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thebigstorypgh - Issue #2

thebigstorypgh - Issue #2
By Pittsburgh Media Partnership • Issue #2 • View online
Below are highlights from the most recent COVID-19 related stories produced by the Pittsburgh Media Partnership. For more on how Pittsburgh is coping with the pandemic, visit thebigstorypgh.com.

On working conditions:
City Paper illustration by Abbie Adams
City Paper illustration by Abbie Adams
Being unemployed can be incredibly stressful no matter the situation, but for the millions of Americans faced with unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic, it can seem like an even more difficult time than ever before to navigate the job field. Pittsburgh City Paper put together this guide to help make things a little less overwhelming. It covers how to file an unemployment claim, where to find local job listings, tips for refreshing your resume and how to find health care when you’re out of work, among other topics.
Here’s the latest on the unemployment numbers via Pittsburgh Business Times. 
Pennsylvania joined 20 other states this week in a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service in an effort to protect the new vote-by-mail system the state put in place to help those worried about voting in person during a pandemic.
Shortly after the announcement, the Pittsburgh Postal Workers union president urged consumers ‘Don’t lose faith, don’t lose trust,” in the mail system, 90.5 WESA reports. Chuck Pugar, who represents more than 2,000 postal employees in the area, said, “If it’s up to the postal employees, that mail is going to be processed and delivered on time, like usual, through thick and thin.”
About 40 members of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association in Westmoreland County gathered Thursday in Hempfield to talk about a strategy for “rolling back some of the pandemic-related restrictions,” bars and restaurants face, Trib Total Media reports. 
Those who have lost income due to COVID-19 and need help paying the rent might be able to find relief through a collaboration between the Hispanic Corporation, the PA Housing Finance Agency and the Community Justice Project, PRESENTE! reports.
On education
From PublicSource: Pittsburgh Public Schools, the largest school district in the region and second-largest in the state, printed 60,000-plus instructional packets in the spring as it attempted to quickly move its 23,000 students online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its failed success illustrates the tip of the iceberg in unprecedented, increased spending districts statewide will face in the months and possibly years to come as they grapple with the best solutions to keep students learning and families and staff safe.
From the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle: Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh has a new leader after 40 years, while Pittsburgh area religious schools and b’nai mitzvah tutoring adapt to teaching remotely. “We’re doing our best to make sure it’s accessible in a healthy way,” explained Rabbi Larry Freedman, director of the Joint Jewish Education Program, a partnership between Congregation Beth Shalom and Rodef Shalom Congregation for students in kindergarten through seventh grade. Here’s how the school supply lists look different for the private schools. 
From the Pittsburgh Business Times: Reed Smith LLP, Pittsburgh’s biggest law firm and its 9th-largest private company, is trying to help its employees who are working parents prepare for schools reopening. The new initiative includes benefits such as “child care, tutoring resources, leaves of absence and flexible work scheduling options as well as a ramp up/ramp down opportunity before and after leave and a true-up benefit for those who elect to work a flexible schedule, but end up working full-time hours or more.”  
Next week will be the first day of school for many students across the region, although most will be participating in it remotely, from their homes. In Allegheny county, that includes more than half a dozen districts reopening starting on Monday. In Washington County, seven districts plan to reopen next week, as do three in Westmoreland County, two in Beaver County and one in Butler County, according to the partnership’s tracking system. 
But, as we reported last week, school officials are likely to change their plans on short notice. From Spotlight PA: Pennsylvania lawmakers on Wednesday told Wolf administration officials they’re concerned the state’s COVID-19 guidance could open districts to lawsuits.
For those able to make the best of a less than ideal situation, from NEXTpittsburgh: Here are four innovative ways to make online learning creative and effective for students.
On life in a pandemic
“Five people with split personalities came to shul this morning,” deadpanned Rabbi Stanley Savage. “Does that count as a whole minyan?” The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle delightfully profiles Savage, 71, who is the spiritual leader of what is known colloquially as the “downtown shul.” Since March, when COVID-19 shuttered synagogues all over America, including his own, Savage has spent a lot of time alone.
Despite the pandemic
From the New Pittsburgh Courier: A new ACLU report shows that “fatal shootings by police are so routine that, even during a national pandemic, with far fewer people traveling outside of their homes and police departments reducing contact with the public so as not to spread the virus, police have continued to fatally shoot people at the same rate so far in 2020 as they did in the same period from 2015 to 2019.” Download the full report here.
Voter registration is high in Pennsylvania despite the pandemic, Pittsburgh Quarterly reports. As of the beginning of the month, Pennsylvania was “80,000 voters shy of surpassing the total number of registered voters who were eligible to cast ballots in the November 2016 general election.”
A good read not about the pandemic
In the latest PostIndustrial podcast, “Sign language with a message for all,” Carmen Gentile talks to Pittsburgh artist Emmai Alaquiva, who uses art to raise awareness and amplify deaf voices. On how his art is different, Alaquiva says: “I don’t work for any publication. So when I go out there to the protest [for example], it’s from a genuine space of not having to get a certain look or a certain feel or a certain position, it’s literally, how do I tell this story in a way that it could last for the rest of our years.”
On holding the government accountable
In the latest attempt to govern secretly, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has been “broadly applying a decades-old law authored in the heyday of syphilis to deny requests for COVID-19 data and records,” Spotlight PA reports.
Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board invoked the “trade secrets” defense, a tactic used by Pittsburgh and Allegheny County a few years ago to deny the release of records related to Amazon’s search for a second headquarters. 
The Pittsburgh Media Partnership, along with news organizations across the state, plan to collaborate on advocating more strongly against these practices. We have help through the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which just hired Paula Knudsen Burke to represent local media organizations in Pennsylvania and help defend their rights to gain access to public records and court proceedings. 
Knudsen Burke has been a licensed Pennsylvania attorney for almost two decades and joins the Reporters Committee from LNP Media Group, Inc., where she previously led the investigations and enterprise team as an editor. She also helped launch The Caucus, a watchdog publication covering state government and politics in Pennsylvania, and was the director of government affairs at the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, where she advocated for improvements to the state’s public records and meetings laws.
Welcome, Paula!
We have more news!
Two members of the Pittsburgh Media Partnership, Trib Total Media and Spotlight PA announced a collaboration this week that means the addition of a full-time reporter “who will focus on elevating the concerns of Western Pennsylvania throughout” statewide reporting, “not only better connecting Pittsburgh to Harrisburg, but fostering a better understanding between Pittsburgh and communities elsewhere in the state.” 
Trib Total Media joins the Philadelphia Inquirer and PennLive/Harrisburg Patriot-News as a governing partner in the organization, replacing the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which withdrew last month. 
“Decisions made in Harrisburg affect every aspect of our lives here,“ said Trib Total Media President and CEO Jennifer Bertetto. "We know that readers are hungry to know what goes on in the capital. Joining forces with the professionals at Spotlight helps us fulfill our mission to be a complete news source for the region.”
The Pittsburgh City Paper reports on what this could mean for the local news landscape: “Over the last several months, TribLive, the company’s website, has been making a series of moves indicating it’s on the rise, like hiring talented reporters and increasing city-centric news coverage.”
And, drumroll ….
We are very excited to announce a new member in our Partnership: The Incline! The news organization highlights the people who make Pittsburgh a better and cooler place. Check out their site and give them a follow.
On media accountability
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists asked newsrooms this month to stop using “minorities” as a descriptor of a group of people in stories. “When people use the word ‘minority,’ they rarely specify race or background … we do not live in a world where everyone fits under one word. Avoidance of words that are inaccurate but also offensive is critical to the journalism industry’s fight for its sustainability.”
Related from Environmental Health News: “The term ‘minority’ has never made sense. Cancel it.” 
Meet our partner: The Pittsburgh City Paper
Pittsburgh City Paper has been publishing since 1991. Twenty people work behind the scenes to produce it. “It really is like working with a family,” editor-in-chief Lisa Cunningham says. “Our team shares tears behind the scenes. Everyone really puts their hearts and souls into this place.” Here’s Lisa on Pittsburgh City Paper’s mission:
(Interview and video production by Monae Findley.)
Meet our partner: Pittsburgh City Paper
Meet our partner: Pittsburgh City Paper
Learn more about the members of the Pittsburgh Media Partnership and help support the work at thebigstorypgh.com.
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Pittsburgh Media Partnership

The Pittsburgh Media Partnership is a collaborative reporting effort made up of local news organizations in the greater Pittsburgh region. We work together on the big stories — the ones that are of significance to the region and that matter to all of our audiences. On those stories, the ones that deserve more than any of us can do on our own, we're pooling our resources so that we can dig deeper and slow down the news when it's needed most. Those stories are curated and sent to your inbox each week.

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