Tag Archives: local news

Everything in life is only for now

I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last.

The end of 2022 will mark a first in my professional career: I will no longer be a full-time journalist.

That’s not an easy sentence to complete and an even more difficult one to process. Journalism has been the only career I’ve ever envisioned.

When fellow elementary school students dreamed of being astronauts or gymnasts or doctors or presidents, I wanted to be a reporter.

In middle school and high school, as sciences and math were increasingly pushed, I pushed back and focused on writing, journalism and communications courses.

This sounds cliche, but I was first drawn to news for its ability to share important information people needed to know.

Newspapers, at the time, were stuffed full of so much valuable information.

I would lose track of time reading the Sunday edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — back when it seemed thicker than an encyclopedia. And I always found myself focused on local and regional stories — stories that had an impact or were of interest to areas I lived in or near.

I read the then-Moon Record from front to back — a newspaper that’s related publications would later have a profound impact on my career and life.

I was also drawn to news for its sense of immediacy and that rush of adrenaline when breaking news happens, watching television reporters and anchors bring information to people in real time.

While news stories were of interest to me, so was understanding the art of making news — whether it be for print, television, radio or, later, digital.

To this day, I consume the information while also analyzing the coverage. Ask anybody who has ever watched a newscast with me, and they’ll tell you how enjoyable (my word, not theirs) it is to hear me discuss the coverage.

As a kid, I can remember many times writing “stories” about and anchoring “newscasts” to my stuffed animals. I would even make “incidents” happen in my Micro Machines setups to have newspeople go cover.

Outside of interviewing toys, my first major interview was then-Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Gary Anderson, who I tracked down in an elementary school office following an assembly. I was in third grade.

In high school, my principal threatened to keep me from walking at graduation following the publication of an editorial I wrote that he disagreed with.

As a journalist in college, I helped tackle a groundbreaking legal case of a college nun who sued a Catholic university over sexual discrimination. I helped to uncover sources that were quoted by The New York Times.

My time at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review allowed me to live out those childhood dreams of sharing stories that mattered to communities and families through the Sewickley Herald and The Signal Item — two newspapers I will forever be grateful to have been part of.

For the last few years with Hearst Television, I have had the responsibility of managing a team tasked with copy editing news and media content across more than two dozen local news digital platforms.

And while it is incredibly difficult to step away from what has long felt like a calling, it was time.

The coronavirus pandemic has allowed me to refocus my life and do something I’ve never done before: Put myself and my life first.

It’s not been easy to say goodbye to working full-time in news. There have been a lot of tears shed.

But I’m reminded of a line in one of my favorite musicals — “Avenue Q” — that is simple and true, and helped me to again understand that nothing is forever: “Everything in life is only for now.”

Looking at local journalism as the Sewickley Herald marks 116 years

Happy birthday, Sewickley Herald!

For 116 years (Sept. 19, 1903), the Sewickley Herald has served as the record keeper, fact checker and voice of the Sewickley Valley.

I played a small part in the storied history of the Sewickley Herald, serving as a reporter and then editor of the venerable weekly publication for about 11 years.

To say I loved that newspaper is an understatement. The Sewickley Herald and its core mission of providing quality news and information meant such a great deal to me.

I knew my role as a steward of that newspaper was important. Things don’t last that long without passion, pride and commitment.

In a 2013 story celebrating the 110th anniversary of the Herald, I wrote: “Founding publishers J.L. Kochenderfer and James Stinson likely had little idea of the legacy the Herald would carry with it more than a century later.”

By nature of the business, I was part of some pretty big stories impacting the Sewickley Valley — just in my short part of its legacy.

Community journalism sometimes gets a bad rap. Too often, I had then-colleagues snicker at the thought of covering hyperlocal journalism. They didn’t see the value in covering local school board meetings or road paving projects. To them, journalism was about big news in big areas with big crime.

And yet, there we were at the Sewickley Herald, covering bank robberies and business districts, middle school musicals and council members violating state ethics laws.

Thankfully, I’m bad at math, because I would not want to know how much unpaid time I put in at the Sewickley Herald (and in later years at The Signal Item in Carnegie and the South Hills Record — two papers I later became editor of at the same time as I was editor of the Sewickley Herald … doing more with far less).

As time went on, our staffs were slashed. I began with the Sewickley Herald in 2007. At the time, there was an editor (Dona Dreeland), two reporters, a sports editor and a photographer. I was a part-time reporter early on, splitting my time with the Herald and Signal Item (the two papers I would close out my Trib career as editor of).

By the end, we were a staff of an editor (me!), plus a photographer who was split in a million different directions … and a group of freelancers who I owe so much to for helping me look like I had it all together.

And somehow, we still put out quality work, covering school board meetings, student achievements, asking the tough questions and getting in all those local events and briefs.

And somewhere in there we managed to have some fun with (and win several awards for) our online presence/community, photo, news stories, feature stories and sports stories.

Stepping away from the Sewickley Herald was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But as much as I love the Herald, I knew it was time.

In my farewell column, I wrote, “As one of the oldest community newspapers still in operation in the region, the Sewickley Herald has documented quite a bit of change across the Sewickley Valley over the years. After all, change is news. And things always are changing.”

I’ve known and understood the role of a community newspaper for years, but I didn’t find quite the right way to articulate it until I was nearly done:

In my 2018 Herald Citizens of the Year celebration speech, I described how the role of a community newspaper is much like the role of a mother.

“The Herald is there to comfort when there is pain, question when there is conflict, and celebrate when there is joy,” I explained at that celebration. Mothers get to the bottom of disagreements between children, can tell when someone isn’t telling the truth, and know everything that happens at home even if they didn’t witness it.

– Sewickley Herald, Aug. 2, 2018

I miss local journalism. And, sadly, locally and nationally, local journalism has drastically changed just in the last year, as more companies seek to squeeze every last penny out of the success of decades old community newspapers.

I ended my 2018 farewell column with a quote from a musical (“Avenue Q”) that I think of every single day: “Everything in life is only for now.”