30 Years: Pittsburgh's print news shuffles, but TV remains stable
Part of the 30 Years, 30 Changes series on the Pittsburgh region
October 27, 2013 12:15 AM
In the 1980s, local news television was dominated by KDKA-TV, led by the father-daughter team Bill and Patti Burns. Bill Burns retired in 1989 and died in 1997. Patti Burns died nearly four years later in 2001.
By Maria Sciullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For members of the Pittsburgh media, the need to spin across the Web is the greatest change since 1983. News no longer falls into morning/evening papers' domain, or the noon TV broadcast. The advent of the Internet means everyone is on the alert 24/7.
The largest local daily, The Pittsburgh Press, couldn't survive after an eight-month strike of its labor unions and was sold by E.W. Scripps Co. to the Block family, owners of the six-day-a-week Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In 1993, the afternoon Press was folded into the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which added a Sunday edition.
Taking advantage of the market was Richard Mellon Scaife's Greensburg Tribune Review, which spun off a new edition, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. (Much later, the Post-Gazette started an electronic version of the Pittsburgh Press.)
On local television sets, Pittsburghers continue to embrace local news. The market here is surprisingly stable -- the three largest stations have not had ownership changes in more than four decades -- and tends to trust longtime anchors such as Stacy Smith (KDKA), Sally Wiggin (WTAE) and David Johnson (WPXI).
So what has changed? KDKA, the local CBS affiliate, was the dominant force 30 years ago. The gap has narrowed significantly, so much so that some national analysts point to the Pittsburgh market as the tightest news race around. Morning broadcasts begin earlier -- led by WPXI kicking off its 4:30 a.m. coverage in 2010 -- and two of the three stations have 10 p.m. newscasts.
Meanwhile Pittsburgh now has the rebranded WQED Multimedia, which encompasses more than the original public broadcast stations. Radio, educational initiative online and in the schools, and digital channel fare such as doo-wop and cooking specials are currently part of the mix. Although WQED still produces weekly half-hour programming such as "Experience, "Horizons," and the "Pittsburgh From the Air" specials, its scope has seen a dramatic reduction.
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