The Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review both have banners on their homepages that link to pages dedicated to COVID-19. The PG did not respond to questions about their online traffic, but the Trib shared what they have been seeing.

The Trib’s total number of users doubled to 6.4 million in April over the same month last year, and its pageviews increased 36 percent to 32 million, President and CEO Jennifer Bertetto told me. Users averaged 2.84 pages per session, up from 2.2 pages a year ago.

The news site experienced several record-breaking days last month. A couple of stories helped drive the increase such as Madasyn Lee’s article about insurance premium refunds and the news site’s NFL Draft coverage.

“We are just seeing more users and sessions,” Bertetto said by email, “and I think the reason for that is twofold: Not only are we committed to comprehensive coverage of COVID-19 throughout several counties through data and figures, but we also try to focus our stories on the topics that can help our readers right now. For example, when should you expect your stimulus check? How much money is your auto insurance company refunding you this month? How do you make a face covering with materials you already have at home? Where can you take a virtual trip? Etcetera.”

Support local journalism

Several local news outlets got a little boost from The New York Times recently when it ran a special campaign encouraging people to support local journalism.

Readers who entered Pittsburgh in the newspaper’s search engine were redirected to five local outlets: PublicSource, Pittsburgh City Paper, Pittsburgh Current, the New Pittsburgh Courier and the Trib. Links led to each outlet’s site, where users could make a donation or purchase a subscription.

Speaking at the Knight Media Forum in February, NYTimes publisher AG Sulzberger said his newspaper had figured out a strategy to make money (at least before the pandemic) and that he would be working to help local news outlets find a future too.

“Local journalism is in crisis and at risk of disappearing,” the NYTimes wrote online. “These vital resources are critical to the safety, security and knowledge of our communities, never more so than in these difficult times.”

The campaign marked World Press Freedom Day, May 3, and PublicSource Executive Director Mila Sanina took the occasion to remind readers about the need to support outlets such as hers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified just how essential local journalism is in these physically isolating times,” she wrote. “It’s connecting people to resources, facts and a sense of community.”

If you find yourself turning to the news more than ever during the pandemic, take a moment to support the journalists doing the work.

Virtual media day

The Center for Media Innovation (CMI) usually tries to expose high school students to journalism, but recently, we focused on a group of high school students actually doing journalism.

When the state shut down schools, students at Saegertown High School in Crawford County went into action. The editors and reporters from the high school’s Panther Press started reporting on stories about how the coronavirus has been affecting their community. They enlisted high school alumni to file stories too.

They have been posting about medical workers, quarantining at home and high school romance during the shutdown. We recorded a conversation with the Saegertown editorial staff, including Editor-in-Chief Sam Shelenberger, Managing Editor Nick Archacki and Media Advisor Stacey Hetrick.

All of the CMI’s videos — including conversations with KDKA meteorologist Mary Ours, New York Times reporter Sarah Mervosh, and others — can be seen on Facebook.

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