(Tube City Almanac photo)
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I was asked to speak on Monday at the dedication of the Tube City Center for Business and Innovation. Here's a slightly edited version of what I said:
I think like most things around here, it’s going to be a while before we stop calling this “The Daily News Building,” because the paper was such an important part of our lives for 131 years.
And any institution that lasts 131 years was clearly was doing a lot of things right.
Of course, the name Tube City Center has nothing to do with Tube City Online. We took our name, and this building takes its name, “Tube City,” from McKeesport’s heritage as a place for innovations in the steel industry --- specifically, in the manufacture of steel pipes and tubes, a tradition which is being maintained today by Dura-Bond, and up at CP Industries in Christy Park.
I hope this building’s reopening and rebirth is going to kick off some new innovations in McKeesport --- in digital media, in technology, in communications, and in entrepreneurship.
When I started Tube City Online back in 1996, it was literally just a hobby.
I never imagined that 23 years later, the website would still be around, and the newspaper that was so much a part of our lives wouldn’t be.
And at the end of 2015, when the Daily News closed, our volunteers and board members made a commitment to do whatever we could to get news and information out to the community. Because information is vital to democracy.
And that brings me to a serious thought that I want to leave you with on this happy occasion.
Right now, journalism is under attack in the United States from a couple of different directions.
Some of the attacks are coming from political leaders. Anything they don’t like they call "fake news." They undermine honest news gathering and information, and they deliberately confuse people. And that’s terrible for democracy.
But journalism is also under attack from giant corporations.
When the Daily News closed at the end of 2015, it didn't close because of any fault of Trib Total Media, or of any of the people who worked at the Daily News.
It closed because big companies like Facebook and Google and Verizon and Comcast and Yahoo have sucked up all of the advertising money --- and they are sharing only a tiny amount with publishers.
Not even enough to pay reporters --- none of whom go into journalism for the money!
And that’s a serious problem. Because when people are spreading lies, we need the truth to combat them.
But journalism costs money. And if advertising isn’t going to pay for it, I don’t know what is.
There are, however, people working on that problem. Some of them are going to be working in this building. Andrew Conte and his colleagues from Point Park University right now are studying what they call the local media ecosystem, and are trying to find ways to support and even grow journalism in the Pittsburgh area.
That’s one of the innovations that I think the Daily News Building --- sorry the Tube City Center --- is going to bring here to McKeesport.
And we have folks like the Mon Valley Independent who put their own necks on the line to bring back a daily newspaper to Monessen, Charleroi, Elizabeth and now, McKeesport.
And we have folks such as the G.C. Murphy Company Foundation, the E.R. Crawford Trust, Finney Funeral Homes --- Scott Finney has been a tireless supporter of us --- and a score of others who have supported our efforts, at Tube City Community Media, to keep local news alive in McKeesport, White Oak, and Duquesne, and we were blessed and fortunate enough to add North Versailles Twp. last year.
Along with those people who haven’t given up on journalism, we have people who have never, ever given up on the McKeesport area.
Folks like state Sen. Jim Brewster and McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko, who had the vision to want to get this building reopened, and make the Daily News --- or at least the building --- a community institution again.
As a smart-aleck writer, I reserve the right to report things they don’t particularly like tomorrow.
But I want to sincerely and honestly thank them, and congratulate them, today.
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Originally published February 14, 2019.