Newspapers are good at telling others’ stories. But their own stories? They sometimes struggle.
Some personal stories we like to tell ourselves, such as the newsroom’s recent move to our new North Side location (should I remind you once again: we have windows now?), and others — we let someone else tell them.
The move is a milestone that inspired PG colleagues to share their memorable stories from 34 and 50 Boulevard of the Allies (the Post-Gazette and The Pittsburgh Press shared the building but had separate addresses). These stories captured characters, ridiculously funny moments and heart-breaking tales from the Downtown building. It contains so much history, no doubt. The dry history you can learn from Wikipedia.
Moving on to not-so-dry parts. A tale of two papers.
Reporters, editors, photographers and others who shared the building during those three decades between 1962 and 1992, when the PG bought the Press, like to talk about the competitive coexistence. They compare cultures and point out the irreverent rivalry hashed out sometimes in printed words, other times in person. It wasn’t just a silent aura of tolerating one another and hiding intense emotions of Pittsburgh’s journalistic war. For those of us who didn’t live through it, the era almost sounds fun.
Even in 1992, when the newspapers shared the same strike-threatened building, there were no untouchable topics. PG columnist Peter Leo in his January column didn’t shy away from poking fun at a new feature The Press launched: “The Weekend That Was.” How did he dare? By masterfully using self-deprecating humor.
This is how he starts off taking the Press’ new feature apart:
This bold, splashy package of bite-sized items, which runs on Mondays, is dedicated to the proposition that Pittsburgh is a fun town.
Hang on, I haven’t come to the really outrageous part yet.
TW2 promised to chronicle the activity of our more prominent funsters. I could live with that but there’s what provoked my moral outrage: TW2 was presented as something new to unsuspecting Press readers.
Now, I am confident you gluttons for punishment who get both newspapers weren’t fooled,” Peter Leo continued. “Call me a company man, but you saw it for what it was: an incredibly belated response to the Post-Gazette’s major junk-journalism initiative of the mid-1980s, a response shamelessly built around — and here’s the really criminal part — thinly veiled knock-offs of two legendary P-G features, Seen and Dossier.
Oh, yes, the Press has made a few changes to get around copyright infringement. For example, TW2 presents on Monday what occurred on Pittsburgh’s mad social circuit that weekend. Talk about amateur hour…
TW2 also takes pictures of people doing something other than posing. How predictable. And it shows off by using adjectives and actually explaining who people are. Give us a breaking. Seen operates on the principle: If you need an explanation of who Seen celebrities are, you shouldn’t be reading the column in the first place…
…being a family-oriented newspaper, the Press insists on profiling people not known outside their immediate families.
To give just one example, a recent TW2 Profile carried this provocative celebrity headline: She’s wife, mother and full-time volunteer,” Yes, it did. When asked to cite her favorite author, the woman replied, “I don’t read that much, to be honest.” She then went to elaborate on her non-reading habit…
“I tell you,” Peter Leo concluded, “this competition for Pittsburgh’s beautiful people could get ugly.”
Sometimes, the competition was ugly and it was not for Pittsburgh’s beautiful people. Some Post-Gazette folks still remember a memo from Press management warning PG employees — who worked on the fourth floor (the Press was on the third) — not to use the Press passenger elevator.
I told you, it sounded fun. Almost.
As for the landmark building on Boulevard of the Allies, it was one of America’s last old newspaper buildings and this folder of images captured the essence of it from the height of those days.