of

McKeesport, at Gergely Park in McKeesport on

October 18, 2020.

Photograph By Martha Rial

The Mon Valley Photography Collective was invited to

photograph Kennywood Park before the park

opened for its 2021 season.

Photograph By Nick Paradise

Pondering racism during the pandemic

By Dahnayl Champine

The following is an excerpt from Tube City Tales, the debut anthology of Tube

City Writers and Mon Valley Photo Collective. Printed copies of the full-color,

28-page publication are still available; contact program director Martha Rial


Why does it matter what shade of color you are? When I choose

my friends, it’s not because they are black or white. What should

matter is if you are smart or kind. People come in all different

shades of colors. They should be judged by their intelligence

and not because they’re different.

I never understood what discrimination was until we had to

quarantine. I remember my mom talking about George Floyd

getting killed. I felt scared, mad, and afraid. The first thing I

did was go to the internet. I wanted to see for myself why my

mom was so sad. I saw them kill him because he was Black,

and I’m Black too. I imagined this happening to me. I

wondered, if I was walking down the street, would the police

kill me for being black?

In conclusion, I don’t know why people discriminate, but I

can say it is ugly to have those feelings about people you

don’t know. I don’t care if a person is yellow, all that matters

is, are they a good friend to me and the people around them.

If I am ever discriminated against I don’t know how I

will handle it. It’s a scary situation. If I speak up, will

something happen to me?


Dorris O’Donnell Fellowship

Sunnie Clahchischiligi of Searchlight New Mexico wins

$20,000 media fellowship from Center for Media Innovation

By Andrew Conte

Fellowship winner looks for Navajo Nation’s missing school children

After receiving more than 40 applications from across the

United States, judges for the Doris O’Donnell Innovative

Journalism Fellowship selected 10 finalists and three ultimate

winners of grant money, including Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi, a

member of the Navajo Nation who will be writing for Searchlight

New Mexico about educational challenges on the reservation.

Clahchischiligi received a $20,000 grant to investigate what

happened to thousands of Navajo children who disappeared

from school attendance records during the pandemic. More than

half of students on the portion of the reservation in New Mexico

lacked internet access or computers at home when the

pandemic started – and for many, no one ever fixed the

problem despite government funding that poured into schools.

“It’s no secret that the pandemic has been devastating for

Navajo students, who even in the best of times struggle with

one of the worst educational systems in the country,”

Searchlight’s deputy editor Amy Linn wrote in the fellowship

application. “Indeed, the coronavirus is said to have created a

‘lost year’ for American students in general. But on the

reservation, students themselves have actually been lost.

Thousands of Native students disappeared off the attendance

rolls when education went online. Where did the children go?

Where do they live? Were they enrolled in any school,

anywhere? No one seemed to know…”

First-place winner

Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi

Searchlight, like many of the news outlets that applied for

funding this year, operates as a nonprofit newsroom and

grew out of local journalists’ concerns about the lack of

reporting in their community. All three of the fellowship

winners work at nonprofit newsrooms.


Second- place winner

Laura Courley

Third- place winner

Rich Lord

Georgia’s toxic waste

Judges awarded a second-place prize of $5,000 to Laura

Courley, a freelance writer for The Current, a nonprofit

newsroom that started up in and around Savannah,

Georgia,during the pandemic.

Courley plans to investigate the toxicity of the waterways

near Brunswick, Georgia, where tons of toxic waste was

dumped by factories for decades, leaving behind federal

Superfund sites. The Gullah Geechee people, descendents

of enslaved Africans, are among the most affected, while

some of Georgia’s most affluent communities exist

across a causeway.

“Local officials worried about the image of these wealthy

retreats are loathe to acknowledge the simmering

environmental crisis around these two Superfund sites,”

Courley wrote in her application. “The Current seeks to do

what government regulators have not: discover how toxic

are the waterways, what dangers lurk for low-income

communities who survive from this seafood and what

threats exist for the local sea life.”

‘Milking’ rental tenants for profits

Rich Lord, a reporter for Pittsburgh nonprofit PublicSource,

proposed a deep probe into the practice of “milking” by

landlords in the industrial Monongahela River Valley, whereby

people obtain properties as cheaply as possible, spend little on

upkeep, dodge enforcement efforts, and churn through tenants

using eviction to maximize profits.

The judges awarded Lord a $2,500 third-place prize. Lord

wrote in the application that he wants to create a

“user-friendly open interface” to give renters data on

landlords’ eviction histories and to “explore longer-term

solutions, like improved or standardized code enforcement,

that could raise quality of life for tenants floundering in

ill-maintained properties.”

About the Doris O’Donnell Fellowship

Provided By

Each of the fellows will have until the end of calendar year 2021 to complete their reporting projects, and they will be asked to engage

with Point Park University students throughout the fall semester.The fellowships honor the legacy of Doris O’Donnell, a pioneering

journalist who began her 50-year career during World War II for the Cleveland News. She joined the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1959,

covering the Sam Sheppard murder trial that inspired “The Fugitive,”and traveling to Dallas for the aftermath of President Kennedy’s

assassination and to the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. O’Donnell was hired by Richard Scaife in 1973 to write for the

Greensburg Tribune-Review, where she worked for 15 years.

The Allegheny Foundation generously supports the fellowships with a three-year grant. For more information,

please visit


Doris O’Donnell Fellowship

Finalist from across the country propose in-depth


Judges for the Doris O’Donnell Innovations in Investigative Journalism Fellowship identified seven finalists for this year’s competition

(listed below in alphabetical order).

Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation received more than 40 applicationsfrom across the United States focused on diverse

topics. The CMI announced the winners of the three prizes - $20,000, $5,000 and $2,500 on April 14.

Sam Baumel // New York City, NY // Creative Produce

Follow the attendance officers, employed by Detroit schools,

who are tasked with looking for clues as to where they will

find thousands of missing students via a stereoscopic virtual

reality video, putting the audience in the center of the scene,

face to face with the characters. The intent is to shed light on

the gross inequalities pervasive throughout the United States,

especially within urban communities like Detroit, which have

been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Ciara McCarthy // Victora, TX // The Victoria Advocate

Take a broad look at the social safety net that exists in the

“Crossroads” of Texas, specifically focusing on DeTar

Healthcare System, the for-profit hospital system that

regularly sues patients for outstanding medical debt. DeTar

is owned by the fourth-largest for-profit operator of hospitals

in the U.S. The project would look specifically at this

hospital system’s practices, but also at how a region with so

many uninsured and underinsured adults grapples with

paying formedical and mental health care more broadly.

Tasmiha Khan // Bridgeview, IL // Freelance Writer

Investigate the discrimination Muslim students face in

institutions of higher education and what efforts are made

to improve racial equity to help address structural barriers

and identify educational opportunity gaps—especially for

those who are first generation immigrants and Muslims.

Kate Martin // Carrboro, North Carolina // Carolina Public


Using a combination of court data, foster care data and

deeply-sourced interviews with foster parents, advocates,

law enforcement, court personnel, parents and children

(with parental oversight), Carolina Public Press (CPP) will

investigate the frequency and causes of failures in

county-run foster care programs, which are in a

well-documented crisis, but one for which the political

will to repair is lacking.


The judges this year include seven leading national journalists and

academics, including two new people who joined the process this

time around – columnist Salena Zito and Wall Street Journal editor

Andrew Fraser. The panelists are (in alphabetical order):

Anya Slepyan // Philadelphia, PA // The Daily Yonder

Report on the ways prison expansion has affected the

disproportionately poor and rural communities that

host prisons, particularly by changing the career

opportunities, and therefore educational priorities, of young

people in those communities as they go from

under-resourced rural students to prison guards, a

less-studied element of mass incarceration.

Jason Strother // Seoul, New York City // Independent

Multimedia Journalist

Investigate how New Jersey’s pandemic response excluded

people with disabilities by speaking with people from diverse

backgrounds as well as their families and caregivers to learn

how they adapted to challenges brought on by COVID-19

while exploring how a more inclusive disaster protocol,

increased disability representation in healthcare governance

and the use of assistive technology could improve access to

equal disease prevention, treatment and care.

Vanessa Swales // Milwaukee, Wisconsin // Wisconsin


Support News414, a collaboration between Wisconsin

Watch and Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, that

delivers information to Milwaukee residents via text, social

media and the websites of each nonprofit news partner.

News414 has cultivated a network of about 2,300 text

subscribers who can connect directly with reporters. Texting

conversations between reporters and residents are

inspiring more traditional stories that seek solutions to

problems ranging from racial disparities in policing to

Milwaukee’s housing crisis.

Penny Abernathy

A former executive at The Wall Street Journal and

New York Times who is now a visiting professor

at Northwestern University, collaborating with

colleagues at the Medill School on the Local News

Initiative. She is the author of “The Expanding

News Deserts,” a major report that documents the

decline and loss of local news organizations in the U.S.

David Folkenflik

A media correspondent for NPR News, and host

and editor of On Point from NPR and WBUR,

Boston’s NPR station. His stories and analyses are

broadcast throughout NPR’s newsmagazines,

including All Things Considered, Morning Edition

and Here & Now.

Andrew Fraser

A senior publishing editor at The Wall Street

Journal. He spent time as editor of the Valley News

Dispatch newspaper in suburban Pittsburgh and

as business editor of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Fraser also worked nearly two decades at the

Associated Press in newsroom management roles

and as a reporter and editor.

Amber Hunt

An investigative reporter for the Cincinnati

Enquirer, she is part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning

team at the newspaper, where she also hosts the

podcast “Accused,”an award-winning true crime

serial that reached No. 1 on iTunes and has 20

million downloads to date. She’s written six books,

including the New York.

Brentin Mock

A Pittsburgh-based staff writer for CityLab, a

standalone website from Bloomberg Media that

explores trends shaping our country’s urban

future, and captures the creativity and vibrancy

of our increasingly urbanized world.

Carl Prine

A former editor of the Navy Times, who covered

the invasion of Iraq for the Pittsburgh

Tribune-Review and was later deployed to Iraq as

an Army guardsman. Prior to the Navy Times, he

covered the military beat and breaking national

news at the San Diego Union-Tribune. In 2012,

Prine won an Investigative Reporters and Editors

Award for “Rules of Engagement,” a report on a

incident in which U.S. soldiers shot three

unarmed deaf Iraqi boys.

Salena Zito

A contributor to The Wall Street Journal and

RealClearPolitics, Washington Examiner reporter

and New York Post columnist, as well as coauthor

of “The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition

Reshaping American Politics.”


Pittsburgh Media Partnership

Pittsburgh Media Partnership adapts to the crisis

By Staff

The Pittsburgh Media Partnership did not launch in the

way that anyone expected but instead responded to

challenges the Covid-19 pandemic presented to local

journalism across southwestern Pennsylvania. Several

highlights include:

• The Partnership added several new members:

The Incline, QBurgh, The Allegheny Front

and Talk Magazine.

• The Partnership provided more than $18,000 in

technology grants to local media outlets, and helped

facilitate access to more than $30,000 in grants from

other funders such as the Knight Foundation and the

Facebook Journalism Project.

• Media outlets started reporting out their pandemic

stories on a unified website,

• The Parnership promoted partner collaborations that

benefitted individuals, institutions and the greater

community by amplifying voices and more.

• The Henry L. Hillman Foundation provided a

$150,000 grant to help the local media ecosystem

recover from damages caused by the COVID-19

pandemic. The programming includes: an internship

program for the summer of 2021 and work to foster

shared resources such as accounting and legal

services, create a shared technology library and start

a business incubator program for media startups.

• Freelance writer Hal B. Klein produced an original

news enterprise story for the entire collaborative that

focused on how Pittsburgh’s Black farmers are

working to grow a new future. The story looked at

how a small group of new farmers have seeded a

movement to change the local food industry. It

raised questions about whether COVID-19’s impact

on the local ecoomy will set them back, or if the

pandemic and a growing push for new social justice

might actually help.

• Two participants, Trib Total Media and Spotlight PA,

collaborated to add a full-time reporter who focuses

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 joined

the Philadelphia Inquirer and PennLive/Harrisburg

Patriot-News as a governing partner in the Spotlight

organization, replacing the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

which withdrew in 2020.

• Journalists from three partners, the Incline, The Mon

Valley Independent and Gazette 2.0 collaborated on a

story depicting the struggles students in the Pittsburgh

area face accessing internet services for online learning

during the pandemic

(see more pg 15).

Researchers seek to understand present and future of

the local media ecosystem


The Pittsburgh Media Partnership has partnered with

the American Journalism Project to learn how people in

Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania get the news

and information they need. Surveys and interviews were

conducted throughout the region one-on-one, through

text message and an online survey. The feedback will be

used by PMP’s 20-plus members to improve news coverage

across the region.

“An effort like this has never been done in Pittsburgh

before,” AmyJo Brown, PMP project director, said.

“We are hoping to hear genuine feedback from people all

across the Pittsburgh region about what information they

need from their local news outlets, what they value most.”

AJP plans to complete its assessment of the ecosystem by

summer 2021. Local media outlets and foundations plan

to use the results to understand how media operate now

– and to lay groundwork for sustainable local

journalism into the future. Results will be available at

Media partners collaborate to document challenges of

online learning

Three members of the Pittsburgh Media Partnership –

the Incline, The Mon Valley Independent and Gazette 2.0

– collaborated on a story depicting the struggles students

in the Pittsburgh area faced accessing internet services for

online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Work began on the in-depth story “Endless Buffering” in

early October 2020. Reporter Jamie Wiggan of Gazette 2.0

said that even though 10 percent of the student population

in the Sto-Rox School District reported not having

internet access, he had to overcome the challenge of

finding students willing to talk on the record. “It can be a

daunting thing to be vulnerable about your struggles and

frustrations in a public news story,” he said.

Nate Smallwood, the photographer for the piece, had to

make sure the sources he worked with also felt safe as the

pandemic raged on. “Shooting-wise, in addition to keeping

six feet apart and wearing masks at all times, I made sure

that each [person] photographed felt comfortable meeting

for a portrait and spelled out ahead of time the precautions

that would be taken,” he said.

Colin Deppen, of The Incline, the lead writer on the story,

pulled information from notes others shared with him. “I

worked on this story from home, alongside my

seven-year-old daughter who was also working from home

as an online learner,” he said.

“We are privileged to have reliable and relatively highspeed

internet in our house. Unfortunately, many students

across our commonwealth aren’t as lucky. And that’s the

story we set out to tell, and I’m really glad we did.”

An excerpt from the story :

Carla Rathway could hear her youngest son’s frustration from

the other room. She knew the clamor meant the internet was

acting up again and keeping 12-year-old Preston from his school

work. It happened all the time.

Troy Pellick, 18, and Alexa Pellick, 14, of Grindstone, work on

schoolwork using the internet at the Grindstone

Volunteer Fire Department Social Hall on Jan. 4, 2021.

The photo first appeared with the “Endless Buffering”

series of stories.

Photograph By Nate Smallwood

“He’s like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ when it’s buffering or locking him out,”

Rathway said, adding she also overhears him saying, “‘I hate this


Like scores of Pennsylvania students, Preston, a

seventh grader at Belle Vernon Area School District in

Westmoreland County, and his brother, 15-year-old tenth-grader

Dylan, were in their second month of online learning this October.

But the brothers were doing it all without a reliable high-speed

internet connection at home, where they live across the county line in

Fayette County.

In place of one, Preston and Dylan relied on an ad hoc

network of erratic mobile hotspots and visits to relatives in order to

complete their assignments. Makeshift solutions, like these, exist all

around them.

Elsewhere in Fayette County, public school students are going to

emergency facilities such as firehouses and churches to access the

internet. And several districts are experimenting with broadcasting

classes on TV at an appointed time — instead of having students log


Read the full story online at


Community Outreach

High School workshops give insight about “every

angle of journalism”

Point Park University professor Robin Cecala leads a session on creating video content.

The CMI met high school students online in spring 2021

when it was unable to host an in-person high school media

day for a second straight year because of the pandemic.

Sessions focused on different aspects of storytelling – such

as interviewing, sports journalism, photography, podcasting

and managing student newspapers. Point Park faculty

and students and CMI staff led the sessions, which were

co-sponsored by the School of Communication.

While the in-person events typically draw 150-200 students

to campus for one day, the series of seven online workshops

lasted two months and reached more than 850 people via

Facebook and YouTube.

• “I enjoyed all sessions, I was able to learn a lot and

the presenters did great!” — Student

The CMI and School of Communication hope to resume

in-person events during the 2021-22 academic year. Even

then, we learned that the programming must include

online components that reach a broader audience as well.

To see all of the online workshops, visit

Students and teachers gave the programs an average of 8.7

out of 10 in post-event surveys. Their comments included:

• “I thought that it was great to have such a wide variety

of topics that gave great insight into every angle of

journalism.” — Student


• “I took away several ideas and resources that I’ll be

able to use with students.” — Teacher

Point Park University professor Chris Rolinron talks

about photography.



Dynamic campus in

Downtown Pittsburgh.

Hands-on, experiential

education with nearby

internships and paid

cooperative education

jobs for credit.

Diverse, creative environment

and professional facilities.

100 + undergraduate, master’s

and doctoral programs.

Scholarships and grants


Learn more:



Outstanding Students

Accomplishments shine on and off campus

Stacey Federoff

Job Title & Employer

Communications Intern, Mindful Kreative


Concurrent M.A. in Media Communication and MBA


April 2021

“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.”

Jordyn Hronec


Multimedia (Multimedia, Graphic Design)


April 2021

“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 a scholarship award from the Press Club

meant, to me, that I must be doing something right!”


Meghan Macioce


Public Relations & Advertising


April 2021

“Being a transfer student from a large, state school in Ohio, I took

a lot of time looking at my options. The fact that Point Park was

directly in Downtown Pittsburgh, close to so many job

opportunities and holds strong relationships with local

businesses made the choice pretty easy. I was tired of feeling

like a number within my lectures and coming to Point Park I

have made close relationships with not only other students,

but also my professors as well.”

Mallory Neil

Job Title & Employer

Photography Intern, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC




April 2023

“I chose Point Park when I found out about all of the

opportunities students were getting, and not just juniors and

seniors, but freshmen and sophomores, too! When I toured,

they told me if I wanted the opportunities to go after them.

This was really encouraging to me as a senior in high school

and I really felt like Point Park wanted the best for me.”

Cortnie Phillips

Job Title & Employer

Global Talent Development Intern, Mylan


Concurrent M.A. in Media Communication and MBA


April 2022

“The urban campus is second to none. I can’t stress enough

how great Point Park’s location is to companies around

Pittsburgh. As an undergraduate student, I had the ability to

go to my internships in the morning and then walk to class

in the afternoon. I chose to do the M.A./MBA at Point Park

because I was fortunate enough to land a graduate

assistantship in the School of Communication that allowed

me to pursue both degrees.”

Marlee Pinchok

Job Title & Employer

Reporter, WSAZ-TV (Huntington, W.Va.)


Broadcast Reporting


April 2020

“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.”

Taylor Spirito


Broadcast reporting


April 2021

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter:


“I would not have been able to feel confident taking this role if it

weren’t for the experiences Point Park has provided me. From

learning the ins-and-outs of play-by-play and color commentary,

from working with the Point Park Sports Network, to hosting and

reporting for sports shows at U-View, I took every single skill I’ve

learned throughout my time at Point Park and applied them to

calling the game.”



Exceptional Alumni

Graduates make their mark

Matt Adams

Job title

audience and product strategist



“If I didn’t go to Point Park, then I can honestly say

that I wouldn’t be in the job I am in now. It was the

starting point to an incredible journey.”

Lauren Clouser





“In multimedia, or any adjacent field, it’s essential

to get outside experience. It’s one thing to learn and

practice something in a classroom, but it’s another to

use those same skills in a work environment.

Internships are a great way to see what work you

enjoy and what you don’t, and you never know what

connections can lead you to a career you love!”

Dominique Hildebrand

Job Title & Employer

Associate Photography Editor, National Geographic



“My professors were incredibly influential in not just

my education and career, but they became close friends

and now colleagues. It helps that we are such a small

team, so you really get close with your professors ... I

love these people endlessly and really owe a lot of my

career thus far to them.”

Casey Hoolahan

Job Title & Employer

Multimedia Journalist, WDTV (Bridgeport, W. Va.)


Broadcast Reporting

“My experience with student media like U-View and

The Globe were vital in preparing me to be the

one-man band that is a multimedia journalist. Those

groups pushed me to refine my writing and video

skills and to find my own stories to tell —

independence is vital as a reporter in a small town.”


Amanda (King) Finkenbinder

Job Title & Employer

Manager, Marketing Communications, UPMC


Broadcast Reporting

“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.”

Keera Frye

Job Title & Employer

Excutive Producer, WDTV (Bridgeport, W. Va.)


Public relations and advertising

“Being a part of U-View at Point Park played a huge

role in my success at WDTV ... Beyond U-View, the

professors do a great job of preparing us for jobs in

the media industry. I completed projects and

assignments that required the same skills as the

work I do now: editing video, being able to quickly

adapt, having good news judgement or just knowing

what questions to ask.”

Blaine King

Job Title & Employer

Broadcast Technical Operator, QVC


Broadcast Reporting, MBA


Public Relations and Advertising

“The factors that led me to pursue both of my

degrees from Point Park were the opportunities

available in each program. I was so attracted to the

hands-on experience I would get from the start as

a broadcast reporting major. For my MBA, the

online experience allowed me to work at a pace that

was logical for my school, work and personal life.”

Emily VanderMey

Job Title & Employer

Graduate Student, California College

of the Arts




Information Technology

“Point Park’s multimedia program was my first

choice because of its location in the city, small size

and multidisciplinary approach. Being able to take

classes in journalism, writing, design, web, video

and photography helped me find what I liked —

and what I didn’t.”



New platforms provide new opportunities: Journalists

discuss how technology can enhance storytelling

By Alexis Wary

New technology and platforms can tell engaging stories using

the same principles of journalism while reaching new — and

younger — audiences.

To dive deeper into how to do just that, Pittsburgh Tech

Council, 90.5 WESA and the Center for Media Innovation

worked together to host an Emerging Technology in

Journalism virtual event on Feb.17. A recording of the entire

event is available on the CMI’s YouTube channel.

Hosted by Sarah Kovash, director of digital content and

strategy for Pittsburgh community Broadcasting Corp. the

panel of speakers included Tory Starr, director of digital and

social content Innovation at WGBH Boston; Joanie Tobin,

senior producer for WGBH’s Emerging Platform Initiative

team; Nicholas D’Orazio, director of corporate strategy of

Inven Global, and Jonathan Kersting, Vice President of

communications for Pittsburgh Technology Council.

“We are trying to be a catalyst and test ideas to get the

organization to make changes, and go out and test

these ideas,” Starr said.

Recently, the team hosted a space-themed escape room live

streamed on Twitch. Virtually, participants on the Mars space

station had to get back to Earth, integrating educational

content into the experience.

Both Starr and Tobin discussed how WGBH’s internal

goals were content and capability. With content, they

wanted to work on finding a target audience and learn how

to reach them.

TikTok is one way to directly reach that younger audience.

Most teens and young adults are now receiving their media

through TikTok. If organizations want to involve and

intrigue these age groups, they need to go to where they are

getting their content.

WGBH has been inspired by individual creators on TikTok

such as teachers or women in STEM (science, technology,

engineering and mathematics). A trailblazer on the platform,

the team members said The Washington Post has also

influenced them, since the national news outlet is willing to

be aggressive and test new formats.

As far as capability, Starr said WGBH wants to be able to

learn from its mistakes, work on where the projects are

coming from, and try to introduce audiences to new platforms.

The Emerging Platforms Initiative team has been

experimenting through Twitch, YouTube, Facebook,

Instagram Stories and Reels and TikTok. When dealing

with a new platform and a specific type of audience, Tobin

said collaborating with existing specialists, such as

influencers, will make the content more successful.

“You have to approach TikTok for a good reason, not just

to do it because it is trending,” Tobin said. “You have to

understand and respect what people are doing on that

platform and why they are doing it.”

“We have to be open minded to understand how these

next generations are getting involved and what they

want,” Starr said.


Nicholas D’Orazio

D’Orazio praised TikTok for its ability to combine

several forms of entertainment, allowing people to tell

more engaging stories.

Conventions of the platform can help newsrooms get their

point across concisely. Otherwise, the audience’s

attention is lost quickly. TikTok videos can also be helpful

to dive deeper into valuable stories that may have been

overlooked due to complexity, to make them more

approachable for viewers.

Tory Starr, WGBH Emerging Platform Initative

Originally a competitive gamer, D’Orazio said he was drawn

to writing about e-sports.

“I started looking for stories, found their potential

and wanted to spread those stories with the e-sports

community,” he said.

People — especially some marginalized communities — can

express themselves through e-sports coverage in ways that

more mainstream media won’t let them, and they end up

feeling more welcomed.

“The autistic community are the champions in esports,”

D’Orazio said. “It is a source of strength, confidence and

sense of community that they may not have anywhere else.”

He focuses on putting out content that allows for his readers

to serve as fans even if they can’t play or understand the

games. They can be an advocate without being physically

involved, he said.

To conclude the discussion, Kersting offered his

perspective about how the region’s approach to

technology has evolved during his 25-year tenure.

One major similarity since he started in 1997 is the

continued need for good storytelling.

“People have always needed this feature storytelling; it

can validate the people who are being featured,”

Kersting said.

Printing paper newspapers and magazines is still

valuable, creating a kind of legitimacy and sincerity,

when a reader holds on to a printed publication, he said.

Radio has retained the same value.

“It allows people to humanize their companies and get

their stories told,” he said.

Ultimately, the organizations represented at the event

emphasized how they are working hard to find new ways

to adapt to technology that can be used for journalism.

“There is a new generation of people that get content in

new ways,” Kersting said. “We need to work on getting

involved with these new platforms in an authentic way.”



Mr. Heelyagirl and TikTok experts give advice on how to

build communities

By Alexis Wary

TikTok has become one of the leading social media

platforms, allowing for companies and businesses to reach

audiences and ways for average people to produce and receive

unique content that can potentially lead them to fame.

“Back when the pandemic hit, and I had my wheels — the

only place I know as home — TikTok was an organic way to

let off some energy, make some people smile, laugh and have

fun doing it,” said Connor Clyde, aka Mr. Heelyagirl, a TikTok

creator from Pittsburgh with more than 200,000 followers.

The Center for Media Innovation and PRSA Pittsburgh

worked together to host a virtual panel discussion on March

24, 2021, about the basics of TikTok and how it can be beneficial

for companies and brands.

Gen Z and Millenials are most active on TikTok, a social media

platform focused on sharing short video clips with

pre-recorded or original sound.

Clyde started using the app at the start of the COVID-19

pandemic, leading him to unexpected fame. Now, he even reps

his own T-shirts featuring one of his catchphrases: “Crop top,

muffin top, don’t stop.”

When he started making videos, Clyde said he had no

expectations. He just wanted to entertain his friends and lift

people up during these hard times.

CMI Director Andrew Conte led the conversation with Clyde;

Sloane Kelley, Vice President of Social Media for 9Rooftops

Marketing; and Heather Star Fielder, Point Park Professor of

Multimedia, Chair of the Department of Community

Engagement and Director of Wood Street Communications.

Mr. Heelyagirl

Pittsburgh-based TikTok creator


Eventually, one of his videos went viral and his audience

started to build from there. Since then, he’s worked on

collaborations and sponsored videos with brands such as

GetGo and Smile Direct Club.To keep the content

authentic, Clyde said he only works with sponsors that he

would partner with regardless of the money.

“You have to be genuine, people can cut through …

(other) people who aren’t authentic,” he said.

Apart from individuals making creative content, brands

can benefit from the platform, working with creators to

produce a balance of organic and sponsored content.

“You want things to feel like it is in the voice of the creator

they are working with,” Kelley said.

Learning the mechanics of the app might seem

intimidating, but brands shouldn’t be afraid to try it,

especially if their target audience members are

spending time there, she said.

For anyone who wasn’t familiar with making a video on

the platform, Star Fieldler walked through the process of

making and posting a TikTok video. She also explained

the pros and cons of the platform, and offered case

studies from brands such as Chipotle and Ocean Spray.

There is no formula to going viral on TikTok but, as

Clyde said, by “putting out steady content, building followers

and finding that secret sauce,” viewers can express

themselves and build communities while also allowing

brands to capture audiences’ attention.

Campaigning during COVID and other challenges

were a part of political consultant virtual event

Held just hours before the final presidential debate, “Polls

vs. Trolls: Campaign Tactics for a 2020 World” on Oct. 22,

2020, taught viewers how top Pittsburgh political

consultants would advise the presidential candidates on

using multimedia tactics and strategies to win over voters.

Led by moderator Daniel Moore, Washington Bureau Chief

for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the panel hosted by the

Center for Media Innovation and School of Communication

as part of the Media Innovators Speaker Series, discussed

challenges of campaigning during the pandemic.

John Brabender, chief strategist and creative officer of BrabenderCox,

said that among them, candidates couldn’t film

commercials, and a back-up crew was needed in case anyone

tested positive for COVID-19.

Dennis Roddy, senior advisor at ColdSpark, described this campaign

as a “Susan Sontag election,” using illness as a metaphor.

Instead of focusing on differences in how people are handling it

now, Roddy said, “the best messaging is how we’re going to deal

with the repair, after the situation has passed.”

The panel also included Matt Merriman-Preston, owner and

political consultant of Ampersand Consulting, and Abigail

Gardner, principal of Scottie Public Affairs.

The full recorded discussion is available to watch on the CMI’s Youtube

Channel and Facebook page.



Local media experts share experiences navigating sports

coverage during a pandemic

By Alexis Wary

Sports reporters faced lots of challenges during the start of

the COVID-19 pandemic to keep fans excited about hockey.

On Sept. 9, 2020, the Center for Media Innovation and

the Pittsburgh Center for Sports Media and Marketing

co-hosted a virtual event focused on “Sports Media

During a Pandemic.”

Moderated by 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.

“We had to find a way to get something on the air,” said

Andrew Stockey, WTAE sports director. “People were

hungry to see hockey again.”

One of the major difficulties Stockey said he faced was

getting visuals — a major part of television sports coverage.

Instead of original footage, PensTV shared video with WTAE

and other stations. This way, even though they couldn’t shoot

practices or cover games in-person, they were still able to

produce content.

In order to best cover the Penguins, he said he had to adapt

from seeing the players every day to not seeing them at all,

especially because safety protocols barred members of the media

from visiting the locker room for interviews.

“Anything is better than nothing,” said Rob Rossi, senior

writer for The Athletic. Unable to attend games in-person,

sports reporters were forced to cover match-ups based on

TV broadcasts.

“We need(ed) to find ways that work for us so we (could)

continue to produce good content,” Rossi said.

Even getting the players to talk was difficult at the height of

the pandemic, said Jennifer Bullano Ridgley, Vice President

of Media Relations for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Bullano Ridgley, a Point Park alumna, said at one point, the

work of the media team — which normally visits the locker

room after each game to do interviews and collect sound bites

or post-game coverage — came to a complete standstill. But,

they had to adapt to keep fans involved.

Ultimately, the safety of everyone — including the members

of the team, Penguins organization and media — was of

utmost importance.“It’s an evolving situation and it’s not ideal

for anybody,” Rossi said. “We just (had) to make the best of it.”


School of Communication offers new sports-focused

bachelors degree

The program is aimed at preparing students for careers

in sports communication, emphasizing flexibility and

skill-building that can encompass any content-creation or

other broad-based communication needs of an organization

including broadcasting, social media and fan engagement,

journalism, public relations and advertising.

“With the introduction of a B.A. in sports communication,

we continue our leadership role in preparing and graduating

the next generation of sports industry professionals,” said

Keith Paylo, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of

students at Point Park. “Pittsburgh is a fanatical sports town

and we’re pleased to be able to offer our students access to

sports industry relationships, opportunities and job

experiences that are unparalleled in the region.”

Students in the program will have opportunities to gain

hands-on experience:

• Freshman and sophomore year: students will produce

content for Point Park Athletics and the River States

Conference using the University’s Center for Media


• Junior year: students will create content for the ACC

Network, as well as through internships and various

opportunities with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh

Penguins, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Washington

Wild Things, among other organizations.

• Senior year: students will have the opportunity to work

at an advanced level with our partner sports teams

through our innovative co-op program.

Recent students and graduates have had internships and/or

gone onto jobs with organizations such as the National

“With the introduction of a B.A. in sports communication, we continue

our leadership role in preparing and graduating the next generation

of sports industry professionals. Pittsburgh is a fanatical sports town

and we’re pleased to be able to offer our students access to sports

industry relationships, opportunities and job experiences that are

unparalleled in the region.”

-Keith Paylo, Vice President of Student Affairs

and Dean of Students

Football League, Pittsburgh Penguins, NFL Media, Skillshot

Media and the Washington Football Team.

The School of Communication offers a wide variety of sports

communication classes but the new degree is the first time

those classes have been formalized into a program. This new

program works in collaboration with the Rowland School of

Business and Point Park Athletics to offer students an

enhanced package of academic and career opportunities.

“Our knowledgeable faculty, many of whom are professionals

in the sports communication field, not only educate students

but help mentor their professional ambitions,” said Bernie

Ankney, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Communication. “We’re

able to offer our students real-world opportunities to help

make their sports communication career goals a reality.”

Ankney added: “Imagine being 18 years old and taking

photos for Point Park Athletics, being 20 years old and

working for the ACC Conference, being 21 years old and

working for a professional sports team. It’s an exciting program

that will prepare our students for careers in sports PR and

advertising, sports video production, sports photojournalism

and so many other areas.”


South Hills Interfaith Movement


From Our Studios

Many nonprofits turned to the CMI during the

pandemic to present programs online when they

could not get together in person. Those experiences,

along with the Center’s ongoing client relationships, brought

innovative strategies to reaching new audiences.

The Healing Center

The Healing Center recorded a second season of its Healing

Hearts podcasts focused on helping patients and the public

better understand Pennsylvania’s still-new medical marijuana

industry. Chris Kohan, CEO and co-founder of the medical

cannabis dispensary group with multiple locations across

southwestern Pennsylvania, recorded a series of discussions

with marijuana growers across the commonwealth focused on

the unique healing qualities of their distinct strains. “Having a

full year under our belts now has made this series the best one

yet!” Kohan said. “Working with Andy and the team at Point

Park has been both amazing and seamlessly smooth. We are all

excited about the things we will do together in the future.”

To hear all of the episodes, visit

Dickey, McCamey & Chilcote

The law firm Dickey, McCamey & Chilcote launched a new

podcast series, called The DMC Report, that it records in the

CMI. The episodes, feature conversations about issues and

challenges for business and the economy. The first episode in

December featured Christopher T. Lee, managing attorney of

the Pittsburgh office and founder and chair of the Food and

Beverage Industry Group, to talk about the impact of the

pandemic on the restaurant and food servic industry.

Listeners may find the podcasts at


The Dirt

Grant Ervin, the city of Pittsburgh’s Chief Resilience Officer,

has started a podcast called “The Dirt” to focus on green

technology, eco-living, sustainability and ways that government

and businesses affect the environment, climate change and

more. Special guests have included Justine Russo of Pitt Ohio,

Rebecca Lucore of Covestro, and Ned Eldridge of eLoop,

covering a myriad of sustainability topics. “The Center for

Media Innovation at Point Park University is a perfect setting

for our Podcasts,” producer Anthony Alfonsi said. “It has all

the latest technology for enhancing the podcast. The staff has

been great to work with and has made us feel welcome. We are

thankful for this partnership.”

Among Neighbors

YWCA Greater Pittsburgh and the CMI have teamed up to

produce Among Neighbors, a Podcast About Race, Power

and Privilege. The show explores conversations that

Pittsburghers rarely have about issues that divide and unite

us. Episodes over the past year have featured topics such as

the origins of Black History Month, interracial friendships,

media discrimination and inclusive holiday celebrations.

“This provides a great opportunity for us to engage with

experts in their field while reminding me of the value of

interpersonal conversations with those of different social

identities,” said Barbara Johnson, co-host and Vice President

of Race and Gender Equity at YWCA. You may find the show

wherever you listen to podcasts.

Our Region’s Business

The show must go on, and the Center for Media Innovation

helped to make it possible for the Allegheny Conference

throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Early on, the non-profit

economic and community development organization lost

studio access at WPXI-TV to record its weekly business

public affairs program, Our Region’s Business. “The CMI kept

us on the air throughout the pandemic, recording

interviews over video chat with regional business leaders from

their homes and offices,” said Bill Flanagan, the program host.

“We missed only one Sunday broadcast at the very beginning

of the pandemic. We couldn’t have done it without the rapid

and creative response by the CMI.” The program, now in its

18th year on WPXI-TV, airs every Sunday morning at 11 am

and is available online at


South Hills Interfaith Movement


From Our Studios

Humane Animal Rescue of

Pittsburgh (HARP)

Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh (HARP) could not hold its

annual gala in 2020 because of COVID-19, and asked the CMI to

help come up with a way of connecting with their supporters via

video instead. A Very Burgh Paws Party was born! The idea was a

Brady Bunch-themed online event that celebrated people’s pets and

featured heartfelt stories of the lifesaving programs at HARP. The

result was a large video wall filled with pets, each in their own square.

The CMI’s production staff was able to help create that portion of the

event – and the overall results were stunning: Humane Animal Rescue

reached 4,600 viewers, with an average view time of 20 minutes, and

most significantly, the organization raised $482,079.

South Hills Interfaith

Movement (SHIM)

South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM) called on the CMI to host

two of its biggest annual events over the past year. In November, the

Center produced an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service for the

nonprofit with the highlight being a choral piece sung by more than

a dozen singers, recorded separately via Zoom and sewn together.

The biggest testimonial of this success was that SHIM reached out to

the CMI again in the spring to produce its annual “Celebrate

with SHIM” event in June 2021.


Downtown CDC

Before the pandemic, the Downtown CDC held a major production

each year for Pittsburgh Fashion Week; unable to bring people

together in-person, the community development corporation

commissioned the CMI to create a week’s worth of online

programming. The online celebration was packed with everything

from photo galleries and workshops to music and dance

performances. It 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.

Engineers Society of Western


The Engineers Society of Western Pennsylvania (ESWP) hosted

its annual engineering awards banquet with a virtual presentation

on February 25, 2021. ESWP President David W. Borneman, P.E.,

and 1st Vice-President Tammi A. Halapin, P.E., both recorded

segments in the CMI’s video production studio for their part in

presenting the banquet awards. After making full use of the CMI

production facilities, including the teleprompter, lighting and

cameras, and editing service, both said they were very impressed

with the facilities and the service provide by the CMI staff.

During the virtual presentation, Mr. Borneman thanked PPU for

use of the CMI facility.

Corporate Equity & Inclusion


The Corporate Equity & Inclusion Roundtable transformed its

usual one-day annual event into three days of virtual programming

produced by the CMI in October. The event included talks by Mayor

Bill Peduto, Steelers President Art Rooney II and dozens of

community and corporate leaders. Tim Stevens, chairman & CEO of

the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) and facilitator for

B-PEP’s Corporate Equity & Inclusion Roundtable (CEIR), said that

“it was indeed a pleasure to work with Andrew Conte, director of

the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University. The

staff had wonderful ideas, were very accommodating, and were

obviously committed to providing us a very good product for our

first-ever virtual CEIR Annual Conference.” For more information,



Center for Media


201 Wood Street






Physical Address

305 Wood Street, Pittsburgh PA


Mailing Address

201 Wood Street, Pittsburgh PA




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