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The award-winning yada yada yada


By J. Hogan

was quite thrilled to see Gazette 2.0 honored at the Greater Pittsburgh Area Media Awards. Sonja Reis, head honcho of the paper, has been putting together good product with her team, and winning the Best Community Journalism award is a nice affirmation of the work.

It’s tough times for the newspaper industry. Newsprint is a dying medium, overwhelmed by digital content and a Twitter-impacted younger set who freely admit in polls that they rarely read beyond a headline.

The staffs of every major paper coast to coast have shrunk, some to skeleton levels. Some papers, like the Wall Street Journal, have tried to monetize the digital revolution with hard paywalls a paragraph or two into a story. Others have quit relying on subscriptions and have, mostly unsuccessfully, tried to increase their sales of advertising to keep revenue flowing.

Small community papers are mostly a labor of love, done at a sacrifice where moonlighting midnight oil is burnt or spilled to ensure quality. Even if “worker is worth his wage” rings true, local publishers know their bread is buttered with the satisfaction that they’re providing good journalism for their community.

Those are the easy-to-see challenges of this work. The more difficult stuff has more to do with today’s climate.

We live in the strangest of times, where “news” and “opinion” have become a mushy, indistinct stew and outlets once known for their straightforward down-the-middle reporting have become partisan propagandists. Many folks don’t trust anything they read or hear, and often for good cause.

Along with that, much of the possible audience for a newspaper has become addicted to choosing what content they are exposed to, either overtly or more subtly through computer algorithms tracking their “likes,” “dislikes,” and interests. This makes for a growing aversion to anything not right in their catered-to-wheelhouse.

Perhaps the even bigger landmine is in the hypersensitivity of so much of the populace. Many people somehow find it perfectly acceptable to see a person’s career destroyed, their name smeared, and even their private information leaked in hopes of some physical danger manifesting. This makes telling the facts a chilling challenge, knowing that someone is always offended while not knowing how they’ll express their outrage.

Add all of these things up and the climate for newspaper work is fraught with stormy seas and little likelihood of the ship landing in a treasure-laden cove of reward for the effort – and it’s this atmosphere in which Sonja Reis and her crew plug away, providing real local news and traditional local interest content that the regional news awards rightly saw as worth celebrating.

I was already writing for the Gazette’s quasi-predecessor, the Suburban Gazette, when it folded and Gazette 2.0’s founder Sonny Jani decided to try his hand at providing a paper in its absence.

The smartest thing Sonny did when he decided to start the paper was to bring Sonja Reis on board.

Now Sonja’s paper, the gazette is being found noteworthy in its field even during the oddest of times and with the landmines all about.

So I’m more than just thrilled that the paper for which I do a little bit of a contribution won an award… I’m impressed.

Don’t tell Reis I said so… I don’t want her to get a big head.

Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.



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