CMI Annual Report 2023-2024

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2023 - 2024



A report of the Center for Media Innovation



Joint Collaboration Between Pittsburgh

Media Outlets Sheds Light on the Tree of

Life Synagogue Tragedy (see page 20)



Point Park Student Media Leaders

Interview WQED’s Rick Sebak (see page 50)



Take an Inside Look at the Center

for Media Innovation’s Transition

to West Penn Hall (see page 46)



Pittsburgh Downtown Media Hub opens

for all Media Professionals and Students

(see page 30)

Fellowship Winner

Reports on Maine’s

Contamination Crisis

Page 27




The Center for Media Innovation at

Point Park University stimulates creative

thinking about the future of storytelling among

young people, professionals and the public,

focusing on narrative, entrepreneurship and

community engagement.

Change is hard. Or at least it can be.

When first-year students come to Point Park University,

it often seems like a major adjustment to go from the

comforts of home and the academic challenges of high

school to independent living and study. Many young

people talk about how they miss having a bell system

that told them when classes start and end – and that

they struggle with how to organize their free time. But

within a semester or two, they figure it out and start

thriving amid the college environment.

Then after four years, those same students make

another transition into life after college. This can be

even more jarring because of the expectations to find

a job (let alone a purpose) and to start supporting

oneself financially.

I tell our graduating seniors, it’s OK to feel

uncomfortable as long as they keep moving forward.

Look around at your parents, guardians and role

models, I say. People figure out adulting on their own terms and with some time, each of our graduates does too.

As it says in our name, the Center for Media Innovation exists in a space of perpetual change. We’re constantly

experimenting with new ways to discover information, share our findings with others, and sustain this work. We

believe in supporting local journalism, now and into the future, as a bedrock principle of American democracy.

Even with this mission in mind, the period covered by this annual magazine reveals a remarkable amount of growth.

We relocated the CMI to a renovated space in a University-owned building; we opened a new shared newsroom for

smaller news outlets – the Pittsburgh Downtown Media Hub – in the Benedum-Trees Building; and we created a

new certificate program for citizen reporters.

We also continue to evolve by working with young people in programs such as High School Media Day; with

professionals through efforts such as the Pittsburgh Media Partnership, which brings together more than two

dozen news outlets; and with the public through our Community Newsroom Project.

Change also produces results. The CMI prepares young people for lives of service in communication-related

careers, helps professionals lean into the disruption that creates new opportunities, and engages the public in the

work of supporting American democracy through information awareness and accountability.

We invite you to not only join us on this journey but to help shape the innovations to come.

Andrew Conte, Ph.D.

Assistant Vice President and Managing Director

Center for Media Innovation

Photo by Nancy Andrews




CMI Projects

All-Abilities Media

McKeesport Community Newsroom

Pittsburgh Media Partnership

Doris O’Donnell Innovations in Investigative Journalism Fellowship

Pittsburgh Downtown Media Hub







Community Outreach

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

Center for Media Innovation Relocation

The Benter Foundation

Pittsburgh Downtown Media Hub

FISA Foundation, individual donors, and an anonymous trust

All-Abilities Media Project


High School Media Day

Student Profiles

Alumni Profiles

Citizen Reporting Academy


CMI Relocation & Open House

Rick Sebak Visit

Media Innovators Speakers Series

From Our Studios

In The Field

Pittsburgh Downtown Media Hub Open House












The Heinz Endowments & Henry L. Hillman Foundation

Pittsburgh Media Partnership

The Pittsburgh Foundation

Community Newsroom Project

Annual Report cover photo by Andrew Conte.






These partnerships represent our ongoing commitment to the

journalism community, both locally and nationwide. By providing

support, resources, and platforms for collaboration, we aim to

nurture a vibrant and resilient media ecosystem that serves the

diverse needs of our society.

Photo by Olivia Valyo / Liv For Media

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CMI Projects

All-Abilities Media Steps Into

National Spotlight

By Jennifer Szweda Jordan

Photo by Olivia Valyo / Liv For Media

The event received acclaim and showcased the project’s

commitment to promoting inclusivity and understanding.

All-Abilities Media, a pioneering project focused on

reporting about and engaging people with intellectual

disabilities and/or autism, has achieved remarkable

milestones. The project, which recently wrapped up a

five-year incubation at the Center for Media Innovation,

received a prestigious national reporting award and gained

momentum with its coverage of a national disability


One of the highlights was All-Abilities Media’s “A Valid

Podcast Season 3,” which stood out among numerous

exceptional entries, earning it the third-place award for

excellence in reporting on disability from the National

Center on Disability and Journalism (NCDJ). David Nitkin,

an administrator with the host organization, the Walter

Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications

at Arizona State University, praised the podcast’s depth

and exploration of critical issues related to relationships

among people with intellectual and learning disabilities.


Photo by Jennifer Szweda Jordan

Point Park senior Claire Lindsey, who actively contributed

to All-Abilities Media since her freshman year, played

an instrumental role as part of the team responsible for

the production of the award-winning podcast, “A Valid

Podcast.” Claire’s personal experience vividly highlights

the profound impact that All-Abilities Media has had on

students involved in the project.

“The work I did on All-Abilities Media was transformative

for me as a young person, just beginning to step outside

my comfort zone,” she said. “Each person we interviewed

taught me about what it means to persevere. I learned how

to really listen to someone - how to step into someone

else’s world for just a moment. It’s these conversations

that made me a more empathetic person. I wouldn’t trade

that experience for the world.”

The success of All-Abilities Media continued with its April

event, “Who Cares? Stories of Support,” organized by

Claire as part of her for-credit practicum.

Looking ahead, All-Abilities Media is determined to

continue making a difference. Its focus remains on

reporting about and engaging with individuals with

intellectual disabilities and/or autism. To prepare for this,

the project hosts “Podcafe,” a monthly online gathering

where participants with intellectual disabilities and/or

autism come together to build community, curiosity, and

podcasting skills while discussing pertinent topics such as

transportation barriers, dating, and employment.

A shining example of the positive impact of Podcafe

is Jessie Henry, a 25-year-old with autism, who joined

in spring 2022. By the end of the year, Jessie had even

hosted an episode of “A Valid Podcast.” His passion for the

project led him to conduct 19 interviews at the American

Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

in June, focusing on ways to enhance employment

opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The success and recognition garnered at the conference

have opened doors for All-Abilities Media, with several

offers for future sponsorships. The project has also

secured fiscal sponsorship from New Sun Rising and

continues to be managed by Unabridged Press.

Photo by Jennifer Szweda Jordan

To stay updated on the inspiring work of

All-Abilities Media, visit their website at

www.allabilitiesmedia.org, and sign up

for the Unabridged Press email list.

Here you can find the latest information

about the project’s impactful initiatives.


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Empowering Voices: Stories of

Resilience from ‘Loving Our Minds’

Mental Health Event

By Jennifer Szweda Jordan

When Keith Paylo began his career in higher education

three decades ago as the Vice President of Student

Affairs and Dean of Students, mental health was not a

priority for universities and colleges. Recognizing this gap,

Paylo wholeheartedly endorsed the “Loving Our Minds”

mental health event organized by All-Abilities Media in

collaboration with the Center for Media Innovation in

September 2022.

The event brought together news media leaders,

producers, students, therapists, and various others who

graced the university ballroom stage to provide reliable

information about mental illness and health. The aim was

to normalize conversations around these crucial topics,

catering to a diverse audience while focusing on the

experiences of underserved populations.

Participants of the “Loving Our Minds” event listen in on speakers

presenting at the event. Photo by Jennifer Szweda Jordan.


‘Loving Our Minds’ graphic provided by Jennifer Szweda Jordan

During the event, a thought-provoking video produced by

Willy James, titled “VOICES: Mental Health and the Black

Community,” was showcased. In the video, social worker

Sharise Nance emphasized the importance of seeking

therapy for the Black community, acknowledging the

profound impact of trauma on its members. “Trauma is in

the DNA of Black people, so we just cannot afford to not

seek therapy moving forward,” she said.

Junior Anna Skeels took the stage to present a shadow

play that depicted their personal journey as a queer

individual, incorporating heartbreaking statistics from

an annual Trevor Project study on LGBTQIA+ youth. The

statistics revealed alarming figures, such as 45% of

LGBTQ youth seriously considering suicide in the past year.

In another impactful video feature, Madison Gasper, a

sophomore art major, shared her experience with mental

illness and her mother’s addiction through stunning selfportraits.

Gasper’s art portrayed her struggles, including

her high anxiety, stress, and difficulty managing her

OCD at the time. By painting a canvas black and adding a

feathered mask, she visually expressed the pain and relief

she felt during that period. “I just had it covering my face,

because it just felt like, at the time, I was just surrounded

by all this pain and the high anxiety and stress that I had

from OCD that I wasn’t managing very well at the time,”

she said in the video. “And then so just in making that

portrait, and then just being able to step back and look at

it, I just–I really did feel that relief of just seeing how I felt at

the time.”

Will Halim from StoryBurgh and mental health editor

and therapist Mary Beth Spang discussed the power of

personal narratives in addressing mental illness. They

encouraged individuals to journal their experiences as a

means of self-expression and healing.

Although the event primarily aimed to support students

who were still grappling with the aftermath of the

pandemic, the information shared is valuable for anyone.

The entire event video and a collection of news media

reporting and essays on mental health remain available


The “Loving Our Minds” event received substantial

support from the Staunton Farm Foundation. Additional

contributions came from the university’s Office of

Student Life, the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park

University, Allegheny Health Choices, Inc., and Unabridged



CMI Projects

Tube City Writers

Celebrates Fourth

Anniversary, Expands

Reach and Projects in the

McKeesport Community

CMI Projects

By Martha Rial

Tube City Writers (TCW) continues to grow and diversify its participants

as well as its projects. The writers group celebrated its fourth anniversary

in May. In the past year the group has strived to learn and write more

about the McKeesport area. Subjects they have explored include the

impact of Greater Allegheny Passage Bike Trail on the Mon Valley.

Food is another topic the writers enthusiastically embraced. Jennifer

McCalla, of West Mifflin, wrote about the last of the pierogi pinchers at

a McKeesport church, and Peg Luketic, of White Oak, profiled a street

minister who uses hot dogs to spread hope and prayer in McKeesport.

Former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter

Jim McKay joined the group last fall to serve

as a writing coach. Guest speakers this year

included Mon Valley Independent editor

Stacy Wolford and Pittsburgh Union Progress

transportation reporter Ed Blazina.

The group also wrote about volunteers at the

Renziehausen Rose Garden and Arboretum,

Mission Agape, and the Carnegie Library of

McKeesport. These stories highlighted the

continued need for volunteers, as well as the longstanding

tradition of community service in the

McKeesport area. Eight of these stories have been

published in the Mon Valley Independent with more

stories planned for the near future.


Top Left: Jesse Busch reads his father Jim Busch’s story at Tube City Writers Live. (Emily Matthews)

Top Right: Tube City Writers Live at the Carnegie Library of McKeesport. (Emily Matthews)

Bottom: McKeesport area residents on a tour of the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg with

state Rep. Matt Gergely. (Photograph courtesy of PA House of Representatives)

Right: Cupcakes for the Tube City Writers Fourth Anniversary in May 2023. (Martha Rial)


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Tube City Writers Live Event

Strengthens Bonds in the Mon Valley

By Martha Rial

Our third annual Tube City Writers Live at the

Carnegie Library of McKeesport last in 2022

drew a record crowd of nearly 100 attendees.

The diverse presentations centered around the

theme "Favorite Spaces in the Mon Valley," with

participants ranging from ages 11 to 70.

Building on previous success, TCW hosted its

fourth annual Live event the following year in

2023, where nine writers shared inspiring stories

of ordinary individuals embodying the values and

history of the Mon Valley.

Members of the Mon Valley Photography Collective and Tube City Writers gather on the steps of the Carnegie Library in McKeesport

before Tube City Writers Live in July. (Emily Matthews)

At both events, the Mon Valley Photography

Collective showcased a captivating photography

exhibition, selling multiple prints and donating

a portion of the proceeds to the library as a

gesture of gratitude.

With each year's edition, Tube City Writers

Live continues to grow and evolve, showcasing

the vibrancy of the writing community in the

Mon Valley and fostering a sense of unity and

creativity among participants and attendees


Isaiah Johnson, a rising senior at McKeesport Area High

School, reads at TCWL. (Emily Matthews)

Discover more captivating narratives from

local residents on the

McKeesport Community Newsroom Blog

Amber and Vincent Luketic view images by the Mon Valley Photography Collective on display at Tube City Writers Live. (Emily Matthews)


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McKees Rocks Students Learn

Video Production From Pros

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By Martha Rial

The McKeesport Community Newsroom

returned to McKees Rocks last fall to help

seventh graders explore their school’s history

in Julie Himmelstein's video production class

at the Sto-Rox Middle School. With the help of

professional photographer and videographer

Curtis Reaves and WPXI-TV news photographer

Georgiann Roman, the students received

instruction on planning, executing, and editing

a video story. The students also received tips

on interviewing during in-person visits with

retired KDKA-TV reporter Harold Hayes and

WTAE anchor Andrew Stockey.

Shaping Future Storytellers

By Martha Rial

Two years ago, we expanded our outreach

beyond the Mon Valley to work in McKees

Rocks. These efforts have helped us deepen

our commitment to supporting citizen

journalists by holding six workshops for the

contributors of McKees Rocks publication

Gazette 2.0.

Workshop topics included identifying

newsworthy stories, covering a public

meeting, using public records in reporting,

feature writing, photojournalism and

broadcast journalism. Seven participants

were provided a stipend based on how many

sessions they attended.

One of the participants, reporter and editor

Jamie Wiggan had no journalism experience

before he began writing for Gazette 2.0. He

was able to parlay his experience into a new

job as the editor of the City Paper. With our

support, Gazette 2.0 was able to purchase

a new camera that will improve the visual

impact of its product.

WTAE anchor Andrew Stockey shares interviewing tips with seventh graders during a video

production workshop at Sto-Rox Junior High School. (Martha Rial)

Above: Videography and multimedia artist Curtis Reeves helps a seventh grader with editing

software at Sto-Rox Junior High School. (Martha Rial)

16 17

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Exploring Drone Photography

The Mon Valley Photography Collective hosted Certified

Drone Pilot Dr. Lori Paluti, of Clairton, for an Introductory

to Drone Photography Workshop for photographers

interested in learning about the process of becoming a

certified drone operator. The workshop provided a handson

opportunity to operate a consumer drone.

Photo by Comocrea Johnson

Seasonal Delights

The group also captured the splendor of autumn during an

outing to Triple B Farms in Monongahela and volunteered

to photograph local children visiting with Santa Claus at

the Carnegie Library of McKeesport Christmas Party so

attendees could have a keepsake from the event.

Photo by Nan Belli




Photo by Martha Rial

Tapping into Community Voices

McKeesport’s annual Good Neighbor Day gave Tube City

Writers members a chance to apply their interviewing

skills to gather community stories from the Mayor Michael

Cherepko, McKeesport Fire Department Chief Jeff

Tomovcsik, Meals on Wheels coordinator Rose Marshall

and NAACP McKeesport Unit President Brenda Sawyer

for an upcoming “Voices of the Valley” podcast.

Photo by Martha Rial

From Stills to Motion

Members of the Mon Valley Photography Collective

learned how to capture video on their DSLR and

mirrorless cameras during a hands-on session during

Good Neighbor Day with Olivia Valyo, of Point Park

University’s Center for Media Innovation.

Photo by Martha Rial

We first met McKeesport Area High School student Nya O’Neal in 2018 when she was a

participant in YouthCAST’s youth leadership program. During our first session we asked her

what word she use to describe herself, she chose “awkward.”

It has been a wonderful to watch Nya grow as a person and a communicator over the past five

years. She has participated in our photography workshops and Tube City Writers sessions

despite the many demands on her time such as school, church, theater, and marching band.

She also contributed images to the Faces of McKeesport mural, read her stories at Tube City

Writers Live in 2021 and 2022 and exhibited her photographs. One of her photographs sold.

In her senior year, she became editor of McKeesport Area High School’s Red & Blue student


Nya recently completed her freshmen year at Howard University where she is majoring in

journalism. With the help of Tube City Writers, she is working on a story this about antiviolence

initiatives in McKeesport. Her goal for the coming school year is to become involved

with the student newspaper The Hilltop.

She continues to inspire others in our programs with her enthusiasm and curiosity. I believe

she would choose “confident” as the word to describe herself today.

– Martha Rial

18 19

CMI Projects

Veteran Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Bob

Batz Jr., serving as interim editor of the Union

Progress while out on strike, acknowledged

that working alongside an outlet that at one

time might have been considered a competitor

was “uncharted territory.”

“What we’re doing is not common, and it’s not

going to be easy,” Batz was quoted as saying

in Ron Kampeas’ story. “Surely, we’re going

CMI Projects

to tick each other off about something or

somebody is going to put the wrong word in or

there’s a million things that can go wrong, but

the breaking of ground where you’re actually

working together, it just makes sense in so

many ways on this story. We’re really trying to

serve the community.”

Photo by Olivia Valyo / Liv For Media

Pittsburgh Media Partnership Drives

Collaborative Reporting in 2023,

Amplifying Community Impact

See page 25 for an excerpt from the story by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Dart Center's Expertise Supports Pittsburgh

Media Partnership in Covering Sensitive Topics

By Frank Garland

The Pittsburgh Media Partnership

made significant strides in the realm of

collaborative reporting in 2023, bringing

together multiple outlets to provide a broader

look at issues of great interest.

The collaborations, which received funding

support from the Partnership, included a pair

of two-outlet projects – one involving the

Pittsburgh City Paper and McKees Rocksbased

Gazette 2.0 and the other involving

the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle and the

Pittsburgh Union Progress.

The City Paper-Gazette project resulted in

a deep-dive look at Mel and John Weinstein,

two powerful figures in the Democratic

party. The story appeared prior to the May

primary in which the younger Weinstein

unsuccessfully sought his party’s nomination

for Allegheny County executive.

The collaboration between the Jewish

Chronicle and Union Progress – a publication

produced by striking Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

workers -- yielded more than 80 stories

focusing on the trial of a man charged with

multiple counts of murder – among other

crimes – related to the Pittsburgh synagogue

massacre that occurred in October 2018.

A third collaboration saw six of the

Partnership’s 26 outlets joining forces to

explore issues surrounding misinformation as

it applies to environmental news.

The Jewish Chronicle-Union Progress joint

venture caught the attention of many in the

journalism world and was itself the focus of

several media stories, including one that was

reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency –

the nation’s largest Jewish wire service -- and

picked up by multiple outlets including the

Times of Israel.

The story detailed how the two Pittsburgh

outlets “set aside their roles as competitors

to better serve a community still shaken by

the drama” of the synagogue massacre.

By Frank Garland

In addition to fostering an atmosphere

of collaboration among its members, the

Pittsburgh Media Partnership also looks for

opportunities to provide educational and

training opportunities for its partner outlets.

In late 2022 and early 2023, the Partnership

teamed with the Dart Center for Journalism

and Trauma to provide two training sessions

with the upcoming Pittsburgh synagogue

massacre trial in mind. The goal of the Dart

Center, which is housed at Columbia University

in New York, is to improve media coverage

of trauma, conflict and tragedy. The center’s

presenters share with journalists innovative

reporting practices and safety training, and

they also discuss news organizations’ duty of


Bruce Shapiro, part of the center’s founding

leadership team, led PMP members in the

first training session in November 2022 and

offered strategies for interviewing sources

who have been subjected to traumatic

experiences, maintaining boundaries as a

journalist and employing self-care strategies.

“Know your own signs,” Shapiro told the

group. He also stressed the importance of

collaborative problem-solving in the newsroom


In March 2023, roughly a month before the

synagogue massacre trial began, Elana

Newman, McFarlin Professor of Psychology at

the University of Tulsa and research director

for the Dart Center, provided a second training

session for two dozen PMP members and

others in the Pittsburgh media interested in

the trial.

Newman touched on a wide range of topics,

including the need for journalists to be

transparent and specific in their coverage of

events that might be traumatic for survivors

or those with a connection to those events.

Newman stressed the importance of

considering the audience when reporting and

thinking about the story’s purpose before

starting the reporting process as a way of

mitigating potential impacts to sources.

Newman also touched on the importance of

journalists practicing self-care and creating an

atmosphere of camaraderie to help combat


20 21

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Aspiring Journalists Thrive in

Pittsburgh Media Partnership’s

Robust Internship Program

By Frank Garland

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One of the Pittsburgh Media Partnership’s

primary goals is to show student journalists there

is a realistic path to a substantial and rewarding

career in journalism. To that end, the Partnership

has created a robust internship program that

boasted 13 participants in the summer of 2022

and 11 more in the summer of 2023. The summer

2023 interns were placed at The Allegheny

Front, Gazette 2.0, Mon Valley Independent,

The Northside Chronicle, Pittsburgh City Paper,

Pittsburgh Independent, Pittsburgh Institute

for Nonprofit Journalism, Pittsburgh Jewish

Chronicle, Pittsburgh Magazine and Trib Total


Interns worked up to 30 hours per week for eight

weeks at their respective outlets. In addition to

getting front-line training opportunities in the

field, interns also met weekly at Point Park’s

Center for Media Innovation, where they received

training and instruction on topics related to

reporting and writing. Topics included how to

effectively search for public records; grammar,

clarity and fact-checking; the importance of

hyper-local news coverage; reviews and criticism;

and interviewing.

In addition, the Partnership expanded its program

to make two internship slots available during

the spring 2023 semester, and plans were in the

works to offer two more internship positions for

the fall 2023 semester.

One of the spring 2023 interns – Abigail Yoder, a

student at Point Park University -- was housed

at the new Pittsburgh Downtown Media Hub,

adjacent to Point Park’s campus. Yoder spent part

of her intern hours contributing to the Pittsburgh

Independent, a web-based publication that bills

itself as “Pittsburgh’s above-ground underground


In addition to writing several stories for the

Independent, Yoder worked on developing a new

logo and other graphic elements for the site.

Yoder also helped bolster the Partnership’s

social media presence, as she revived a dormant

Twitter account and assisted with Facebook

posts. Perhaps her most important contribution,

however, came in the form of her work on the

Partnership’s new website.

Yoder not only actively added material to the site,

but she also created several training documents

and videos that enabled the Partnership to better

maintain and add to the site. Yoder showed great

initiative in all her endeavors, as did all of the PMP

interns during the past year.

Visit www.pghmediapartnership.com to learn more

Toby Tabachnick, editor of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, talks about her newspaper’s collaborative reporting project with the

Pittsburgh Union Progress. The two media outlets joined forces to produce more than 80 stories focusing on the trial of a man

charged with multiple counts of murder related to the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. Photo by Andrew Conte

Point Park University students Virginia Garner, Michelangelo Pellis, Erin Yudt and Caitlyn Scott (left to right) worked at

Trib Total Media in Summer 2023. Photo by Andrew Conte



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Many reporters from both the [Pittsburgh Jewish

Chronicle] and the Pittsburgh Union Progress came

together in a very professional manner by working in

tandem in order to provide the public with in-depth and

comprehensive coverage...This unique collaboration

proved to be a huge and effective winner in helping to

provide a more complete record of the trial itself and

its impact on the community into perpetuity.

Marc A. Simon

Washington, Pennsylvania

Highlighted within the “Letter to the Editor” section of the

Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle on August 25, 2023

In an unusual alliance, Jewish media and

striking journalists are uniting to cover

the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial

Editor’s Note: The following excerpt was authored by Ron Kampeas and

originally published by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on May 1, 2023.

“PITTSBURGH (JTA) — How many times should an alleged synagogue shooter’s name

be mentioned in a news story about his trial, now beginning after more than four


For the Pittsburgh Union Progress last month, the answer was seven. For the

Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, it was an uneasy five, in a departure from its usual

answer of zero — a number chosen out of deference to a community devastated by

the shooting.

The slight difference was the only discrepancy between one set of stories published

by the two news organizations covering the trial of Robert Bowers, accused of

murdering 11 Jews in their synagogue here in 2018.

The anomaly offers a window into an unusual partnership between the two

publications — the city’s Jewish paper and the news site established by striking

staffers for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — born in February when it became clear

that the trial would last months.”

Read the full story here:

Background Image: U.S. Courthouse and Post Office, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Nov. 16, 2010.

24 (Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)


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Maine Journalist Marina Schauffler Wins

$20,000 Fellowship from Point Park

University’s Center for Media Innovation

Editor’s Note: The following copy first appeared on Point Park University’s website.

Marina Schauffler, Ph.D., an independent

journalist based in Maine, is the winner of

the 2022-23 Doris O’Donnell Innovations in

Investigative Journalism Fellowship from the

Center for Media Innovation at Point Park


Schauffler proposed a “source-to-sink” analysis

of the pathways that “forever chemicals”

travel in Maine, where enduring synthetic

and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have

created a complex contamination crisis. PFAS

generated from consumer and industrial uses

accumulate and persist in plants and animals,

and cycle through water and waste systems —

posing serious health risks. This project offers

a comprehensive look at the far-reaching scope

and impact of these potential poisons.

“Maine has seen massive disruption among its

local journalism sources, and currently has just

two daily newspapers in the entire state,” said

Andrew Conte, Ph.D., director of the Center for

Media Innovation. “This is the type of substantive

investigative journalism that we are losing across

the country as resources and news outlets

continue to dwindle.”

Schauffler ran a series of articles in The Maine

Monitor, an independent, citizen-supported,

nonpartisan journalism outlet run by the Maine

Center for Public Interest Reporting.

“There’s a pressing need for Maine – and the

nation – to better understand the pathways

by which PFAS travels, given its widespread

use and disposal,” Schauffler said. “As an

independent journalist, I am especially grateful

for the Doris O’Donnell fellowship, as it will

give me the focused time to do the extended

and interdisciplinary investigation this topic


Read Marina’s Full Story “Compound Injustice” Here:

Fellowship Spotlights News Deserts

This marks the third year of the fellowship, which was designed to spotlight and take on the growing problem of

underserved media markets known as news deserts. Since 2004, the U.S. has lost more than 2,100 newspapers,

according to the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. Thousands of counties across the country lack

a daily newspaper, and many have no newspaper at all.

Schauffler had eight months to report and publish a final series of stories. In addition, she will come to Point Park

University’s Downtown Pittsburgh campus virtually to present her findings and work with students.

The fellowship is made possible through a three-year grant from the Allegheny Foundation.

Graphic provided by MollyMaps

26 27

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A panel of six distinguished judges with

credentials in cutting-edge investigative

journalism evaluated this year’s

applicants based on value, innovation,

engagement, diversity and ability. That

panel included:

Photo provided by StoryWorks.tv.

About Doris O'Donnell

Doris O’Donnell, the namesake

of the award, was 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 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. She worked there for

15 years before returning to


Leila Barghouty, a supervising producer for The Washington

Post, is the winner of the second-place fellowship award of


Barghouty proposed a multi-part video series that would

analyze body, dash and security camera footage obtained

through public records requests and open sources to shine

a light on the misuse of what is called “less lethal force.”

Barghouty has obtained hundreds of files of footage from

dozens of counties across California as well as federal

military and security forces that have been called during

crises to manage civilians both domestically and abroad.

The judges noted that Barghouty’s focus would be on areas

that do not have access to innovative, original reporting,

such as California’s Central Valley.

Audrey Dutton, a senior reporter for the Idaho Capital Sun

in Boise, is the winner of the third-place fellowship award of


Dutton proposed a series that would examine how road

construction in several states uses a “cheat to compete”

system, which is facilitated by flawed federal regulations

and a lack of oversight at all levels, and how it wastes

taxpayer dollars and forces rank-and-file workers to break

the law in order to keep their jobs. The Idaho Capital Sun

is part of the States Newsroom network, which includes

sister outlets in 25 states that share the mission of bringing

coverage to underserved communities.

Year 2 Fellowship Winner Shines

Light on Missing Navajo Students

Last year’s fellowship winner,

Sunnie Clahchischiligi, a

contributing writer for Searchlight

New Mexico, won the top

prize with her proposal that

investigated how potentially

thousands of students on the

Navajo Nation went missing

during the pandemic and exposed

myriad educational failures, which

ran far deeper than the public

knows. Clahchischiligi grew up

on a remote homestead on the

Navajo Nation near Teec Nos Pos,

Ariz., and has worked in journalism

for more than 15 years. Her

resulting work was published in

Searchlight New Mexico as well as

outlets such as Rolling Stone and

The Guardian.

• Brad Bumsted, bureau chief of The

Caucus, a watchdog publication

based in Pennsylvania that focuses

on state issues

• Andrew Fraser, senior publishing

editor for The Wall Street Journal

• Jasmine Goldband '03, photo

editor for The Houston Chronicle

• Amber Hunt, investigative reporter

for The Cincinnati Enquirer and host

of the podcasts “Accused” and

“Crimes of the Centuries”

• Tory Parrish, business reporter for

Newsday in New York

• Guy Wathen, multimedia editor for

The San Francisco Chronicle

Read Sunnie’s Full

Story “Education in the

rearview mirror” Here:

28 29

All photos taken by Nancy Andrews for The Benter Foundation.

Unleashing Innovation

We are delighted to share our new vibrant and collaborative space!

Graciously funded by The Benter Foundation and situated at 223 Fourth

Avenue in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Downtown Media

Hub serves as a focal point for local journalism and media professionals.


At the Media Hub, you'll find an impressive array of esteemed news outlets,

each contributing their unique perspectives and expertise to the local media

landscape. The founding outlets include City Cast Pittsburgh, The Incline,

Next Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Independent, QBurgh, and Storyburgh. In

addition, the Hub houses the Pittsburgh Women’s Press Club, and offers a

daily drop-in space for others.


Not only does the Media Hub provide a platform

for established news outlets, but it also serves as a

creative space for Point Park University students.

Here, students have the opportunity to work on

their own media projects and network with industry

professionals, gaining valuable insights and

connections for their future careers.

See page 58 for pictures

from our December

Open House event

Whether you’re a seasoned journalist, a passionate

student, or simply curious about the local media

landscape, the Pittsburgh Downtown Media Hub is a

space where ideas come to life and stories are shared.

If you have any inquiries or would like more information,

please reach out to Media Hub coordinator, Tanner

Knapp, at the email address: tknapp@pointpark.edu.

32 33





At the heart of our mission is a commitment to offering students

diverse opportunities in the realm of media. Through our

approach, we empower students to turn their passion into a

career in the ever-evolving world of media.

Photo by Natalie Caine

Community Outreach

High School

Media Day

Inspiring Students to Pursue

Careers in the Industry

Community Outreach

More than 160 prospective students explored the fields

of media, marketing and communication at Point Park

University’s annual High School Media Day on October 21, 2022

and March 24, 2023.

Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters,

the daylong event features interactive, career-focused

workshops led by faculty and students from the School of

Communication and Rowland School of Business, as well as

professionals in the industry.

High School Media Day for this year is scheduled to occur

during Fall 2023 on October 13 and November 10.

For more details, please visit www.pointpark.edu.



Community Outreach

Community Outreach

Outstanding Students

On-Campus Accomplishments Shine

Editor’s Note: The following profiles first appeared on Point Park University’s website.

Justin Stewart

Job Title & Employer

Media Intern, The Incline / Intern, The Allegheny Front




Spring 2023

"I had the chance to attend Point Park's High

School Journalism Workshop and I really liked the

campus and how intimate it felt. Plus, it’s in a good

spot in Downtown Pittsburgh to easily walk to

different locations."

Grace Balzer

Job Title & Employer

Intern, Penguins Radio Network




Spring 2022

“There are many opportunities for students to get

involved on campus and learn the ropes of writing,

photography, videography, reporting and more.

Students gain hands-on experience outside of the

classroom, which is much more beneficial than

sitting in a classroom for four years.”

Caitlyn Scott

Major / Minor

Journalism / Political Science


Spring 2023

“The flexible structure of the journalism program

allows students to gain experience in print writing,

broadcasting and multimedia composition. It’s

important to have a variety of options to choose

from and the freedom to focus on specific areas of


Erin Yudt

Job Title & Employer

Intern, The Herald (Sharon, Pa.) / Intern, Trib Total Media

Major / Minor

Journalism / Psychology


Spring 2024

“What makes Point Park’s journalism program

distinctive from other universities is a focus on

real-world experiences, personable faculty and

staff and diverse class options.”

38 39

Community Outreach

Community Outreach

Exceptional Alumni

Graduates Make Their Mark

Editor’s Note: The following profiles first appeared on Point Park University’s website.

Elena LaQuatra ‘14

Job Title & Employer

Noon Anchor, Weekday Traffic Reporter, WTAE-TV


Broadcast Reporting

“Point Park was the perfect university for my

broadcasting path. Apart from the class choices,

smaller, more intimate setting and new, beautiful

facilities, the opportunities I had at Point Park were

instrumental while starting my career. With campus

being in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh, I was able to

spend time shadowing several local journalists and with

the help of my professors, I secured internships with

two of the news stations while completing my classes.”

Josh Croup ’18

Job Title & Employer

Anchor/Multimedia Journalist, WTVG (Toledo, Ohio)


Broadcast Reporting

“The hands-on training I received at Point

Park from professors who are still working

in the field gave me a strong foundation

that helped me hit the ground running as

soon as I graduated.”

Royce Jones ‘20

Job Title & Employer

Anchor/Reporter, KDKA/WPCW-TV


Broadcast Reporting

“I always like to say, Point Park University supplied

me with the tools I needed to achieve success.

The small class sizes really opened the door

for a lot of one-on-one critique and feedback

from professors, many of whom are absolutely

outstanding in their respective crafts with

expansive resumes and career experience.”

Zoey Angelucci ‘22

Job Title & Employer

Assistant Client Executive, Krakoff Communications

Major / Minor

Journalism / Public Relations & Advertising

“I found my internships and freelance experience

to be the most rewarding and valuable parts of

my time at Point Park. I learned a lot about the

communications field and how the professional

world works. If it weren’t for these experiences,

I probably wouldn’t be in this position and would

feel behind in the professional world.”

40 41

Calling All Community Advocates!

Are you passionate about your community and eager to stay informed about local

happenings? Are you tired of feeling disconnected from the decisions made in

your township and school board? Do you believe that authentic stories about your

neighborhood deserve to be told by someone who truly understands it?

Introducing our latest groundbreaking initiative – The Citizen Reporting Academy!

This fully online certificate program at Point Park University, developed in

partnership with Neighborhood News Network and Trib Total Media, is designed

to empower individuals like you to become citizen reporters and take charge of

your community’s narrative.




Complete the program in 6 months

Learn from industry professionals

Create publishable content

Turn your passion into profit

Earn a virtual certificate

Fill news deserts and make a difference!






We're thrilled to have organized a range of events that celebrate and

drive media innovation. These gatherings bring together creative

minds and industry leaders to spark new ideas and push the

boundaries of what media can achieve.

Photo by Olivia Valyo / Liv For Media

CMI Events

CMI Events

Header Image by Olivia Valyo / Liv For Media

Center for Media Innovation

Relocates to West Penn Hall

Editor’s Note: The following copy first appeared on Point Park University’s website.

All photos taken by John Altdorfer for Point Park University unless otherwise indicated.

The Center for Media Innovation (CMI) — a cuttingedge

learning lab for students, as well as a hub for

local media and the Downtown Pittsburgh community

— now has a space on the first floor of West Penn Hall

on Wood Street. The CMI first opened in a vacant

storefront on Wood Street and Third Avenue in 2016.

“We’ve gone through a change in journalism since we

opened the first CMI. Disruption has caused so much

pain in our industry, and now we’ve seen that change

turn into opportunity,” said Andrew Conte, Ph.D., CMI

director. “If you look at the ecosystem here, and the

news outlets that exist now that didn’t before, it is

really remarkable. So many of those organizations are

part of what we do here at the CMI. We’re supporting

important work and celebrating our way forward in our

new home in West Penn.”

The CMI features a glass-walled video studio, flatscreen

televisions and a digital ticker that offers a

New York City-style media hub where passersby

can be entertained and informed as students learn

their craft using the multimedia newsroom, TV

and radio broadcast studios, a photo studio and a

transformational presentation and gallery space.

“The CMI not only represents a physical

space, but a symbol of the University’s

commitment to innovation, creativity

and excellence in media education,”

said Student Government Association

President Kendra Summers ‘23, a

journalism major minoring in creative

writing and social justice studies. “The

CMI will provide students unparalleled

opportunities to explore and experiment

with the latest technologies and

techniques in media production.”

“The CMI has allowed me to grow as a

journalist and a media practitioner,” said

Justin Stewart ‘23, a journalism major who

co-hosts a sports podcast. “Because of

the CMI and its dedicated staff, I learned

how to create and co-host a podcast, and

it’s changed the trajectory of my life. I’m

really excited to use this space to continue

my podcasting career.”

46 47

CMI Events

CMI Events

Additionally, the CMI supports and promotes

local journalism through programs such as

the Pittsburgh Media Partnership (PMP) and

the Pittsburgh Downtown Media Hub.

The PMP — which comprises 26 media

outlets — encourages collaboration among

partner outlets, develops and distributes

resources, builds capabilities and advocates

for local journalism. The Downtown Media

Hub — located within walking distance to

campus — serves as a shared newsroom.

“The CMI is doing important things that

have an impact on our community,” said

Chris Brussalis, Ed.D., president of Point

Park. “All of this activity at the CMI creates

opportunities for our students, prospective

high school students, alumni and members

of our community. We’re so excited to share

this beautiful space.”

Relocation & Redesign

Designed by Pittsburgh-based

GBBN Architects, the original

CMI cost $2.5 million to build in

2016. LGA Partners led the $1.5

million relocation and redesign

project in 2023 — all made possible

with grants from the Allegheny

Foundation. Trib Total Media is a

founding sponsor of the center.



CMI Events

Student Media Leaders

Interview WQED’s Rick Sebak

Editor’s Note: The following copy first appeared on Point Park University’s website.

As part of the [Center for Media Innovation’s]

re-opening celebrations, student media leaders

interviewed WQED’s Rick Sebak about his

broadcasting career in the TV studio.

“I grew up watching Rick Sebak’s Kennywood

Memories, so getting to meet him is a true

full-circle moment. And to say that I’ve directed

an interview with him is even cooler,” said

broadcasting major Nick Konopka ‘23.

CMI Events

U-View students and the CMI team gather for a group photo, celebrating a successful interview with Rick Sebak of WQED.

“It was truly an honor and a surreal experience

asking Rick Sebak about his career and his

favorite projects,” said Natalea Hillen ‘24,

broadcasting major, marketing and sales minor

and HSO president. “It was very inspiring

to listen to him talk about his life and career


Following the interview, Sebak participated in a

Q&A with the Point Park community.

Artisanal cookies crafted by Main Street Bake Shop in

Saxonburg, created exclusively for this occasion.

Watch the full

interview here

Rick Sebak proudly displays a personalized cookie

featuring his own likeness.

In the control room, Technical Director Nick Konopka

and Co-Director Zoe Vitelli get ready for their interview

with Sebak.

Interviewers Natalea Hillen, Andrew Bensch and Sam Hindman (left to right) all take turns interviewing Sebak in the CMI TV studio.

50 51

CMI Events

Speaker Series Welcomes

Innovative Storytellers

Jason Riley

CMI Events

The CMI welcomed Jason Riley, a senior fellow at the

Manhattan Institute and a Wall Street Journal columnist, to

its Media Innovators Speaker Series. Riley is the author of

five books, including his latest release, The Black Boom, an

analysis of Black economic progress prior to the COVID-19

pandemic. He has written about politics, economics,

education, immigration, and social inequality for more than

25 years and also provides commentary for television and

radio news outlets.

The event took place on Thursday, March 16, 2023 at Point

Park University's Lawrence Hall.

Photo provided by Reed Magazine

Bryan Smith

Ami Vitale

Photographer and filmmaker Ami Vitale shared her personal odyssey—

from documenting the heartbreaking realities of war to witnessing the

inspiring power of an individual to make a difference. Her work took

her to more than 100 countries. She lived in mud huts and war zones,

contracted malaria, and donned a panda suit—all in keeping with her

philosophy of “living the story.”

Presented in partnership with the Pittsburgh Playhouse on January

27th, 2023, she shared the incredible images and adventures that

transformed her into a celebrated global storyteller, photographer, and

filmmaker for the National Geographic Society.

For the extreme filmmaker Bryan Smith, the line between

going for it and going too far was often blurry—especially

when he was exploring the earth’s most remote

environments for the National Geographic Society.

In his edge-of-your-seat presentation, Bryan showed us

what it meant to adventure with purpose, and why he

believed the best expeditions were the ones with a healthy

chance of failure.

He had faced machete-wielding locals in Papua New Guinea,

suffered frostbite during the first-ever ice climb of Niagara

Falls, explored the South Pacific’s deepest canyons, and

scaled North America’s tallest mountains to bring us behind

the scenes and capture the impossible.

Smith spoke at the PNC Theater in the Point Park University

Pittsburgh Playhouse on Tuesday, November 15th, 2022.


Photo by John Altdorfer

Photo by Pablo Durana


CMI Events

From Our Studios

CMI Events

PR From The Heart

“The Neighborly Reviews Bookcast” provides genuine and heartfelt reviews of children’s

books, brought to you by a community of cherished neighbors from all around the world.

Led by John Masiulionis, the creative force behind PR From The Heart, and accompanied by

co-host David Newell, renowned for his role as Mr. McFeely in Mister Rogers Neighborhood, the

podcast is mainly recorded through two separate Zoom setups in San Diego and Pittsburgh.

However, the hosts reunited in Pittsburgh and used our facilities as part of several in-studio

editions of the podcast.

The Dirt Podcast

Grant Ervin 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


54 55

CMI Events

In The Field

CMI Events

South Hills Interfaith Movement

The South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM) has reached out to the CMI for remote assistance

during various events since the onset of the Covid pandemic. In November 2020, the Center

organized an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, and later in the spring, collaborated again to host

the annual “Celebrate with SHIM” event in June 2021.

This past spring marked a significant moment, as the CMI proudly provided in-person support

for the first time, filming and editing several videos for this year’s annual event.

National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship

Each summer 100 cancer survivors and caregivers meet up in Washington, DC, with the

National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) to advocate for quality cancer care by

meeting with members of Congress.

In 2023, the group invited the CMI to attend this gathering and to record the messages of

survivors for the internet and social media. Managing Director Andrew Conte spoke with the

group about how to tell stories in short, focused messages. Then a small CMI team – Wayne

Gaines, Tanner Knapp and Andy – spent the next day interviewing those advocates who

volunteered to talk about how they were diagnosed with cancer and how they responded to

survive it.

The videos will be available from NCCS at canceradvocacy.org

56 57

We had an excellent turnout

for the Pittsburgh Downtown

Media Hub’s grand opening in

December 2022.

Our shared workspace, graciously

funded by The Benter Foundation,

includes offices, cubicles, a podcast

studio, conference room, and more for

local journalists and students who want

accommodations for the day.

Many thanks to everyone for stopping by!

Photos by Olivia Valyo / Liv For Media

58 59

Contact Us




Newsletter Sign-up

Physical Address

Mailing Address





14 Wood Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222

201 Wood Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222

Photo by John Altdorfer


Andrew Conte, Ph.D.

Assistant Vice President and Managing Director

Wayne Gaines

CMI Studio Technician

Frank Garland

Project Coordinator, Pittsburgh Media Partnership

Follow the CMI

on Socials!

Casey Hoolahan

Jennifer Szweda Jordan

Tanner Knapp

CMI Graduate Assistant

Project Manager, All-Abilities Media

Pittsburgh Downtown Media Hub Coordinator / CMI Studio Technician

Annual Report designed and compiled by

Tara Maziarz Myers

Department Coordinator

Olivia Valyo / Liv For Media

Martha Rial

Project Manager, McKeesport Community Newsroom


Photo by Randall Coleman


Nick Tommarello

Olivia Valyo

CMI Graduate Assistant

CMI Creative Content Coordinator

Center for Media Innovation

201 Wood Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Non Profit


Us Postage Paid

Pittsburgh, Pa

Permit No. 1674

Physical Address

14 Wood Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222

Mailing Address

201 Wood Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222



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