If you follow longtime KDKA anchor and reporter Paul Martino on Twitter, you know that he has been cleaning out his desk as he nears retirement. Martino has been posting images of old photographs, press passes and awards from his 35 years at the station. (He has nearly 50 years in broadcasting).
Martino seems like a living time capsule for the field of journalism, so we reached out with some questions about what he has seen — and, more importantly, where he thinks local journalism is heading.
AC: How has the job changed, for better and worse, during your career?
PM: When I first walked into a TV newsroom, it was dominated by white males. Today white males are a minority in the newsroom, and I can tell you the newsroom is a much better place with women, African Americans and other minorities. We have a more sensitive approach to how we cover stories.
The other major change is DIGITAL. When I began, we had typewriters and film. It took an hour just to process the film. Then it still had to be viewed and edited.
Now of course everything is digital. Computers, live feeds of events as they happen.
If I wanted to research a story, I’d have to spend the morning at the Post-Gazette and comb through their library of clippings. Now the archives are at my fingertips. Same with the KDKA-TV archive. We would have to pore through ringed binders to find a tape number. Now it’s all computerized.
This also puts more pressure on reporters. We are expected to do continual social media while trying to gather stories. Eventually, reporters will be “multimedia journalists,” AKA one-man bands. Reporters will shoot and edit their own video and feed it to the station. But I’m not sure if the quality of journalism will be the same.
AC: What’s a story you did that had the most impact on you or the public, and why?
PM: It was a sad and strange coincidence that I covered the long illnesses and then the deaths of two popular Pittsburgh mayors. Longtime Mayor Richard Caliguiri died from amyloidosis in 1988. Bob O’Connor died from cancer in 2006, just 50 days after he was sworn into office.
Both men left a legacy in our city.
On a more cheerful topic, I covered the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first two runs for the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992. Standing on the ice live while they rolled out the Cup are moments I will always remember. And dare I say … it began to shift this town from more of a football town to a hockey town.
Perhaps the biggest story of my career is the series of reports I did with producer Stu Samuels. We uncovered the double-dipping habits of state lawmakers who charged you for expensive meals and then pocketed the meal money or per diems we give them. We uncovered a lot more: We paid for their expensive luxury cars. We even paid for their haircuts. Years later, then-Attorney General Tom Corbett found that the corruption went much deeper than we uncovered. Many of the legislative leaders we reported on ended up in prison.
AC: Your bio says The Wall Street Journal once referred to you as the “Sam Donaldson of Pittsburgh.” That’s pretty cool. What’s the story behind that?
PM: That term was first coined by Post-Gazette columnist Peter Leo who apparently was impressed by the way I chased our local politicians down the hall and shouted questions at them, much the same way ABC White House correspondent Sam Donaldson did to President Reagan.
The Wall Street Journal article was a profile of Mayor Sophie Masloff. It revealed how I had uncovered the fact that she’d been lying about her age for decades. Even so, she had a picture of my children on her credenza. I believe the quote from Mayor Masloff was, “I can’t stand him (Martino) but I love his children.”
AC: In what ways did this turn out to be the career you dreamed of? What do you wish you had accomplished or done differently?
PM: I had never planned on making Pittsburgh my home. My hope was to work here a few years and then move on to a larger market like my hometown of Chicago. But something unexpected happened: I fell in love with this place. It’s been said many times before: Pittsburgh is a small town in a big city. It’s so accessible. The many cultural amenities: museums, music, arts and sports, are much easier to access here than in a Chicago or New York. And it turned out to be a wonderful place to raise my three children who all still live here.