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Communities in Pittsburgh struggle with loss of local news coverage

By: Diana Navarrete

PITTSBURGH, Pa.–Communities in the tristate area are losing their primary source of information and are finding solutions to maintain existing news organizations.

Various communities are losing daily and weekly newspapers. While others are undergoing changes that are leading to “news deserts.” Remaining organizations in Pittsburgh are trying to stay in business and report on important stories.

The ​Pittsburgh Post-Gazette​ is the largest news organization in the area that is transitioning to a digital platform. It started off by cutting down on Tuesdays and Saturdays from its weekly circulation, thus making Pittsburgh the second-largest city in Pennsylvania without a daily newspaper.

Trib Total Media-owned two local newspapers, the ​Daily News​ in Mckeesport and the ​Valley Independent​ in Monessen, that ceased all operations in 2015. There were no buyers and without the money, the news organizations were forced to shut down.

In August of this year the Youngstown, Ohio-based ​Vindicator​ newspaper ceased all its operations after serving the Mahoning County for 150 years. Now the residents of Mahoning County lack access to important local news due to not having a fixed broadband connection in their community.

An article published by the International Committee of the Fourth International wrote, “Many important local stories will now go unreported in a region notorious for political corruption, organized crime, and, more recently, social devastation. The closest remaining daily newspaper will be the ​Tribune Chronicle​ in Warren, Ohio, 30 minutes away in neighboring Trumbull County, which has indicated that it may somewhat expand its coverage of Mahoning County.” 

An article from ​The Guardian wrote, “It’s a sad end to a newspaper with a long history of fighting injustice – going all the way back to those days battling the KKK. That fearlessness is what Mark Brown, Maag’s grandson and the fourth-generation owner of the ​Vindicator​, is most proud of…The Vindicator became known for tackling the mafia and corrupt officials.” 

The Town Flyer​ used to be a local newspaper that covered West and East Deer, Fawn, Frazer, Route 8 and 28 North, Route 910, Fox Chapel, Cheswick, Harmar and Springdale Township. Just last year it stopped its print production and only runs digitally on Facebook.

Kathy Makuta is the editor and now sole owner of ​The Town Flyer​. She said that she and her husband ran a good newspaper that only had positive and uplifting stories and insights about the community. Their focus was to never discriminate and to only share stories that were uplifting and acknowledged important achievements.

“When you have something connected to the community there is nothing more fulfilling..shine the light on people’s efforts…people read from all over the U.S. because this is their hometown…most people don’t get to see that,” Makuta said.

According to Rossilynne Skena Culgan, the director of Pittsburgh-based online newspaper ​The Incline, t​o maintain its popularity and interest amongst the millennials and other viewers and remain in business, the stories focus on what is most popular and talked about in the media. All of their stories are free and accessible to the public.

“Our goal is to find untold stories and write those stories…striving to make the news acceptable…􏰀and􏰀 accessible…we want our news to be reflective of the community…We really are trying to make sure that people want to read us…,” said Culgan.

Local newspapers are important in keeping the community in check and to avoid corruption. By being in a “news desert,” communities are no longer connected to news organizations and have no other medium for obtaining local news.“The question of sustainability is very challenging….,” Culgan said 􏰀because􏰀 “…people’s perception that you don’t have to pay for news…local news organizations play an important role in watching our community…citizens have a voice of what is happening…”​.

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