Editor Says Closeness To The Community Will Carry The New Pittsburgh Courier

Aug 29, 2019

On today's program: Black newspapers can weather shifts in community news; parents worry about a controversial herbicide being used on school property; some Tree of Life congregants disagree with a death penalty for Robert Bowers; the nation's largest Amish settlement is being encroached on by development; Amazon partners with the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance; and NPR's David Greene hopes the Steelers can overcome a distraction-filled postseason. 

Rod Doss is the editor and publisher of the New Pittsburgh Courier.
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Black newspapers can fill the void as traditional print media contracts
(00:00 — 12:30) 

For more than a century, the New Pittsburgh Courier has been one of the nation’s most influential African American newspapers, with a reach far outside the city’s boundaries. How is it faring in the national shift to digital? Editor and publisher Rod Doss says he thinks black newspapers are at an advantage.

"We’ve always been confronted with challenges that other media today are just now experiencing,” he says. 

Doss says The Courier's mission to cover stories specific to the African American community is what helps keep them competitive for advertising dollars. He cites their coverage following the police shooting death of Rankin teenager Antwon Rose.

"I think there is a suspicion that most African Americans are guilty or perceived as suspect, and the storylines from other media approached it that way, as opposed to getting the inside story," he says. "You had a huge community outpouring of support for Antwon, and that was a story that had to be told."  

Parents petition PPS to stop herbicide spraying 
(13:50 — 17:50) 

The common but controversial herbicide glyphosate is being used on school grounds across Pennsylvania to kill weeds, but parents and others in Pittsburgh are raising questions about its use. As the Allegheny Front's Andy Kubis reports, Pittsburgh Public Schools says only fence lines and cracks are sprayed, but in signs posted, parents felt the warnings were ambigious and suggested many other areas would be treated with glyphosate as well.

Should Tree of Life survivors get to weigh in on Bowers' death penalty charge?
(17:52 — 23:16) 

Two congregations associated with the Tree of Life synagogue disagree with the federal government’s decision to pursue the death penalty against Robert Bowers, the man accused of killing 11 congregants last year.

90.5 WESA legal analyst and University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris says prosecutors weighed Bowers' alleged motivation of religious prejudice, lack of remorse and the fact that 11 people died. Survivors and affected communities will have an opportunity to submit their views and potentially be called on to serve as witnesses, but Harris says they will not be able to prevent capital punishment. 

The nation's largest Amish settlement faces disruption
(23:20 — 29:22) 

Lancaster is home to 10% of the nation’s Amish population, but the modern world is encroaching more and more on their way of life. Many Amish are moving into homes on smaller lots after leaving farming behind for other opportunities. For some, it may be a forced choice. For young Amish, in particular, the price of farming is out of reach. WITF’s Rachel McDevitt looks at why one man is advocating for organized resettlement away from their long-time home. 

Local researchers enlist Amazon to help sift through Pittsburgh's medical data
(29:24 
— 33:32)

The Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance—a collaboration of UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University—is trying to make sense of the vast amount of data created by Pittsburgh's medical community. 90.5 WESA's Kathleen Davis reports they're now partnering with Amazon's computing subsidary. UPMC Enterprise's Zariel Johnson, who manages daily activities of the alliance, says Amazon's sponsorship of some PHDA projects will not grant it access to any data involved and that all data follows national privacy standards. 

David Greene thinks his Steelers have a fighting chance
(33:35 — 38:58) 

The Pittsburgh Steelers wrap up the preseason Thursday against the Carolina Panthers. NPR's biggest Pittsburgh sports fan David Greene says he hopes losing receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell creates an underdog story for the black and gold—ideally one they'll use to their advantage.

Greene says he's got his fingers crossed for a chance to watch the Cleveland Browns collapse. Analysts named the Browns a favorite to win the AFC North this season, following the Steelers' failed 2018 playoff bid that required Cleveland beat Baltimore. Greene says that lingering disappointment is the root of his schadenfreude.

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.