Editor’s note: Since this story first appeared, the Pittsburgh Catholic ceased publication and terminated all 11 of its employees on Thursday; the newspaper had been in operation for 175 years, since 1844, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Also, Trib Total Media laid off 24 employees, including 17 journalists, on Friday, after combining the Greensburg and Tarentum newspapers into one Tribune-Review edition, and delaying printing of weekly newspapers for four weeks, President and CEO Jennifer Bertetto told me.
On the brighter side, several news outlets – NEXTpittsburgh, Public Source, The Incline, Pittsburgh City Paper and Kidsburgh – collaborated this week to put together a resource for ways to help others during the crisis.
I always figured I was too square, too lame, too ordinary.
But guess what? Pittsburgh City Paper, that edgy, alternative weekly, wants me – yes, me – to become a member. And they want you to join too. Now.
Times already were tough for many of the media outlets across our region — and as the world has turned weirder with coronavirus over the past two weeks, it has become even more difficult for journalists. Many outlets are talking internally about laying off journalists, and newsroom leaders at some places are wondering if they will be able to stay open.
Journalists are not only worried about getting sick but also about whether they will have jobs. This includes not only the people at City Paper but at many other outlets across the region that have reached out to me in recent days with stories about advertisers pulling out their money as business grinds to a halt.
Lisa Cunningham, editor-in-chief at City Paper, didn’t pull any punches when she laid out the existential threat they’re facing:
“The majority of City Paper’s revenue comes from advertisements placed by local restaurants, bars, venues, businesses and events that have been forced to close. This is revenue that keeps our staff employed and allows City Paper to deliver our print issue and online product for free. Without these advertisements, we are unsure if we’ll be able to keep going at the speed so many of you have told us you’ve come to love and expect.”
Knowing Lisa and the reporters at City Paper, they wouldn’t ask for help unless they really need it.
Same goes for the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. Publisher Jim Busis just put out a call for supporters to donate money to help the newspaper keep its employees working. His reasoning sounded familiar.
“We depend heavily on advertising,” he wrote. “If organizations cancel events, they don’t advertise them. If businesses are forced to close, they may delay advertising. No one knows how long the upset of normalcy will last.”
If you have been turning to the news in recent days for important updates, like when the state stores are closing for good (if you don’t know, it’s already too late — although Bob Batz points out a salvation for us in the Post-Gazette), you need to help them keep doing their jobs.
The Incline has shifted to a membership model and I’m a member there.
NEXTpittsburgh has a “support us” link. WESA, WYEP and WQED always have been membership-supported.
It cracked me up during the recent NPR membership drive that I kept listening, and so I upped my monthly sustaining support. If I’m so dependent on the radio station that I’m willing to keep listening when John Sutton, Chris Potter and Megan Harris are asking for money, I’m willing to do a little more to keep them on the air.
We need journalism more than ever during this strange, uncertain time, and I haven’t even mentioned the presidential election season.
Take this chance to become a member at your favorite news organization before it goes out of business — or, if you’re like me, before City Paper realizes that it really is too cool to let me join them.
The founding director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, Andy Conte writes the On Media column at NEXTpittsburgh with support from The Heinz Endowments. You can find all of his columns here, and you may reach him at PittsburghPublicEditor@gmail.com.