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Local paper editor works against News Deserts in the Mon Valley area

By: Shannon Hartnett

Assistant Editor Richard Schiavoni and his team at the Valley Mirror are filling their paper with advertisements, small town events and problems related to the community. It is part of their effort to remain relevant to their readers and prevent the Mon Valley from becoming a news desert.

To support the community’s interests, the local paper publishes obituaries, council meeting notices, high school sports, and opinions of people in the area to generate its content.

“Having a local paper, like the Valley Mirror, is really critical for those local boroughs in order to get the legal notices out from the boroughs but also for the local residents to find out what is happening in their neighborhood,” Schiavoni said. The newspaper expands over to and covers the Steel Valley, West Mifflin, and Woodland Hills areas. 

Schiavoni serves as the assistant editor of the weekly paper, but also handles a good portion of the advertising for The Valley Mirror. Seeking out businesses willing to put advertisements in the paper is a big part in the process of generating revenue. 

“Running it is weird, because we live in an era where print media is slowly on the decline, but a local paper like that has some benefits, because there is not a lot of local and community news that is being covered by the major newspapers,” Schiavoni said.

By focusing on the smaller Mon Valley towns the paper has an opportunity to cover events and stories that wouldn’t have the traction to make it into a bigger paper such as the Post Gazette. 

Mary Anne O’Toole, purchased an ad. in the Valley Mirror for an event sponsoring her friend, Lisa Matthews, and her ongoing fight with breast cancer. The event took place with Munhall Girls Softball Association. “Fast Pitch for the Cure” raised around $10,000 for Matthews. 

O’Toole said she thought that advertising in the Valley Mirror really drew in people to the event. “A friend of mine saw the ad in the paper for Lisa and decided to come to the event,” she said.

The Valley Mirror has been publishing for over 32 years. The history of it extends farther into Schiavoni’s family. His uncle owned the Braddock Free Press which dates back to the 1920’s. His mother became his uncle’s editor in the ninety’s. She worked for his uncle until he passed away and the paper was sold to Woodland Publishing. Although the paper was sold, his mother stayed on as the editor for 18 years and bought the paper after her boss retired.  

News Deserts are areas that no longer have a news outlet for the community. As bigger papers decrease their distribution areas, the communities are left behind. The Valley Mirror is crucial in the Mon Valley area as an established paper providing valuable information, Schiavoni said. 

“I think if we were a daily [newspaper] we would have more of a concern over [news deserts],” Schiavoni said. “But being that we were always a weekly, we always had that built-in problem where there’s going to be times where we just miss stuff.” 

Of course a weekly newspaper cannot be expected to catch every bit of news all the time, but Schiavoni is already ahead of this issue which helps in the face of print media decreasing. 

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