As the world re-emerges from the pandemic, people seem to be on the move again and it’s no different for journalists. A number of the region’s most familiar faces have announced career moves in recent weeks, shaking up news organizations across the region.
Two longtime KDKA journalists have announced their plans to retire: anchor Stacy Smith has been in broadcasting for 50 years, including 38 at the station, while Paul Martino, a reporter and anchor, has been at the station for 35 years. These retirements come two years after the station lost two dozen journalists when CBS offered a buyout package before merging with Viacom.
Pittsburgh blogger and author Damon Young announced that he will be stepping away from the commentary site Very Smart Brothas, which he co-founded in 2008. Young has gone on to write two books of essays including the 2020 book “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker.” Young says in a going-away essay that he signed a $1 million multi-book contract with Ecco, a division of publisher HarperCollins.
“VSB has done so many things for me, and has enabled me to surpass so many of the goals I had in 2008, and 2011, and 2014 and 2016 — and other goals I hadn’t realized were goals yet — that the choice that makes the most sense for me now is to leave it,” Young writes. “After 13 years of it being the engine I bled the most fuel into, there’s nothing more I can give it, and nothing more it can give me, that wouldn’t divert bandwidth away from other ways to get better at this.”
Pittsburgh City Paper and former Post-Gazette SEEN columnist Natalie Bencivenga have launched a partnership to highlight a video series called “Five Minutes With …” that Bencivenga has launched. Leading up to the May primary, Bencivenga hosted a series of political conversations that City Paper published on its website.
After years of covering Pittsburgh’s beautiful people in the PG, Bencivenga said she’s out to show more depth in her work through the interview series.
“I’m the first one that loves to put on a beautiful dress and loves to get her hair done,” she tells City Paper. “Like, there’s nothing wrong with embracing that aspect of myself. But I don’t think people recognize the layers, the things that I can do. And this has been a great opportunity for people to see me in a different way and hopefully embrace the different aspects of myself creatively and professionally too.”
Peter Smith, longtime Post-Gazette religion editor and reporter, has announced that he’s going to work for the Associated Press’s global religion team where he will be reuniting with former PG managing editor Sally Stapleton, who manages the AP group. Smith was part of the PG’s 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Tree of Life massacre and he was a finalist for the prize the following year for a series that exposed child sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Amish and Mennonite communities.
Alyssa Ruiz, opinion editor and page designer for the PG, also plans to leave the paper for a new job as copy editor at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.
The departures come as the PG seeks to lose 19 reporters through voluntary buyouts, a move opposed by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which represents newsroom employees.
“Although buyouts are voluntary, and the Guild does not oppose voluntary separation, this decision and reasoning provided by the company appear counterintuitive during a time when at least a third of union members have left the PG in the last two years, and those who remain are already stretched thin due to the loss in manpower,” the Guild says in a statement.
Trib Total Media Executive Editor Sue McFarland has announced plans to retire in September. She started at the newspaper in 1980 as an intern from the University of Pittsburgh and was hired as a reporter the following year. McFarland has been the top editor for five years, during which time the Tribune-Review was named Best Overall Newspaper three times by the Keystone Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
“My most meaningful moments in journalism have been when we’ve been able to right a wrong, be a catalyst for change or an advocate for those unable to fight for themselves,” McFarland says in a story announcing her retirement. “It’s our responsibility as journalists.”
Loran E. Mann, a former WPXI-TV anchor/reporter who went on to become a gospel radio pioneer and a Pentecostal bishop, died May 2. The New Pittsburgh Courier reported that Mann was the first African-American newscaster at KDKA-AM in 1969 and become a household name through his work in television. Mann also was the owner of WGBN-AM 1150 (now 1360-AM), the first 24-hour radio station dedicated to gospel music in Pittsburgh, according to the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation.
“The loss of Loran Mann is not only a loss for the church community but for those who enjoyed his television and radio reports,” Pittsburgh Black Media Federation President Brian Cook says in a statement. “He was a trusted newsperson and will be missed for his pioneering inspiration and his dedication to community coverage.”
Former WTAE-TV anchor Wendy Bell continues to move in and out of radio jobs. After losing her spot at KDKA-AM in September when she said park rangers should “shoot on site” when they see people vandalizing statues, she landed a new gig in January with WJAS-AM. The Post-Gazette reported in May that the new station took her off the air because of an undisclosed “personnel matter.”
Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corporation has hired Cindi Lash, former Pittsburgh Magazine and Post-Gazette editor, to serve in the newly formed position of executive editor. Lash had been working in St. Louis most recently as editor of Missouri Lawyers Media, where she started in 2018.
“With considerable anticipation, I’m delighted to join Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corporation and to return to western Pennsylvania journalism,” Lash says. “At a time when Pittsburgh’s media landscape faces critical challenges, Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corporation has built a formidable newsroom that reflects its role as a singular source of essential news and information as well as its mission to serve, engage and inspire the region.”
Oh, yeah, and NEXTpittsburgh has a new editor too, Brian Hyslop. Most recently he served as editor of Pittsburgh Magazine; before that he co-founded the newspaper East End Print, and before that, he worked as a business editor at the Post-Gazette.
“I’ve considered myself a Pittsburgher my whole life and I’ve watched the city improve as the years have gone by, thanks in part to the efforts of NEXTpittsburgh,” Hyslop writes in a column announcing his new position. “I’m proud to join the team dedicated to this community and the highest standards of journalism.”
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.