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.
AC: What advice do you have for young people who want to work in local television?
PM: First, it’s not a glamorous business. It’s hard work. You work nights, early mornings and holidays. It separates you from your family. And the pay is not good. While some of us make good money, most do not. Having said that, if you want to go into this business, be well-rounded. Learn about the arts, sciences, politics. And learn the digital technology. You will need the skills to shoot, edit and do social media.
“We may have seen some of the future during the pandemic. Reporters working strictly in the field, never coming into the office. Zoom interviews won’t be going away.”
AC: Where do you see local television journalism heading? What are your predictions for its future?
PM: The state of local news is not very good. Newspapers are folding. TV news viewership is down. Budget cuts mean less coverage which gives viewers less reason to watch. Pittsburgh television stations are fortunate because Pittsburghers enjoy local news more than they do in many other cities.
As for the future, I’m not sure. We may have seen some of the future during the pandemic. Reporters working strictly in the field, never coming into the office. Zoom interviews won’t be going away and more technical duties will be thrust upon reporters.
Television stations, meanwhile, will need less square footage and move into smaller buildings.
One other new trend is freelancing. Most of the new, young talent you see on the air are not full-time station employees. They are freelancers who make a daily rate but have no benefits such as paid vacation or maternity leave.
AC: What do you plan to do in retirement? More band gigs?
PM: I would love to play more music. My Paul Martino’s All-Star Band has been on hiatus since the pandemic broke out. We may have a gig this July.
Beyond that, I want to play a lot of golf. My game really stinks, and I want to improve it.
I’m also planning to do voice-over work. If you have a product, you’d like to sell using my voice … private message me!
And I’m very much looking forward to spending more time with my beautiful wife, Joy.
AC: When you sign off at the end of June, what do you want to say to the people who have been watching you for the past three-and-a-half decades?
PM: What a privilege it’s been to come into your homes and tell you about what’s going on in your neighborhood. I hope I enlightened you, informed you and gave you a smile at times. It’s been my honor.
Comings & Goings
Trib Total Media has announced its next executive editor, Luis Fabregas. He will replace Sue McFarland, who announced her plans to retire in September. Fabregas started at the Trib’s Valley News Dispatch in 1997, and he went on to spend 14 years on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s investigative team. He has been managing editor of the Allegheny County and Valley News Dispatch newsroom since 2016.
“We have a tremendous responsibility to report the truth and to serve as a watchdog over those in power,” Fabregas said in an article announcing his new position. “That obligation has only amplified in recent years, and I don’t take that lightly.”
Daveen Rae Kurutz, a former data journalist at the Beaver County Times, has taken a new job as director of public relations at the M:7 Agency, a marketing firm based in Beaver. She previously spent eight years at Trib Total Media.
Meanwhile, Beaver County Times’ sports reporter Andrew Chiappazzi has updated his Twitter account for his new job in a communications position with the Allegheny County Intermediate Unit.
The founding director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, Andrew Conte writes the On Media column at NEXTpittsburgh with support from The Heinz Endowments. You can find all of his columns here, and you can email him.