Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: A Historic Newspaper Serving Metropolitan Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, commonly referred to as the PG, is a prominent and long-standing newspaper that has been serving the metropolitan Pittsburgh area in the state of Pennsylvania. With its roots tracing back to the Pittsburgh Gazette, which was established in 1786 as the first newspaper published west of the Allegheny Mountains, the Post-Gazette has a rich history and has played a vital role in the region’s media landscape.
Early History: From the Pittsburgh Gazette to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Post-Gazette’s journey began with the Pittsburgh Gazette, a four-page weekly publication that was first issued on July 29, 1786. This significant milestone was made possible with the support of Hugh Henry Brackenridge. The Gazette quickly gained recognition as the first newspaper published west of the Allegheny Mountains. The paper covered various topics, including the early days of the nation, and even published the newly adopted Constitution of the United States as one of its major articles.
Over the years, the newspaper underwent several name changes and ownership transitions. In 1820, it became known as the Pittsburgh Gazette and Manufacturing and Mercantile Advertiser under publishers Eichbaum and Johnston. David MacLean acquired the paper in 1822 and later reverted to the former title. Under the editorship of Neville B. Craig from 1829 to 1841, the Gazette became the city’s first daily paper, published every afternoon except Sunday. The paper’s editorial stance during this period was conservative and strongly favored the Whig Party.
In 1844, the Gazette absorbed the Advocate and switched its daily issue time to the morning. The paper’s influence continued to grow, and it played a significant role in organizing a local chapter of the new Republican Party in the 1850s. The Gazette was also one of the first to predict the tensions between the North and the South that eventually led to the Civil War. After a consolidation with the Commercial in 1877, the paper was renamed the Commercial Gazette.
The early 20th century brought more changes and consolidations in the Pittsburgh newspaper market. In the 1920s, local publishers joined forces to acquire and shut down the Dispatch and Leader newspapers. Around the same time, William Randolph Hearst negotiated with the Olivers to purchase the morning Gazette Times and its evening counterpart, the Chronicle Telegraph. At the same time, Paul Block arranged to buy the morning Post and evening Sun. These transactions led to the formation of two new newspapers: the Post-Gazette, created by combining the morning papers, and the Sun-Telegraph, formed by merging the evening papers.
Joint Operating Agreement and Consolidation
In 1960, Pittsburgh had three daily papers: the Post-Gazette in the morning, and the Pittsburgh Press and Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph in the evening and on Sundays. To streamline operations and address rising costs, the Post-Gazette entered into a joint operating agreement with the Pittsburgh Press Company in November 1961. This agreement allowed the Post-Gazette to consolidate its production and advertising sales operations with the larger Press office while maintaining its news and editorial departments.
The joint operating agreement provided the Post-Gazette with a new home in the Press building, which was a significant upgrade from its previous location. The Press building, constructed in 1927, served as the Post-Gazette headquarters until 2015. The joint operation continued for over 30 years, with the Post-Gazette owning and operating its own news and editorial departments while sharing production and distribution resources with the Pittsburgh Press.
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette Transition to Digital
Like many traditional newspapers, the Post-Gazette faced financial challenges in the early 2000s. In 2006, the paper disclosed its ongoing financial struggles, primarily due to high labor costs, and considered various options, including a potential sale of the paper. However, negotiations with the paper’s unions resulted in a new agreement that included job cuts and changes to healthcare benefits.
In August 2018, the Post-Gazette made a significant transition by ceasing its daily print publication and shifting to online editions on Tuesdays and Saturdays, with print editions only on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The paper further reduced its print editions in March 2021, eliminating the Friday edition. These changes reflect the industry-wide shift towards digital platforms and the declining demand for print newspapers.
Editorial Shift and Controversies
The editorial tone of the Post-Gazette has undergone significant changes over the years. In the 2010s, the paper shifted from a liberal to a conservative stance, particularly following the consolidation of its editorial pages with The Blade from Toledo, Ohio in 2018. This consolidation resulted in Keith Burris, a pro-Trump editorial page editor, directing the editorial pages of both papers.
In June 2018, the Post-Gazette faced controversy when it fired its long-time editorial cartoonist, Rob Rogers. Rogers, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, had worked at the paper for 25 years. His dismissal came amidst increasing support for President Donald Trump and political conservatism on the Post-Gazette’s editorial page. The decision received criticism from the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh and the National Cartoonists Society.
Another controversy arose in 2020 when the Post-Gazette prohibited reporter Alexis Johnson, an African American, from covering the George Floyd protests. The paper cited bias due to a tweet Johnson made about littering at a Kenny Chesney concert tailgate. This decision sparked outcry from journalists and Johnson’s colleagues, who argued that it infringed on press freedoms.
Awards and Recognition
Throughout its history, the Post-Gazette has received numerous awards and accolades. It has been a recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes. In 1938, Ray Sprigle won the Pulitzer Prize for Reporting for his investigation that exposed Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black’s past membership in the Ku Klux Klan. Martha Rial, a staff photographer, won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography in 1998 for her photographs of Rwandan and Burundian refugees. The Post-Gazette’s coverage of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in 2018 earned the paper the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting in 2019.
Partnerships and Sponsorships
The Post-Gazette has been involved in various partnerships and sponsorships over the years. It sponsored an outdoor amphitheater in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, which was initially known as the “Post-Gazette Pavilion.” The naming rights have since been taken over by First Niagara Bank and later KeyBank. The newspaper also had a venture in television when it partnered with the H. Kenneth Brennen family to launch WIIC-TV (now WPXI) as the area’s first full-time NBC affiliate in 1957. The Post-Gazette’s primary news partner is currently the local CBS owned-and-operated station, KDKA-TV.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has played a significant role in the media landscape of metropolitan Pittsburgh for over two centuries. From its humble beginnings as the Pittsburgh Gazette, the paper has evolved, faced challenges, and adapted to the changing media landscape. Today, the Post-Gazette continues to serve its readers with online editions and limited print publications, offering a unique perspective on local and national news while navigating the complexities of the ever-changing media industry.