President Trump’s arguments that election fraud exists in Allegheny County, Philadelphia and other places that he lost lack a basis in reality. But that hasn’t stopped the Post-Gazette’s editorial cartoonist from drawing his support of the baseless claims.
The newspaper shocked some in the local community when it endorsed Trump over Democrat Joe Biden, officially flipping the once-liberal newspaper over to a Trumpist, conservative stance by backing a Republican for the first time since 1972. The Post-Gazette also backed unsuccessful Republican challenger Sean Parnell over Democratic incumbent Conor Lamb for the 17th District seat in Congress.
Four years ago, the newspaper’s editorial board flirted with a more conservative path when it offered up a thinly veiled list of options for readers to choose among for the 2016 presidential race, ostensibly so they could make up their own minds. That came after publisher John Block and editorial editor Keith Burris were photographed with Trump aboard his airplane.
Now that Trump has dug in against the reality of his sizable losses in both the popular vote and the electoral college, the Post-Gazette’s editorial cartoonist Steve Kelley has taken up the cause.
Initially, Kelley produced a cartoon after the election that mocked Biden on a future inauguration day which seemed to confirm the fact of the Democrat’s win. Since then, however, Kelley has created other cartoons suggesting that there’s an election mess when it comes to counting votes and that Democrats somehow gamed the system to win.
Some readers have reacted: “This kind of ‘journalism’ is more typical of Germany and Italy during the 1930s where the aim was to demonize certain portions of the populace,” George Yurgec wrote in a letter to the editor. I reached out to Kelley but he did not respond.
Newspaper Guild elects new leader
The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh narrowly elected Post-Gazette reporter Lacretia Wimbley to serve as its new director as the union continues to threaten a strike against the newspaper and as the full-time faculty it represents at Point Park University head into negotiations. Wimbley beat out the Guild’s second vice president Melissa Tkach, 55 votes to 52.
Wimbley works as an early morning breaking news reporter, after coming to the PG as a copy desk intern and then working as a paginator. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Wimbley is a graduate of Mississippi State University and has worked at the newspaper since 2016.
The Guild’s new president replaces Michael Fuoco, a longtime newspaper reporter, who resigned in September under investigation by the Guild’s parent union, the Communications Workers of America. He stepped down following an expose by Payday Report about allegations of sexual misconduct.
“We are the Post-Gazette,” Wimbley said in a statement, “and the legacy of this institution belongs not only to the Blocks [the family who owns the newspaper], but to us, because we make it what it is. As journalists dedicated to our community, we must maintain our dignity and do so with grace, although not without a fire that signifies our worth.”
Almost immediately after the union election, the Guild organized a high-profile event that included a car parade from Freedom Corner to the City-County Building to the United Steelworkers Building, next to the former Post-Gazette building on the Boulevard of the Allies.
Along the way, speakers talked about having a representative newspaper, saving local journalism and ultimately negotiating a new contract with the PG. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman spoke outside of the Steelworkers Building, and state Sen. Jay Costa posted a video of support to social media.
Incredible shrinking newsroom
The Beaver County Times continues to grow smaller, going from 24 newsroom employees less than a decade ago to just six as of December 1.
Previously part of GateHouse Media, the newspaper now belongs to the Gannett Co., which offered a buyout to all 21,000 employees nationwide. Poynter reported that 600 people opted in, and the company accepted 500.
At The Beaver County Times, the list includes some names familiar to longtime readers: features writers Marsha Keefer and Patti Conley, who has been at the newspaper for nearly 37 years; sports reporter Mike Bires, copy editor Jim Pane and production coordinator Aaron McNary.
After being harassed by readers at the polls for what they perceived as the newspaper’s liberal bias, Conley wrote about the things she has loved about journalism, like keeping a pair of boots in her car because the best stories are “found in the weeds.” It was never her job, she said, to convince people one way or the other, but rather to provide them with the truth.
“I was tasked with gathering the facts, taking time to check twice, talking to people, listening to what they said and writing a story that was accurate to its core,” she wrote.
“I got old working at a job I loved,” Conley added. “Tuesday was the last election I’ll cover, and Medicare means that I’ll soon be able to peruse, possibly pursue, new adventures.”
Pane wrote his own column, rich with journalism nostalgia from decades of working at The Pitt News, The Indiana Gazette, the Valley News Dispatch and The Beaver County Times.
“Working at a newspaper, you learn things — initially, to accept bad pay and worse hours,” he wrote. “But the unending experiences, the compelling stories told and the unforgettable lessons learned are all, individually and collectively, invaluable.”
Who will tell those stories going forward? That’s a question for the Times to answer after losing so many writers with years of experience and knowledge.
Longtime news anchor retires
Pittsburgh’s longest-running duo of news anchors will be breaking up Dec. 18 when WPXI-TV’s Peggy Finnegan retires. She has been appearing on screen with co-anchor David Johnson for 30 years, making them the longest-running anchor team in Pittsburgh and perhaps the nation, according to the station’s announcement.
“I want to thank Channel 11 and our viewers for trusting me all these years to deliver the news.” Finnegan said in a statement. “It’s a privilege I have never taken for granted.”
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 may reach him at PittsburghPublicEditor@gmail.com.