For over a century, The Daily News supplied the McKeesport and the Mon Valley each day with essential information about the community. The newsroom was such an important part of most people’s daily life that residents even named a local baseball league after the paper.
However, when The Daily News closed in 2015, McKeesport residents were left to try to find a way to fill the void. The shutdown of this beloved newspaper turned McKeesport into a so-called news desert, a community no longer covered by a daily newspaper.
Andrew Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, NextPittsburgh On Media columnist and a former reporter for a sister publication, says the shutdown of the paper impaired the community — and calls into question the future of local journalism.
“People lose touch with what’s going on,” says Conte “We had a senior citizen in the community tell me there’s no printed obituary there. So, they often don’t know when their friends have died until two weeks later.”
Conte’s new book, “Death of the Daily News,” which comes out in September for $26, examines how McKeesport residents are struggling to make sense of what goes on in their community and to separate facts from gossip.
The idea for the book from the University of Pittsburgh Press grew out of Conte’s dissertation for his doctorate in 2020, and his personal interest in seeing how the community he once covered is now struggling.
“The hardest part was probably getting people to trust me enough to talk about what was going on in a community where people are wary of outsiders,” says Conte. “They want to know what your intentions are and why you are interested in their community at all before they start talking to you and opening up. And so that took a long time.”
With no local media to provide coverage of McKeesport, residents started using social media to share news. Conte says when researching the book, he was surprised to find several Facebook pages dedicated to being news outlets for the area, including the McKeesport Daily News.
While he sees value in McKeesport residents taking on the role of reporters, he notes the risk of inaccurate information and bias if they do not follow journalism ethics and best practices.
That is why The Center for Media Innovations at Point Park established The McKeesport Community Newsroom in 2019, which teaches residents how to conduct citizen journalism and storytelling.
Conte is optimistic that all the efforts to make up for the loss of the Daily News will help McKeesport get out of the news desert it has been trapped in for the last seven years.
“I’ve started to feel hopeful about the future of local journalism,” says Conte. “I think that it’s amazing that individuals, people are volunteering their time to try to figure out what’s going on in their communities and sharing that information.”