Member Spotlight

The power of second chances

A new lease on life at the Indiana Gazette

It’s fair to say, at some point in our lives, we have all been afforded a second chance of some kind. Maybe it’s happened on a professional level or in a personal relationship. Maybe it’s a reconciliation with one’s own self. It can derive from a mistake quickly forgiven or a serious lapse in judgment that takes considerable time and effort to amend. Second chances aren’t always easy to come by. In most cases, they must be earned through self-improvement, humility and trust.

Jason Stepp of the Indiana Gazette made a commitment to himself, and others, to turn his life around after years of addiction. His second chance gave him the ability to regain control of his life. But it also gave him a moment of clarity, that he could “pay it forward” and help others in the same situation. “Everybody deserves a second chance,” Stepp said. He has honored his word.

Twenty years ago, Stepp followed in his father’s footsteps and started his career in the family commercial printing business. Although an astute learner, he developed a substantial drug and alcohol addiction that upended his life. After years of struggling personally and professionally, he entered a drug rehabilitation center in 2017. The experience was life-changing and provided him with a new sense of purpose. For two years he worked as a crisis interventionist at an in-patient rehabilitation center to counsel others while strengthening his own recovery. Although the work was fulfilling, he aspired one day to return to the world of commercial printing. Fortunately, an opportunity would soon arise that allowed him to embrace both passions.

In 2022, the Indiana Gazette, part of the Sample News Group, was looking to expand its commercial printing capabilities and bring newspaper printing back in-house. Remembering his work at his father’s company, Sample News Group approached Stepp with an offer he couldn’t refuse, a management role at the Indiana Gazette within its revamped press operation. The plan involved printing three additional Sample News Group dailies at the facility along with supplements, flyers and inserts for outside vendors. On April 4, 2022, Jason Stepp accepted the position as the new production director.

To meet the ambitious new goals, Stepp needed to hire a team. He knew exactly where to look. Within a three-block radius of the facility were several institutions that support the recovery community of Indiana, Pa., including out-patient rehabilitation, recovery centers with 12-step meeting programs and apartments specifically used to house men in recovery. Stepp knew he could find people willing to work while also providing the same opportunity afforded to him; a chance to start over.

With the support of management, including Sample News Group CEO and Publisher George “Scoop” Sample, he launched the Recovery to Work initiative, a program providing employment opportunities to individuals in recovery. He received guidance from Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR) – Western PA, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people overcome drug and alcohol addiction. He is working to secure state grants offered to companies who employ workers in recovery programs or with criminal backgrounds. New staff came on board with varying degrees of experience; some spent years operating presses or other types of large machinery while others were hired at entry-level positions in the mail room.

The initiative has been highly successful. For Sample News Group, in-house printing has grown exponentially. For Stepp and his team, the benefits run deeper. Many employees have worked their way into management roles. Others have learned skills that allowed them to pursue different career paths. At the same time, Stepp has created a safe space for employees, where they are allowed to be “human”, lean on each other for support and encourage each other through highs and lows.

The Recovery to Work initiative has been a win-win for all involved. The Indiana Gazette has grown its printing operations and garnered new streams of revenue. The team behind that success has even more reasons to be grateful. Not long ago, many were at a crossroads in life. They made the difficult decision to seek help and rebuild their lives, just like their leader Jason Stepp. Together they build each other up, one employee at a time, to make their lives and community a better place.

Hyperlocal journalism at the Chestnut Hill Local and the stories that bind a community together

The proposed Wingohocking Relief Sewer Tunnel designed to address chronic and ongoing problems with flooding in Northern Philadelphia. Map courtesy of the Chestnut Hill Local.

In an era dominated by digital media giants and sprawling news conglomerates, the heartbeat of communities often finds its rhythm in the pages of hyperlocal newspapers.

In Philadelphia, the Chestnut Hill Local stands as a testament to the power of grassroots journalism, echoing the voices and stories of its neighborhood. At the core of the paper’s mission is the profound belief in the value of community. Local newspapers like the Chestnut Hill Local don’t just report on their community. They embody it.

“Every week, we introduce our readers to their neighbors – and that familiarity is so important to the way that people feel about the place that they live,” said Carla Robinson, editor of the paper. “It helps you understand the character of the place you call home. And besides, people really like to see themselves in the paper.”

Flipping through the pages of the Chestnut Hill Local, one discovers not just headlines, but narratives woven from the threads of local lives. From the struggles of small businesses to the triumphs of neighborhood heroes, every story serves as a mirror reflecting the essence of community identity.

You also get accurate reporting about the facts of what is going on in the neighborhood – whether it’s a controversial new development proposal or questionable choices being made by an elected official.

But the power of hyperlocal media lies in the trust that reporters and editors build with their readers. Because it is that trust, and the resulting collaboration and connections, that truly inform the news.

Robinson recalls the day Kelly O’Day, a retired environmental engineer and community member who, concerned about local flooding issues, showed up in her office with a binder full of papers and maps detailing a chronic and ongoing problem with flooding.

That moment turned into an ongoing collaboration with O’Day and two other news organizations, all working to produce an ongoing series about how the Philadelphia Water Department handles sewer overflow issues and the dumping of raw sewage into regional waterways.

“He trusted CHL with this story and felt comfortable walking right into my office,” Robinson explains. “He trusted us to listen, and to be professional with the information he gave us.”

This trust and accessibility form the cornerstone of collaboration at the Chestnut Hill Local. Recognizing its size limitations, the paper’s team embraces partnerships with freelance journalists and neighboring publications to tackle larger stories and projects.

“This way we can amplify what each other does,” Robinson emphasizes. “Competition isn’t a bad thing ‒ it pushes us to do our best but collaboration is essential.”

The power of this collaboration also shines in the paper’s coverage of critical issues like possible cuts to the city’s regional rail service. While larger publications may skim the surface, the Chestnut Hill Local dives deep, uncovering the nuanced impact on specific neighborhoods.

“We get into the fine details,” Robinson notes. “And it’s not competition ‒ it’s collaboration. Larger papers rely on us for these stories.”

As the media landscape continues to evolve, the Chestnut Hill Local remains a sturdy example of how good journalism can empower a community. In a world filled with digital and divisive noise, it provides a steady supply of the stories that bind a community together.

 

Stereo Flavors, the Philly Fanzine for Foodies.

As with many institutions and art forms in the United States, a subculture exists in the world of print.

Zines, short for “fanzines,” are homemade, self-distributed publications steeped in creativity and unhindered by the mainstream. An integral way to connect with other like-minded members of a community, they are born of passion, not profit. Prominent examples of zines can be found throughout groundbreaking eras of American history: Harlem’s Black Renaissance of the 1920s, sci-fi stories in the 1950s Atomic Era, and punk and “riot grrrl” culture at the end of the 20th century.

Inspired by this “do-it-yourself” spirit of self-expression, graphic design artist and passionate foodie Steve Martinho created a zine of his own, Stereo Flavors. It has become a new staple in Philadelphia food journalism and the newest member of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

Although Martinho’s background is audio-visual design and marketing, his love of cooking is what motivates him.  “I love cooking … started out by taking shifts at local restaurants,” he said. “I was taught by great friends who attended culinary schools.  If I needed to know how to properly cut an onion, I knew who to ask.  I learned a lot.”

As the Philadelphia food scene grew in prominence and became more eclectic, he believed the city needed a distinct voice dedicated to the gastronomic wonders happening around town. His marketing prowess kicked into high gear and a new idea emerged.

He needed the right forum to express unfiltered views of the culinary world while helping restaurants and chefs with branding opportunities. The solution was simple, a zine. It was the perfect way to express his own creativity while paying homage to this influential style of journalism he so admired. Alongside staff photographer K.C. Tinari, he set to work on his vision.

In 2022, Stereo Flavors debuted with an unconventional and entertaining glimpse into the burgeoning Philly culinary scene. Readers can find reviews of eateries, interviews with cutting-edge chefs, and opinion pieces about the food industry. Recipes abound throughout the zine, but with a twist.  Foodies not only submit ingredients and step-by-step instructions, they also upload the music playlists they listen to while cooking. The list is accessible to readers on Spotify, via a QRL code.

Martinho has secured numerous start-up businesses in the food and beverage industry to advertise in Stereo Flavors, something near and dear to his heart. “It’s important to give exposure and support to local companies. One goal of Stereo Flavors is to build brand awareness.”

Described by Martinho as “fun, collectable and portable,” the zine has quickly become a popular food guide in the city. Distributed free at numerous cafes, grocery stores and restaurants, printing has quadrupled in two years, from 500 to 4,000 copies per edition. He continues meeting potential distributors face-to-face, building strong connections with the people who not only help his endeavor, but whom he also wants to target and promote.

Continued growth is on the horizon.  The website (www.stereoflavors.com) contains links to Martinho’s exclusive YouTube channel ‒ “Flavor Trippin’ ” ‒ featuring interviews and demonstrations with up-and-coming chefs.  Back editions are available to purchase and download, as well as other cool merchandise for readers to show their love and support.

Outrageous and brash like the city it covers, Stereo Flavors is an underground guide to some of Philly’s best dining experiences, whether they are in established dining rooms or under-the-radar cafes. Pick up a copy on your next visit to Philadelphia and discover first hand why the city is one of the country’s top-notch foodie destinations.

Bridging gaps through ‘The New Generation’ and ‘Sports Report’ podcasts

 

In the digital whirlwind of today’s media landscape, The Herald in Sharon offers a blend of informative narratives and entertaining discussions. At the forefront of this initiative are two distinctive podcasts – “The New Generation” and “Sports Report.” They have not only secured their places in the hearts of local listeners but have also become integral to those seeking diverse and engaging content.

 

‘The New Generation’

Hosts — Photo Editor Tanner Mondok and Digital Editor Janeé Avery — cover various topics, including sports, pop culture, politics, and local news in “The New Generation.” They also interview local leaders, entrepreneurs, and other interesting figures. By tuning in to the show, listeners can expect insightful commentary, thought-provoking discussions, and up-to-date news to help them stay informed and entertained.

With a repertoire boasting over 100 episodes and featuring more than 50 guests, “The New Generation” stands as a testament to The Herald’s commitment to capturing the pulse of the community. Recognized with accolades such as the Best Podcast award at the Keystone Media Awards in 2022 and The Best of CNHI 2022 for Digital Storytelling of the Year, the podcast excels in providing insightful commentary and thought-provoking discussions.

 

‘Sports Report’

In response to growing demands for local sports coverage, The Herald introduced the “Sports Report” podcast. Hosted by Tanner Mondok and Sports Editor Dan Hiner, this weekly podcast has become a go-to for enthusiasts eager to stay updated on Mercer County’s athletic scene. Listeners can expect highlights about local high school athletes, coaches, and school affiliates.

With over 80 episodes produced so far, the podcast distinguishes itself by not merely reporting scores but by engaging listeners with interviews, strategic discussions, and insightful analyses – a grand slam for sports aficionados.

 

Connecting with the community through podcasts

Recognizing the podcasts’ unique ability to connect communities, The Herald encourages everyone to explore the narratives shared within “The New Generation” and “Sports Report.” Through the art of conversation, these podcasts bring people together, making them more than just shows – they are auditory journeys, capturing the essence of Mercer County and its diverse stories.

Press Enterprise’s 30 Seconds: Making local opinions heard since 1992

In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, Press Enterprise launched the experimental 30 Seconds call line, aiming to spark debates across a spectrum of topics and issues among local residents in Bloomsburg. It quickly became one of the newspaper’s most read features.

Introduced Jan. 7, 1992, under the editorial guidance of Jim Sachetti, then the Press Enterprise editor, 30 Seconds began as a dedicated phone line allowing readers to convey their thoughts within a concise 30-second voicemail. Online submissions were added in 2000.

The initiative extends commentary beyond the confines of written letter to the editor submissions, granting every citizen a platform for expression. If individuals want to see their thoughts in the newspaper, they tell Press Enterprise Editor Pete Kendron what they think via the call line. He makes sure submissions meet the requirements before they are transcribed from a voicemail to a printed format that runs in both the paper’s print and online versions.

The rules for submission have evolved. Unlike letters to the editor, callers and online submitters to 30 Seconds are not required to provide their names, just the towns in which they live. While there’s a free flow of opinion, there are some ground rules:

  • No attacks on businesses are allowed. Comments that offer no purpose other than personal attack are not published.
  • The actions of public officials are fair game for criticism, but comments are edited for libel.
  • Comments regarding local issues are given priority over the constant drumbeat of remarks on national political debates.

The Press Enterprise feature, which provides a unique town hall atmosphere, is not only a reader favorite but it also pays homage to the principles enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

Examples of 30 Seconds submissions include…

“I was just on my way home from work, from Hazleton, down to Nescopeck. I followed this really, really, really slow car doing 30 miles an hour the whole way…”

“Let’s look at the facts about these food trucks penetrating our local communities. Most have to pay a whopping $35-50 permit to set up. Most only accept cash…”

“If I was ever lucky enough to draw an elk tag I would never hire a guide. A guide takes the ‘hunt’ out of hunting and reduces you to being just a…”

“Civil discourse’ in America is having a hard time. The left accuses the right of putting out lies and misinformation; the right claims the same about…”

“Hey Catawissa Township supervisors, you patched a couple potholes on Old Reading Road. Great! Now maybe take care of the massive sections of the road…” 

To submit to the popular discussion page, 30 Seconds, call 570-387-1234, ext. 5967, or visit https://www.pressenterpriseonline.com/30seconds/submit

Contact Pete Kendron, editor of the Press Enterprise, with questions or concerns.

Spirit newspapers bring new meaning to ‘hybrid vehicle’

One never knows when inspiration will strike. For Paul Bennett, publisher of the Spirit newspapers in Delaware County and West/Southwest Philadelphia, it materialized on a routine drive home.

The Spirit management team was looking for solutions to a nagging issue: printing enough papers to saturate the market. While passing a local graphic design business, Bennett noticed a parked car visible from the highway, the vehicle wrapped bumper to bumper with a company logo. He had an epiphany: a company car operating in its official business capacity while “side hustling” as a mobile brand-marketing tool. In early 2023, planning started in earnest.

The graphic design company that inspired Bennett did not, itself, specialize in car wraps. The company steered him to an upstart graphic design studio in New Jersey, Mad Monkey Wrapz. Impressed with its portfolio, work ethic and customer service, Bennett hired Mad Monkey Wrapz to do the work. “As an independent publishing company ourselves, it is important for us to support other small, family-owned businesses and provide them with greater exposure,” he said.

The next step was the car selection. The first choice, a Ford Explorer pick-up, did not fit the bill. On another drive home from work, Bennett found what he was looking for: a slightly used, all-black Kia Soul. With a minimal investment and a few small repairs at the local garage, the Kia was ready for a makeover.

The car was wrapped with a star-spangled, red-white-and-blue base. Layered across the vehicle and over its side and back windows were front covers of past Spirit editions. On the front of the car was an image of the paper website, www.myspiritnews.com, printed backwards, an odd sight in passing but crystal clear to those peeking in the rearview mirror at stops signs.

In December 2023, the new company car hit the streets, running errands throughout the Spirit’s distribution area. Circulation manager and Paul’s son, Mets Bennett, is typically behind the wheel. He said reactions to the vehicle were immediate.

“Eye-popping … lots of stares … asking ‘What is that?’ and questioning if it is one of those new self-driving cars,” he said. While many were curious about the design, others in the community sought more direct interaction with the paper. “People have asked about getting news stories to The Spirit,” the younger Bennett said. “Other people have asked about advertising, as well.”

Although difficult to measure the car’s direct impact on circulation numbers, online subscriptions continue to steadily grow. Plans also abound for spring and summer. As community days, parades and festivals begin to take shape, expect to see the “Spirit-mobile” front and center at these events, a reminder to those in attendance there is a strong voice, both print and digital, speaking on their behalf.

So the next time you see that flashy Spirit-wrapped Kia Soul, give a wave and pick up a copy of the newspaper.

 

Empowering minds: The impact of Newspaper in Education at Gettysburg Times

The 2023 Design of the Year was created by Amelia Jones, a student at Bermudian Springs High School.

In the heart of Adams County, the Gettysburg Times takes pride in its longstanding commitment to education through the thriving Newspaper in Education program. This initiative has become a cornerstone in fostering knowledge and engagement among students.

“Newspaper in Education programs are extremely important to our future as an industry and as a business. Newspapers in today’s business climate need to go out and recruit their future readers and advertisers and what better way to do that than putting our product into the hands of young readers,” said Harry Hartman, publisher of the Gettysburg Times and immediate past chairman of the PNA Board of Directors.

“My team fully embraces our NIE program and understands its importance, and there is no better feeling than seeing students reading the Gettysburg Times in their classrooms,” added Hartman.

A fixture for many years, the NIE program is a collaborative effort that distributes over 1,200 free printed newspapers daily to the six public school districts in Adams County. Additionally, 300 newspapers reach private and charter schools, ensuring a wide reach and impact within the community. The program also extends access to the e-edition during the school year at no cost, allowing schools and teachers to integrate digital resources seamlessly into their curricula.

During the summer months, teachers participating in the NIE program can purchase affordable access to the e-edition, maintaining a continuity of learning beyond the academic year.

Crucial to the success of the NIE program are the local businesses and individuals who generously sponsor it through advertising. Their support not only sustains the initiative but also emphasizes the interdependence between the local newspaper and the community it serves.

One notable annual event is the Design-An-Ad sales promotion held each March. Supported by 70 local businesses, this initiative brings together students from 70 classrooms across the county. These budding designers create advertisements for the participating businesses, showcasing their creativity and practical skills.

The culminating moment is the selection of 30 winning designs, with cash prizes awarded to the talented students. The winning designs are proudly featured in a dedicated Design-An-Ad Tab, inserted into the Gettysburg Times, and distributed to the accomplished students, creating a lasting keepsake of their achievements.

The Newspaper in Education program at the Gettysburg Times not only champions the importance of traditional print media in education but also serves as a bridge between local businesses and the future workforce. As the pages turn, this initiative continues to sow the seeds of knowledge, empowerment, and community connection, embodying the spirit of education and collaboration.

 

The New Pittsburgh Courier's legacy of celebrating Black excellence


Capturing a rich newspaper legacy in the above photos, from left, are: New Pittsburgh Courier Editor and Publisher Rod Doss, second from left, receiving the 2018 National Newspaper Publishers Association Lifetime Achievement Award; former Courier managing editor, the late Ulish Carter, working at his typewriter; and Doss celebrating with past Men of Excellence Legacy Award recipients, from left, Judge Justin Johnson, Judge Livingstone Johnson and Eric W. Springer, Esq.

 

 

Rod Doss discusses the nearly 120-year-old New Pittsburgh Courier, which he serves as editor and publisher.

Established in 1907 by Edward Harleston, a guard in the H.J. Heinz food-packing plant, the New Pittsburgh Courier stands as one of the nation’s foremost platforms for celebrating and recognizing outstanding achievements within the African American community.

At the core of the paper’s commitment to celebrating Black excellence are its annual FAB 40 Under 40 Awards, Women of Excellence Awards, and Men of Excellence Awards. These prestigious accolades have become a cornerstone of the newspaper’s mission to acknowledge, recognize and celebrate the remarkable contributions of Black professionals in the greater Pittsburgh region.

The FAB 40 Under 40 Awards serve as a spotlight on the rising stars within the community, individuals who, despite their youth, have demonstrated exceptional vision, leadership, and a commitment to community service. These honorees represent the next generation of trailblazers, breaking the mold in their respective fields and inspiring others to reach new heights.

The Women of Excellence Awards and Men of Excellence Awards, two distinguished categories, shine a light on those who exemplify extraordinary stature, poise, and integrity. These are individuals who have not only achieved exceptional success in their professions but have also made a lasting impact on the community through their unwavering commitment to positive change.

The roots of the New Pittsburgh Courier’s commitment to uplifting Black voices and celebrating achievements trace back to the transformative leadership of attorney Robert Lee Vann. Taking the reins as the newspaper’s editor and publisher, treasurer, and legal counsel in 1910, Vann propelled the Courier, then known as the Pittsburgh Courier, to national prominence. Witnessing its growth into the largest and most influential Black newspaper in the nation during his lifetime, Vann laid the foundation for the newspaper’s enduring commitment to excellence.

In 1966, John H. Sengstacke’s acquired the publication renamed the New Pittsburgh Courier. As part of Sengstacke Newspapers, now Real Times Media, the Courier found itself in esteemed company alongside publications like the Chicago Defender, Michigan Chronicle, Atlanta Tribune, and Atlanta Daily World.

Today, the New Pittsburgh Courier remains a trusted vehicle for Black expression, continuing to publish an award-winning edition every Wednesday. Its commitment to celebrating Black excellence, however, extends far beyond the ink and paper – it resonates through the community, inspiring generations to come.

 

Trib Total Media reporter shares her story of love, loss and family during the pandemic

ABOVE: From left: Wearing Pittsburgh Pirates facemasks, Evelyn Klimovich poses for a photo with her daughter, JoAnne Klimovich Harrop, at the Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Squirrel Hill, outside Pittsburgh, Pa.; JoAnne holds the hand of her 93-year-old mother; Evelyn (left) sits on the terrace with JoAnne at Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of the Klimovich Family BELOW: The cover of Harrop’s book.

 

For four years, Trib Total Media reporter JoAnne Klimovich Harrop visited her mother, Evelyn, in a Pittsburgh nursing home daily, sometimes staying overnight. In March 2020, during one of those visits, she learned the nursing home would close for two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The director of nursing told her she could stay, but, if she did, she couldn’t leave.

“It was an easy decision,” she said, adding that her husband, Perry, understood the relationship she had with her mom and wasn’t surprised.

Those two weeks turned into nearly three months. And during those 85 days, Harrop kept a journal about her experience.

While there, Evelyn was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. She passed away 84 days later. Harrop spent one more day at the nursing home, writing down what it was like staying in her mother’s room alone. “It was a pretty emotional experience, as you can imagine,” she said. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to write the story.”

Her editors convinced her otherwise and, in December 2020, the Tribune-Review featured her story on the front page. It earned several awards, including an Edward R. Murrow Award. Then, Trib Total Media helped her publish her story as a book.

“A Daughter’s Promise,” according to Harrop, is about her time in the nursing home, but also about her mom’s life and now life without her mom.

The experience, she said, has made her more empathetic. “It’s different when, as a reporter, you’re writing about someone else, but now, that someone else is you.”

“I think it’s also made me a better reporter,” she added. “The emotion is part of the story. I know when I write about these types of stories, people love to read them.”

She said the response to her story has been overwhelming. “At some point you’re going to lose a parent,” she said. “I think that resonates with a lot of people.” And, she added, everyone has a pandemic story. This book speaks to people on both levels. “It’s kind of a universal story.”

“A Daughter’s Promise” can be purchased on Amazon or BookBaby.com.

Altoona Mirror for the win

Mike Boytim, from left, Scott Franco and Andy Stine host Scholastic Mirror.

Venture into a mid-to-small-size Pennsylvania market and pick up the local newspaper. Don’t be surprised if high school sports reign supreme. Case in point, a newspaper in Altoona is taking the initiative to grow its high school sports coverage to new heights. By utilizing a multimedia approach, the goal is to produce content that showcases high school athletes to a wider audience while securing new revenue streams. The results of this new endeavor are impressive.

In 2020, Altoona Mirror sports writers Scott Franco and Mike Boytim launched a weekly program on the newspaper’s YouTube channel dedicated to covering regional high school football. Considering 66% of sports section readers visit YouTube on a regular basis, this new endeavor had the potential to expand their audience. Produced from the Altoona Mirror offices and filmed by Dan Isenberg, the show, High School Football Preview, launched in time for the 2020 football season.

With a light-hearted, fun rapport and “rizz” to spare, the hosts delivered an engaging, informative program combining insightful analysis, interviews with coaches and players, game highlights and bold predictions. More than three years later, the success of the series has made the Altoona Mirror YouTube platform an essential part of regional sports coverage, with viewership rising almost 30% since its inception.

With growth came more opportunity. Andy Stine was added as a third host while the program continued to skyrocket in popularity. Last fall, the local public access channel serving Altoona, Breezeline Cable Channel 13 Educational Access, began running the program on the local airwaves during football season. This, in turn, caught the attention of a doctors group which was eager to be involved.

The Mirror secured UPMC Elite Orthopaedics as a sponsor in 2021. That sponsorship includes a mention before every show, UPMC-sponsored print and digital campaigns promoting the broadcast, and weekly Facebook posts. The new revenue stream previously envisioned had come to fruition.

The success continues as the program expands beyond the football season from January to June with “Scholastic Mirror.” This show focuses on all high school sports, including basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, baseball, rifle and more. In February, Channel 13 Educational Access is planning to air the show four times a week.

As the sports program increases in popularity on the Altoona Mirror YouTube site, a new audience emerges to engage with journalists and others within the community. The Mirror staff’s hard work is paying dividends. To quote Vince Lombardi, “There is only one way to succeed in anything…and that is to give it everything.”

'Fun in the Sun' series illuminates global adventures

In Hummelstown, Hershey and Palmyra, nestled in Dauphin and Lebanon counties, The Sun has been a steadfast source of local news for over 150 years. Rooted in its commitment to community journalism, this weekly newspaper has embarked on a new journey that transcends its small-town origins. The Sun’s “Fun in the Sun” series has become an exceptional example of one paper’s enduring connection with its readers and the world beyond.

For nearly a decade and a half, The Sun has been encouraging its readers to take a slice of home with them wherever they go. The “Fun in the Sun” series invites readers to bring a copy of the paper on their travels and capture moments in various corners of the globe. From bustling cities and states across the U.S. to far-flung destinations in Africa, this grassroots movement has transformed The Sun into a global ambassador for the communities it serves.

The photo destinations are as diverse as the readership itself, featuring iconic landmarks such as the Blarney Stone in Ireland, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Korean Demilitarized Zone and the pyramids of Egypt.

The series not only showcases the wanderlust of The Sun’s readers but also highlights the newspaper’s enduring role as a bridge between local stories and the broader world. Even Chris Kazlauskas, right, client relations consultant with PNA and MANSI Media and a member of The Sun community, has contributed to this collective tapestry of global adventures with a recent photo from his trip to Quebec.

As The Sun’s “Fun in the Sun” series continues to gain momentum, it stands as a testament to the power of community-driven initiatives in the digital age. This organic movement not only strengthens the bond between The Sun and its readers but also underscores the newspaper’s commitment to fostering a sense of connection and shared experiences in an ever-expanding world. In an era where local newspapers are essential pillars of a free and independent press, The Sun’s global escapades exemplify the enduring spirit of community journalism.

Giving back to the community

It is no secret local newspapers are an invaluable resource to the communities they serve. They deliver local, national and international news to keep readers informed, raise public awareness about issues affecting the community, promote small businesses with advertising and cover local events that bring people together. However some papers take their commitment to community service to a higher level by planning charitable events. The efforts of three Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association members highlight how newspapers can strengthen their ties to the community through leadership, goodwill and compassion.

 

The Herald and Allied News

The Sharon Herald in Sharon and Allied News in Grove City partner each year with the Community Foundation of western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio on the Good News Fund. Formed after the closure of Sharon Steel in 1992 to help families affected by layoffs, the annual fund has been a staple of the region for 31 years.

From October through November both papers ask their readers for financial donations to the fund. These contributions, in turn, provide free turkeys for families in need at Christmas. The turkeys are purchased at a local grocery store in Hermitage, Donofrio’s, and distributed by the Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County.

The 2023 campaign concluded with a whopping $14,654 raised by the community to provide about 275 Christmas turkeys to families who need a helping hand. This year’s event raised the largest donation amount since the pandemic.

 

The Tribune-Democrat

The Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown builds upon its commitment to service with the annual Santa Fund toy drive. Now in its 17th year, the partnership with the Community Foundation of the Alleghenies provides toys to underprivileged children 12 years old or younger in the Johnstown area.

For 2023, donation requests began early September with an in-print and online campaign on all Tribune-Democrat platforms. However, the donation drive is not confined to print and digital advertising only. This is where a real community effort emerges to make this annual tradition a heartwarming success. An annual high school all-star soccer match, the Santa Fund Soccer Classic, drew a large crowd the weekend before Thanksgiving; attendees donated exclusively to the fund.

A regional grocery store, Ken’s BiLo in northern Cambria County, served as an official 2023 sign-up and donation site. As the financial donations were tallied the call went out for volunteers to help transport, sort and distribute gifts. High school students across the region including those in the Greater Johnstown High School Key Club, Greater Johnstown High School football team, and local Boy and Girl Scout troops signed up to do their part, an excellent teaching moment for kids to learn the importance of giving back to those less fortunate. Even the Tomahawks, the city’s minor league hockey team, took time from the start of their season to help.

By early December it was toy-shopping time at Boscov’s department store in the Johnstown Galleria. Toys were handed out to the parents of a record 1,700 children enrolled in the program Dec. 13 at the Pasquerilla Conference Center in Johnstown.

The community banded together to ensure a better Christmas for hundreds of families. The army of volunteers and donors had the satisfaction of knowing their money, time and effort went to help friends and neighbors enjoy the holiday season.

At this time of year, we count our blessings, give thanks, celebrate the joy and wonder of the season, and look with optimism toward a new year. By helping those less fortunate and giving back to families in need, communities grow stronger and increasingly connected.

It is no secret local newspapers are leading the way.

WITF-LNP Media - News & Brews

Community engagement event at brewpub helps journalists connect with audiences

WITF Director of Journalism Scott Blanchard listens to people during the News & Brews event at Lititz Shirt Factory on Oct. 19. (Photo: Tom Downing, WITF)

A fundamental tenet guiding local and regional news organizations is to provide valued, trusted coverage to the communities they serve. Thus, it is essential for these organizations to build and foster a strong rapport with the public. To do this, many media companies formulate community outreach initiatives. These events allow media staff to interact directly with their audience and receive feedback on the spot.

Two Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association members recently teamed up for one such event in Lititz, Lancaster County. WITF, a PBS television/radio affiliate in Harrisburg, and the WITF-owned LNP Media Group of Lancaster hosted News & Brews, a community engagement event at the Lititz Shirt Factory, a brewpub, art gallery and music venue in the borough.

According to Scott Blanchard, director of journalism at WITF, brewpubs make excellent backdrops for meet-and-greet sessions. “It’s a more relaxed atmosphere that’s good for the kinds of conversations we hope to have with people”, he said. “Our goal isn’t to interview people but to listen to what’s on their minds.”

Reporters and editors from both news organizations met with about 50 preregistered guests in roundtable discussions. They listened to what the news consumers in their market liked about coverage, what they wanted more or less of and what was important to them.  In simple terms, participants became news editors for a night.

From the event held this past October, the editorial teams discovered key issues important to the Lititz community:

  • Uplifting news stories – News coverage on all levels (national, international, local) can be pretty heavy at times. Many participants of News & Brews are looking for more uplifting stories. For example, how are neighbors helping neighbors? Media consumers want reporters to uncover more of the invisible goodwill within the community with stories of empathy and compassion.
  • Investigative journalism – Attendees discussed the need for more investigative journalism, especially at local government levels. From school boards to county commissioners, the people want local officials held accountable for their actions. They trust local news organizations to play a critical role in those efforts.
  • Candidate forums – Concern for democracy was also top of mind. Besides investigative journalism, many guests encouraged LNP and WITF to host candidate forums. For the attendees, hearing a candidate’s stand on specific issues and seeing how they carry themselves in public are essential.

The News & Brews forum provided the editorial teams with actionable items each news organization can initiate in the upcoming election year, according to Blanchard. But it wasn’t just the topics developed by consensus that ruled the evening. On a granular level, through one-on-one discussions with attendees, these personal interactions developed more leads for reporters.

“We get great story ideas, both big and small, that we may not have known about”, Blanchard said. The point, he said, is not for journalists to ask attendees questions about what we think are stories. It’s to ask them what they want us to be reporting on.

For their part, staff at WITF and LNP walked away from the event with a greater understanding of their audience. Blanchard said one of WITF’s goals is to meet people “who don’t already listen to us or read us.” They’re seeing some new faces, and “people are eager to engage. They really appreciate being listened to. Our goal is to do journalism out of what we hear, then let the attendees know we’ve done a story and keep that connection going.”

For more information, click the links below for a recap of the most recent News & Brews events.

What we learned at News & Brews in Lititz | WITF

What our journalists learned at News & Brews in Lititz this week | Local News | lancasteronline.com

 

 

The Times Leader - Working the Trades

Working the trades works wonders for Wilkes-Barre

One of the most effective ways newspapers can reach a niche audience in their markets is with special sections. These supplements take on a theme near and dear to a reader’s heart, such as holidays, weddings, health care or football. They offer advertisers the opportunity to target their products and services directly to their intended demographic.

The Times Leader Media Group in Wilkes-Barre took its special section game up a notch with its first “Working the Trades” section. This powerful little packet combines two popular special section topics, careers and continuing education, and ties them right back to the community by showcasing some of the strongest economic drivers in the region: manufacturing and trades.

After forging relationships with schools, local businesses and nonprofits like Johnson College, Sordoni Construction and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center, an idea was formed by Publisher Kerry Miscavage to produce a regional guide directed at a unique niche in the market: high school juniors and seniors.

The goal of this direct-mail piece was twofold. It would let students in the region know there are options outside of a four-year college degree program in northeastern Pennsylvania. In addition, it would serve as a reminder that colleges and trade schools in the area offer two-year degrees and certificates that can open the door to immense opportunities within a job sector that is:

  • Grossly understaffed.
  • High-paying with great benefits.
  • Abundant in northeastern and central Pennsylvania along with the Northern Tier.

It was now up to the Times Leader’s advertising sales team, led by Diane McGee, to reach out to the area trade schools, colleges, manufacturers, construction companies and others in related fields to see who wanted to be a part of this unique endeavor. The response was overwhelming, resulting in a 32-page tabloid stacked with advertisements.

Not only were schools placing ads to encourage enrollment, but local manufacturers took out half- and full-page recruitment ads. Advertisers that never appeared in print were lining up to be a part of the inaugural edition.

Times Leader newsroom Editor Roger DuPuis created articles highlighting regional colleges and manufacturers, as well as local success stories. There are plans to expand beyond the initial 32-page product next year.

To reach those who prefer to read their news digitally, “Working the Trades” was emailed to 50,000 parents throughout the region. In addition, the section has “set up shop” on the Times Leader Facebook page, with a link directly tied to the digital edition.

This is a great example of how newspapers can not only increase their revenue and attract new business but also serve the members of their communities in profound ways. Connecting the next generation to meaningful educational and employment opportunities in their own backyard, sponsored by the Times Leader Media Group, is surely a win-win for all!

For more information about ”Working the Trades,” or Times Leader please contact:
Kerry Miscavage – Publisher – kmiscavage@timesleader.com – 570-704-3953
Diane McGee – Advertising Director – dmcgee@timesleader.com – 570-704-3955
Roger DuPuis – Newsroom Editor – rdupuis@timesleader.com – 570-704-3989

 

 

The Tribune-Democrat's Johnstown Magazine

Johnstown Magazine September 2023 cover, Reese Henderson, Barber and Gents and winner of “Favorite Barber” at the“Best of Johnstown” awards ceremony, Angelica Saylor, 3 Shears in Riverside and winner of “Favorite Salon,” Johnstown Magazine August 2023 cover

The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown) produces a glossy monthly publication, Johnstown Magazine, for residents of and visitors to Cambria County. Since its debut in 2005, the lifestyle magazine has included pieces on food and dining, fashion, history, entertainment and interesting people.

Each month, a special feature focuses on topics ranging from senior living to home improvement.

In June, the publication hosted a live event to reveal the winners of its “Best of Johnstown” contest that awarded prizes in more than 80 categories. The distribution of that month’s issue was held until the day of the event to help build the suspense.

Advertisers vary based on the special feature topic each month, but include health care providers, local manufacturers, tourism groups, education centers, community groups and restaurants.

Johnstown Magazine is available through home subscription and at retail locations. To introduce a new audience to the 2,500-circulation publication, all attendees of The Tribune-Democrat’s popular winter bridal showcase receive a one-year subscription to the magazine.

Johnstown Magazine was recognized by the publication’s parent company in its 2022 “Best of CNHI” journalism awards. The publication was named CNHI’s Division I Magazine of the Year.

For more information about Johnstown Magazine or The Tribune-Democrat, please contact:
Chip Minemyer – Publisher – cminemyer@tribdem.com – 814-532-5111
Shane Riggs – Editor – sriggs@johnstownmag.com – 814-539-5374
Christine Marhefka – Director of Advertising – cmarhefka@tribdem.com – 814-532-5042