Center for Media Innovation director Andrew Conte. Image courtesy of Point Park University.

When Point Park University professor Andrew Conte talks about the current state of journalism, he notes how news professionals continue to struggle as the industry moves further away from the traditional print model to fast-moving online delivery.

“We’ve spent the last decade plus in the media industry talking about decline and cutbacks and all the awful things that are happening,” says Conte, a former Tribune-Review reporter who has taught at Point Park since 2005.

Conte will have the chance to do his part to revitalize the industry as the director of Point Park’s new Center for Media Innovation, a Downtown facility meant to help students fuse the values of good old-fashioned journalism with new technology. Located at Wood Street and Third Avenue, the 4,000-square-foot center will boast state-of-the-art studios for TV, radio and photo production, and a high-tech multimedia newsroom.

The $2.5 million project, which was announced last October, will officially open to the public with a day-long series of events on Tuesday, September 13.

“This is a place to change the paradigm and say, yes, things are different, the industry has changed, but it has to have a future, and what’s the future going to look like?” says Conte. “This place is really essential for our students to prepare them to go out into a rapidly evolving industry.”

Radio studio at the Center for Media Innovation. Image courtesy of Point Park University.
Radio studio at the Center for Media Innovation. Image courtesy of Point Park University.

The center will bring together graduate and post-graduate students from broadcast production and management, mass communication, photography and journalism, and encourage them to collaborate on stories. Conte says they already have plans to host election night coverage at the center, which will include a student-run TV show, podcast and a multimedia “micro-site” with photos and news.

He points out that one important aspect of the center is its floor-to-ceiling glass walls, which allow passersby to see journalism students at work. Five large digital displays will also broadcast student projects to the street outside. The displays will also be used to stream Pittsburgh Playhouse performances and Pioneer Sports games.

Though the center will serve as a major hub, the university’s TV station, newspaper and radio station will still maintain separate offices.

TV studio at the Center for Media Innovation. Image courtesy of Point Park University.
TV studio at the Center for Media Innovation. Image courtesy of Point Park University.

The center’s opening will include a talk by podcast producer and host Sarah Koenig. The seasoned journalist, whose background includes reporting for ABC News, The New York Times and NPR, caused a sensation with the 2014 debut of her true crime podcast Serial, which investigated inconsistencies surrounding the 1999 case of Adnan Syed, who went to jail for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Serial went on to become the most downloaded podcast on iTunes that year and resulted in Syed’s case being reopened.

Conte believes Koenig is an example of how journalists are using new avenues to generate interest in issues and stories they care about. He adds that Serial also proves that long-form journalism, a style considered outdated by many, is still both relevant and necessary.

“She reached a whole new audience that didn’t even know they wanted something like this,” says Conte. “Now people can’t get enough of it. It’s a really powerful message for our students, the public and professional journalists.”

The opening will also feature three separate panels of local and national media professionals representing print, online and sports journalism, including Ben Howard of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Chris Eames of ESPN. The afternoon #MediaPioneers panel features Jim Kubus of upgruv, Lexi Belculfine of The Incline, Mila Sanina of PublicSource, and NEXTpittsburgh‘s own founder and publisher Tracy Certo.

The Center for Media Innovation opening will take place on Tuesday, September 13 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. All events are open to the public. Additional seating will be available in Point Park’s Lawrence Hall. See the complete list of events at Point Park’s website.

Please note that while all events are open, registration for the Sarah Koenig talk is closed as the event has reached its capacity.

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.