Want To Support Community Journalism? WVU Says Buy A Newspaper

Oct 30, 2019


On today's program: A new WVU program clams newspapers are in a buyer’s market; cybercrime is on the rise in Pittsburgh; a local artist fits his enormous murals into a new book; a state senator wants to strengthen PA’s campaign finance laws; and a preview of Tuesday’s biggest race. 

Can newspapers be profitable in the modern media era?
(00:00 — 10:05) 

Applications opened Monday for a new local news leadership initiative aiming to recruit, train and support the next generation of community newspaper owners and publishers. 

Created by WVU’s Reed College of Media in collaboration with the West Virginia Press Association, NewStart participants would receive a fellowship to a fully-funded, year-long program that culminates in a master’s degree in Innovation and Media Solutions. 

According to its website:

More than 90 percent of newspapers in the U.S. are “small market,” with a circulation of 50,000 or less. These newspapers are often family-owned and remain trusted sources of news and information in the communities they serve. They also remain economically viable because of the continued demand for their exclusive hyper-local coverage and their commitment to improving their local communities. However, many of these media outlets have reached a crossroads. The individuals and families who nurtured these publications for decades are looking for new owners who will continue to publish news that holds the powerful accountable and maintain a strong community presence.

The program is helmed by former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editor and current visiting WVU assistant professor of media innovation Jim Iovino.

FBI says business-related cyberattacks are surging in Pittsburgh
(11:06 — 15:37) 

In 2018, local FBI offices received 247 complaints about business emails being compromised, resulting in losses exceeding $5 million. 90.5 WESA’s Maria Scapellato talked with Doug Olson, assistant special agent in charge at FBI Pittsburgh, about recent trends and what businesses can do to protect themselves. 

He says the best approach is a strong defense with hardened networks, back-ups and educating employees about how to spot things like phishing emails. Olson says firms should stay in touch with the FBI and report all attacks. 

Book explores an artist’s epic murals
(15:39 — 20:24) 

Artist Douglas Cooper is known for his murals of cities, especially Pittsburgh, which he’s called home since the 1960s. 90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll reports Cooper’s latest work is a book called “Knowing and Seeing,” which celebrates the artist’s half-century-old career, from its fold-out pages that capture the breadth of his murals to his detailed prose exploring his drawing practice. 

The murals, wall-sized or larger, are painstakingly detailed yet slightly surreal, with crazily steep hills and exaggerated perspectives. Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures will host a book launch for "Knowing and Seeing" in the Carnegie Museum of Art Theater on Thursday, Nov. 21.

Costa proposes limiting and itemizing campaign spending
(20:27 — 30:34)

After reports that state lawmakers obscured millions of dollars in campaign spending, state Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa has proposed legislation that would limit spending and require increased transparency in how spending is reported. Costa himself was named as one of the top offenders of obscuring finance reports, but says his office will be better about itemizing purchases. 

The Spotlight PA report found that lawmakers categorized credit card expenses for things like lavish dinners as “reimbursements” or, in the case of Speaker Mike Turzai, bought gift cards for which no further documentation was available. 

Costa’s bill would be similar to ones he’s introduced in previous sessions, with a couple of additions. New requirements under the bill would go beyond banning gift card purchases to requiring full disclosure of itemized credit card expenses. Costa says he’s surprised that Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, who was the initial focal point of the investigation, offered his support of the bill on Twitter, but that bipartisan support would be needed to pass it.

What to look for in next week’s municipal elections
(30:37 — 36:40)

Voters cast their ballots Tuesday for county and municipal contests as well as a ballot question regarding parks funding in Pittsburgh. But, according to 90.5 WESA’s Chris Potter, perhaps the most interesting contest is for Allegheny County District Attorney.

Challenger and public defender Lisa Middleman has exceeded expectations by keeping pace with 20-year incumbent Stephen Zappala in fundraising, but his name will appear on both the Republican and Democratic tickets. 

Potter says this will be a tough hill to climb for Middleman, given the county’s overwhelmingly high record of straight party ticket voting.

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.