Journalists and librarians have a lot in common: Both uncover hard-to-find information, provide community services that go beyond their 9-5 jobs and have experienced tremendous disruption over the past decade.
With its own reinvention in mind, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is kicking off a CivicCLP Speaker Series focused on topics such as the First Amendment, social and racial justice and politics. The first virtual session features two journalists talking about the power of storytelling on Thursday, June 17.
“The real inspiration for the speaker series came from the desire to reframe the community’s perception of the library as more than just a place with books and other traditional forms of learning,” Jessica Bayless, lead librarian for CLP’s Civic & Social Information Service, told me by email. “Expert speakers in a particular field, sharing personal stories and lived experiences, provide customized ways to further civic and community engagement.”
Bofta Yimam, a former WTAE news anchor who lives in Washington, D.C., and Brian Cook, a freelance journalist and president of the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, are launching the series by talking about their careers, the importance of investigative journalism and issues of biases and inequity.
Bayless said Yimam has a passion for helping others tell their own stories. She worked at WTAE for two years before leaving in 2018, and she has been a freelance correspondent and public speaker since then.
“The amazing thing about working with [Yimam and Cook] is that they were able to take a broad topic — news and information — and turn it into a personal journey of storytelling and representation within the media industry, which I think will really resonate with the Pittsburgh community,” Bayless said.
The library seeks to build on a wave of community engagement that swept the U.S. in 2020 and that resulted in more Pennsylvanians voting during the presidential election than in any year since 1960 — at a record percentage of 70.93%.
“It is our hope that after this first year of the CivicCLP Speaker Series, our community will see and think of the library a little differently,” Bayless said.
Sessions are scheduled to focus on the First Amendment in August and ways of bridging racial divides in October. The Pittsburgh Foundation sponsors the series. Registration and information are available at CarnegieLibrary.org.
Comings & Goings
Longtime Post-Gazette food writer Gretchen McKay has been promoted to be the newspaper’s Food Editor.
Stowe’s Gazette 2.0 promoted staff writer Jamie Wiggan as its new editor-in-chief, while former editor Caitlin Spitzer takes over as creative director. Frank Garland, the journalism communication director at Gannon University, is heading up an effort to start a Gazette 2.0 sports department with interns Dontae Washington and Alex Lehmbeck. The Post-Gazette featured new publisher Sonja Reis in a recent write-up.
Tribune-Review reporter Zach Brendza announced his last day at the newspaper after more than four years.
The Pittsburgh Institute of Nonprofit Journalism has published its first series of stories focused on the challenges faced by college students with disabilities. Journalist Mary Niederberger received a fellowship from the Education Writers Association to support the work. Charlie Deitch, the founder of Pittsburgh Current, announced plans for the nonprofit this spring.
The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which represents the Post-Gazette’s newsroom employees, plans to host an interactive session with the public on June 23 to discuss its perspective on the PG’s future. Guild employees have been working without a contract since 2017. Columnist Tony Norman, reporter and editor Sara Bauknecht and sports reporter Nubyjas Wilborn plan to talk. Afterward, Newspaper Guild members will meet with smaller groups in breakout sessions. Find more details at pghguild.com.
The South West Communities Chamber of Commerce in Collier is hosting an in-person discussion on June 30 featuring “the women behind Pittsburgh’s most-celebrated media outlets,” with Carole DeAngelo of the Observer-Reporter, Katie Green of Trib Total Media, Kym Gable of KDKA, Jasmine M. Hughes of Pittsburgh City Paper and Natalie Bencivenga, a freelance columnist and podcaster. More information can be found at SouthwestCommunitiesChamber.org.
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.