By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
They say most new businesses fail within the first two years. When Bethany Ruhe and I published the first issue of the Pittsburgh Current on July 11, 2018, we were acutely aware of that old chestnut and we’ve had July 11, 2020 circled on our calendars since day one.
We were never naive enough to think that hitting that mark flipped some imaginary switch that deposited a couple of million dollars into our account and immediately gave us the number of employees that we actually need. But it felt like that was the checkpoint that meant we made it and everything would be smooth sailing from there.
But then we realized that we weren’t starting just any business, we were opening a newspaper/media company. Even under normal circumstances this is a tough racket to be in. Add in a quarantine, the closing of hundreds of businesses made a manageable, impossible situation an impossible, impossible situation.
That’s why today, I am here to announce that there is a chance that we might not be here next week. If we are here, there’s a chance we won’t be the following week and if we are here. .. I’m sure you get the point.
The fact is, like a lot of small businesses, we need help to stay alive. I would never come out here and say that we are worse off than anyone else. Or that we are more deserving of help than anyone else. Because, the fact is, we’re all lying in this bed together and if things don’t change, sooner or later, we’re all getting screwed.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say that without a $5,000 grant from the Facebook Journalism Project, the Lenfest Institute and the Local Media Association, we’d already be closed. But that money is mostly gone, spent on providing what I think has been some pretty great content over the past several weeks.
The content produced by people like Jake Mysliwczyk, Jody DiPerna, Brittany Hailer, Atiya Irvin-Mitchell, Nick Eustis, Amanda Reed, Matt Petras, Meg Fair, Jess Semler, Mary Niederberger, Larry Schweiger, Margaret Welsh, Mathew Wallenstein, Mike Shanley, Larissa Mallon and others has been some of our best. The grant also allowed me to contract with these writers for content and that allowed me the time to cover the issue of COVID-19 at the Allegheny County Jail. We’ve also been posting on social media and continuing to podcast through this entire pandemic.
We’ve always been able to do more with less. We play the same numbers game that a lot of people are doing during this time. Can I skip the light bill and pay the gas bill; can I push back the wifi bill. The flipside is, we also owe other businesses money. I will go on record and say that we have one of the most patient landlords in the history of commercial real estate. If we can’t pay, he can’t eat. It’s an endless cycle that we are living in. We are trapped in a whirlwind of uncertainty that threatens everyone’s survival not just ours.
And now we are at the point where forward momentum is impossible to gain. We, like a lot of businesses are running out of time, running out of money and running out of options.
In order to survive, we need help. Trying to navigate the CARES Act and PPP loans and grants is a full-time job on its own. Earlier, we set up a fundraising website and that money is also why we are still alive and kicking.
I come today to ask for a few bucks if you can spare it here.
But we’re also looking for longterm solutions, not just help. If anyone has expertise in navigating the city’s foundations, we would love a chance to pitch our case about why we are vital to this community. We are completely independently owned. We don’t have a corporate parent that can toss us a couple bucks if things get tough.
In terms of content and impact, this project has been a smashing success. This paper was and is needed in this community.
We have long called ourselves an alternative publication and that word can have a lot of meanings. We have in recent months started calling ourselves what we are: An Unapologetically Progressive, Subversive Media Company. And at this time in our world, we are needed more than ever.
And we plan to be here as long as we can be. At this point, unfortunately, we just don’t know how long that will be.