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Pittsburgh Media Organizations Constrict Under COVID-19 Shutdown

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA
Local media organizations have been struggling since Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the first wave of business closures March 12.

On today's program: How COVID-19 is affecting media outlets in Pittsburgh; funerals are evolving to allow for social distancing; and what newly greening plants can teach us about climate change.

Layoffs continue for Pittsburgh-area journalists
(00:00 — 07:37)

Several local media outlets have laid off staff the past few weeks, as the coronavirus pandemic has triggered some companies to pull media advertising.

Pittsburgh Magazine publisher Betsy Benson confirmed today that they’re “operating with limited staff until things get back to normal,” and that the magazine's May edition will still print as scheduled. Staff shared the news on social media earlier in the day.

"It’s difficult but no different than what thousands of local companies are going through," Benson said in an email. "This is what smart small businesses do to survive tough times."

Leadership at the Tribune Review, which has offices in Tarentum and Greensburg, has also laid off staff the last two consecutive Fridays. Those let go include nearly three dozen people in marketing and editorial, as well as from its 535 Media platform, which produces the outlet's sponsored content.

The Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper suspended its operations March 19.

Andrew Conte, founding director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, says it’s a frightening time for journalism.

“A lot of the news outlets are seeing more clicks than ever before,” he said Monday, “but at the same time revenue has just evaporated.”

Conte said several other local media outlets have reported fears of similar fates and are opting into membership models. Those include the Pittsburgh City Paper, Pittsburgh Current, Jewish Chronicle, The Incline and NEXTPittsburgh.

Deferring grief, and funerals, to accommodate for coronavirus
(07:52 — 13:44)

Funeral and burial services are allowed under Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order, but with only 10 people allowed in a space at once, that only leaves eight spots for family members of the deceased. 

Roland Coston-Criswell, president of Coston Funeral Homes in Pittsburgh, tells The Confluence’s Kiley Koscinski that many of his clients have decided to cremate their loved ones or have the funeral home store the bodies for a service later down the road. 

"If anything I think it's going to cause people to value a service,” he says, “because a service is essential to the grieving process."

Spring is here, but is nature in sync?
(13:53 — 17:56)

When wildflowers and trees begin to bud can impact the larger ecosystem, like migrating birds and pollinators. 

For the Allegheny Front, Kara Holsopple talks to plant ecologist Mason Heberling, who also serves as assistant curator of botany at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. He and collaborators from the University of Pittsburgh and Boston University are at the beginning of a three year research project to study the impacts of climate change and invasive plants on the phenology of wildflowers and trees. 

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.

Kiley covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Megan Harris is a writer, editor, photographer and curator for Pittsburgh's NPR News station. She leads editorial coverage for The Confluence, 90.5 WESA's live, one-hour, daily morning news show.
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