The reasons to despise the Block family owners of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are almost endless.
From the Washington Post
And yet the most toxic relationship in American media right now may be between Post-Gazette journalists and its publisher, whose family has owned the paper for nearly a century.
That includes the ‘bad’ ones running media outlets via Block Communications AND the stockholders/family members whose only public action to preserve the Block legacy has been a single letter published tsk tsking their family. They make money from this status quo. It is a privately held company so no one knows exactly which of the good family members owns what amount of stock. Stock that funds their yoga studios and retirement projects and mortgage downpayments. To my knowledge no family member has been willing to go public with this information. They’ve not shown up at the Guild protests. The times they haven’t spoken out speak volumes more than that one time they did.
So now we are collectively hoping a savior will come along to buy the newspapers. Everyone is talking about Mark Cuban. Maybe Mario or Franco or some combination. And here’s hoping the good members of the family are mobilizing their resources to make that happen. I have my doubts that the market realities make that viable, but I’m not an expert.
I do know that we need a newspaper in Pittsburgh, a newspaper staffed by a credible array of journalists and team members committed to keeping the region’s residents informed.
The reasons to walk away are endless, but the reasons to stay as subscribers are important to note. I wrote about this two years ago.
First, cancelled subscriptions hurt the workers, not the rich owners. The owners refuse to invest in making the paper viable so why would they care about subscriber loss – it proves their whiny point about profit/loss statements? The PG staff have repeatedly asked us to hang tough and keep subscribing.
Second, the Post-Gazette is owned by the Block family, but the legacy belongs to Pittsburgh. Paul Block came onto the ownership scene in the late 1920s, but the legacy began in 1786 as a weekly publication called The Pittsburgh Gazette. My own 5th great-grandfather James Kerr (1770-1864) was a believer in literacy and information so he was an original subsciber.He then spent his retirement years persuading other farmers to purchase subscriptions. At eighty years of age, he submitted a list of twenty two new subscribers.
Fast forward to 1906, when my great-grandfather, Gil Remley, became a copy boy for the Pittsburgh Sun and rose through the ranks over a 50 year career to retire as Executive Sports Editor of the Post-Gazette in 1958.
My immediate family always took the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Press even when times were hard financially. I grew up immersed in a tradition of reading every article, every inch. When I met Laura and learned she read the paper so thoroughly, it was definitely something that clicked between us.
So while the Blocks have made a profit from the Post-Gazette since 1927, my own family has been deeply invested stretching back to 1786.
The ‘good’ Blocks have not shown up at the Guild protests. The times they haven’t spoken out speak volumes more than that one time they did.
And I’m sure many of your families also have lengthy histories with the newspaper. And the reason I have this information is because of newspaper coverage – I subscribe to archives. I didnt even know 5xG James Kerr existed and now I have his obituary and stories of his life. I knew 1xG Gil Remley was a newspaperman, but now I have his articles. I discovered he was part of the founding of the Homestead Grays. What? I’m suspect that was buried family lore for all the usual reasons, but now the truth has seen the light again. And it matters.
My life story is embedded in this newspaper.
Finally, someone needs to continue monitoring the situation. I’ve slacked on this lately, but it is important that someone is both lifting up the great journalism and pointing out the areas for improvement. We need to resist the tyrants via letter to the editor, phone calls, pitching alternative stories. We need to tip other media outlets. We need to be active resistors in the downfall of this institution of democracy.
Someone has to be a witness to this chapter, final or not, of one of America’s great newspapers.
So we’ll step up, renew our subscription, read attentively, and keep the Pittsburgh in the Post-Gazette for as long as possible.
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Thank you for these thoughts. I have struggled with this decision and you make some good points.