By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
It would be pretty difficult for me to write a Year in Review, without starting right here at the Pittsburgh Current.
I started 2018 as the editor of the Pittsburgh City Paper; quite honestly, a job I hoped to hold until I entered the wonderful world of retirement in 20 years or so. But that goal ended on May 15 when I was relieved of my job by management. The story has been told a few times, but it all boils down to philosophical differences on what the paper’s voice, tone and purpose should be. And while I didn’t know it at the time, it was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally.
This paper started in late May with an idea over breakfast in Dormont with my partner Bethany Ruhe. We decided to launch the Pittsburgh Current and got to work. Friend and former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Kim Lyons came on board to help us get started. The three of us met in Bethany’s kitchen, talked about ideas and decided to launch a Kickstarter. In fact, it was at that meeting that Kim gave us the idea for one of our signature pieces, This Tastes Funny. She gave us that idea and so much more and I will be forever grateful.
A lot has happened since that first meeting. We launched a paper in five weeks with the idea of going monthly at first. However, when Bethany and I are were approached by Paul Klatzkin about leaving CP and bringing his immense talent and sales ability to us, we quickly decided to print twice monthly and haven’t regretted the decision since.
From the beginning, people have supported us and our concept of influence-free, reader-first journalism. Our coverage isn’t beholden to corporate influence. We don’t operate in fear that something we cover will cost us money. Our first priority is our content and our readers. The readers know that and our great crop of loyal advertisers know it as well. We are humbled by the support we received.
Our readers and supporters pledged more than $21,000 in our initial Kickstarter campaign. That’s the only reason we are here today. We have a dedicated staff and assemblage of freelance writers who believe in our mission and are committed to seeing this project succeed. One of our earliest supporters was activist and sex columnist Dan Savage. Upset at my dismissal, Savage surprised me with a phone call in early June saying that he wanted to bring his column to our paper once we were up and running. That along with a deal to print Rob Rogers’ editorial cartoons were important to our early successes.
Other people vital to that first issue was my old CP friend and colleague Rebecca Addison who wrote our first news piece ever. Her husband, Mark Addison, designed the logo, which I instantly fell in love with and my friend D.J. Coffman has helped us in a thousand different ways, including by designing our first cover, an image that couldn’t have more perfectly told the story of this paper’s purpose. From there, my friend Margaret Welsh stepped in to handle music and I was thrilled that Mike Shanley, who I first met in my old In Pittsburgh days also agreed to contribute as did old friend/great writer Jody DiPerna and longtime, respected theater critic, Ted Hoover. Because we wanted a strong editorial voice, we recruited Aryanna Berringer to write a political column and Sue Kerr to cover LGBTQ issues. And while there are countless other contributors who have helped us, my three regular editorial staffers Haley Frederick, Amanda Reed and Jake Mysliwczyk have been invaluable to this product.
I’ll admit it, we looked pretty rough in the early days. We were figuring out our look, blowing print deadlines and, unfortunately, leaving a lot to be desired in our proofreading (something we work to improve on a daily basis). Design-wise we were given an immediate upgrade when freelance designer Mary Beth Eastman came on board with Issue 3. And beginning with Issue 8, we added a full-time art director, Emily McLaughlin. Emily is immensely talented and is already one of the best designers I’ve ever worked with.
This collection of people and others including Operations Director Thria Devlin and sales associates Andrea James, Mackenna Donahue and Jeremy Witherell are dedicated to making this endeavor into a news media company this city can be proud of. You will never have to wonder where we stand on important issues; you will never have to question the veracity of our reporting; we are a company that is in this business to offer honest, hard-hitting journalism regardless of who it pisses off.
Going forward, we intend to challenge ourselves daily and be held accountable for the promises that we made. That’s why the Pittsburgh Current is proud to announce today the formation of two boards. First, we will be forming a community editorial advisory board. Members will meet four times a year to help guide the paper’s coverage into areas of the most importance to our citizens. To volunteer for the board or to nominate someone, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We pledge that these boards will be diverse and represent a cross section of our community.
Secondly, we are now taking resumes or nominations for the Pittsburgh Current’s new advisory board of directors. We are looking for members with experience in growing a company and preparing it to last well into the future. We are looking for directors from several different disciplines including corporate strategy, new company growth, accounting, startups, the law and community relations. The board will be chaired by the Pittsburgh Current’s newest equity partner, Robert Malkin. Malkin, who serves as Engineering Director at Google in Pittsburgh, became a minority shareholder in November. Email resumes or nominees to email@example.com
I’m excited for what 2019 holds. We’ve only been doing this since June and we’ve learned a lot in that time, including the importance of partnerships with a wide-ranging coalition of organizations, nonprofits and even other media companies. In my old life, I was short-sighted in my thinking and I never would have considered co-hosting an event with ‘competitors’ like The Incline, for example. But, I’ve learned that the way to improve this city’s media landscape is by similar companies working together whenever possible. An isolated newspaper or media company with a chip on its shoulder isn’t going to survive in the new media world.
We think we’ve got a new way of doing things; a better alternative that we can’t wait to show you more of in 2019. After all, I think we’ve already learned more in six months than some people have in, say, more than 25 years.