The Diaspora Report: As The New York Times says, 'Pittsburgh Thrives'

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Mercy, all these accolades. We're beginning to feel like Tina Fey at the Golden Globes, minus the plunging black dress.

The Diaspora Report last reported to you on Dec. 26, musing whether America's bad economy was a good recruiting tool for Pittsburgh. Providentially, The New York Times' front page confirmed our suspicions last week, informing the world that "Pittsburgh Thrives After Casting Steel Aside":

"The semisweet spot that Pittsburgh finds itself in was never inevitable. As recently as 2000, it had a higher unemployment rate than Detroit or Cleveland. Just as Michigan has traditionally put all its chips on the auto industry, it took Pittsburgh a long time to come to terms with the end of the steel era."

It's not entirely gushing, but you have to admit, it has a much better ring to it than "Baltimore Mayor Indicted on Theft Charges." Even that perennial Pittsburgh hater, (which usually puts Pittsburgh near the bottom of its annual "Cities for Singles" lists), says Pittsburgh is one of "10 Cities Where They're Hiring" and one of "America's 25 Strongest Housing Markets." Both of those lists came out last week, too.

And hold on -- Mike Madison, over at his relaunched Pittsblog 2.0 ("Bigger and Bloggier"), noticed that the "Chinese Ministry of Education's Office of Chinese Language Council International has named the Asian Studies Center's Confucius Institute at the University of Pittsburgh one of 20 Confucius Institutes of the Year."

Ya hear that? We're huge in China. Confucius say: Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Now, everyone is seeing it. The Diaspora is in a tizzy, and with the Steelers Nation likewise in full froth on account of the coming Steelers-Ravens championship joust, and with the Pitt Panthers men's basketball team sitting atop the weekly rankings, everything's weirdly coming up Black and Gold (or Blue and Gold).

But you didn't come here for a pep rally; you came to hear from Pittsburghers, displaced or otherwise. They seemed to enjoy The New York Times' story (the digital version was the site's most-e-mailed story of the day), and the Dec. 26 Diaspora Report ("Are Bad Times Good for Pittsburgh?") provoked a voluminous response:

"You captured a very subtle point in marketing -- 'buzz' is purely about perception. Whether it's Brangelina, or Coca-Cola, or cities like Austin (my current abode) and Seattle, it's what the rest of the world thinks you are that matters. I have screamed the following message from the rooftops from coast to coast and I will die knowing this is true -- Pittsburgh is more like Austin than not, and vice versa. Pittsburgh deserves the praise it is now enjoying; and places like Austin could use a dose of 'looking in the mirror' every so often."

-- PAUL A. SCRIPKO, Austin, Texas

"My parents are Pittsburgh natives and moved to Texas when I was 6 months old. I was raised in El Paso, but spent summers with extended family in Homestead and West Mifflin. ... I'm a firm believer in the region. I'm talented, educated, successful and I care about being here. I'm here on purpose, [and] so immensely frustrated by a general media perception that there are no young people here and that the young people here have either: a) made a horrible mistake; or b) are not talented enough to go anywhere else. ... I'm simply fed up with being made out to be someone of lesser intelligence because I'm younger than 40 and have decided to brave the freezing winters to live in a city I love."

-- ALBERT B. CIUKSZA JR., Bellevue

"I am a member of the Pittsburgh Diaspora, currently residing in the Washington, D.C., area ... During my five and a half years here, I have fallen more and more in love with my hometown, [and] after flirting with returning several times in the past few years, I resolved to finally make the move back in September. ... Other than myself, I have come across scores of 25- to 34-year-old former Pittsburghers who would love nothing more than to return home and help shape our city as it continues its transformation. Just give us the opportunity and we'll run with it.

-- RYAN MILLER, Washington, D.C., area

"Until recently, my husband and I were members of the 'Pittsburgh Diaspora' in the D.C. area -- and it's good to be home. The cost of living is so much lower here; buying a house is a realistic aspiration for us as first-time homebuyers. ... The way we thought of it was: while the 'standard of living' in D.C. may be a little higher, but the quality of life in Pittsburgh exceeds D.C.'s by leaps and bounds -- with or without sunshine!"

-- JULIA ZORZI, Crafton

"Pittsburgh fell apart when the mills left. The steel industry and all of the accompanying 'ripple effect' was the lifeblood. Since 1980, nothing has replaced this lifeblood, and nobody, either in city or county government, has come up with a cohesive, workable plan to replace this lifeblood. ... I love my dear city. My roots are deep. That's why I own property in the Pittsburgh area. That's why I promised my father that our family would keep a presence in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is too good a place to allow it to become a Rust Belt 'has-been.'"

-- MARY ELIZABETH FORBES, Charlottesville, Va.

Have a story about the Pittsburgh Diaspora? Are you a member? Contact Bill Toland at or 412-263-2625.

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