The Opinionated Truth: An Open Letter to a Younger Me

Bryan,

Let me open up by saying you do not need anybody.  You do not need someone to tell you what to do; you do not need someone to tell you where to go to school; you do not need someone to tell you how to live.

The most important thing for you to realize is that if you are not being your own person, then you are lost and will not be found until you change that attitude.  If you listen to what everyone else is saying, you can learn a lot about what you don’t want to be, where you don’t want to go.

Every day you are told to go work, save money, hangout with your friends, take advanced courses in schools, and find a cheap college while majoring in something extremely practical.

That is not what you should do.

As far as working goes when you’re young and in high school, be sure to do it in moderation.  Working 40 hours a week and working weekend nights are simply not worth it (not that you ever did).  Always stick to the small jobs; stick to the babysitting, the refereeing flag football, and the cutting grass.  Use that extra time to relax at home or hangout with friends.  Those moments are far superior.  You have the rest of your life to work and worry about money.

Speaking of money, be sure to save some.  And no, I don’t mean putting every cent you earn into the bank.  I mean by taking a portion out of every check you make.  With every small job you do, you should be putting 10% of it away.  Put it somewhere you won’t touch it.  Somewhere that you can never get to it.  Just 10% of everything you make – is that too much to ask?  Obviously, since your bank account is extremely subpar today.

One thing that you were never good at is making time.  Something that is so vitally important to you before you go off on your separate ways is to hangout with those people that helped support you to where you are today.  Make time with your friends, and I don’t mean going out to eat at Applebee’s after every football game.  Go travel, even if only for a day; go to festivals, even if the attractions are mediocre.  Make time for those people, because I promise you each and every one of them has different plans for college and beyond.  Not all of those plans have an end-destination in your small hometown.

While your school friends are important, so is your grades.  You have to make sure you study, but don’t overbook yourself; schedule more art classes.  Those advanced AP courses and STEM Physics class is honestly just not worth it for you.  Most colleges could care less about what classes you took.  The things that are important are your GPA and your ACT/SAT score.  Spend more time studying for the standardized tests and take those tests more than just once – which I know you didn’t do.  The AP courses in English are far more important than the others, but the AP Calculus’s and AP History’s of the world served only as stressors for fields of work you knew all along that you didn’t want to go into.

Next is finding a college.  No matter what anyone says or thinks, just go with your gut.  You don’t need to go to a big state school and become a little fish in a big pond.  Just like in your hometown, you want to play a bigger role on a smaller stage.  Like you did, you went to a small school.  Somewhere that has a different feel to it; somewhere that you know no names.

Your major is also important, but it is not everything.  You’ll switch your major multiple times before you find that one (or perhaps two) fields of concentration that interest you.  Take your time and make the most of the experiences that your university offers.  At those school clubs and events and conferences is where you will get the most of your education.

Finally, it is going to be increasingly important to keep a document of references.  Whether it is acquaintances, teachers, employers, or just people you know – they all will come in handy one day.  And since you chose a small university, they will also know you by name, know your story, and know your challenges.

The importance of patience during this time in your life will help you tremendously.  The people you will meet and the opportunities that will be presented are what will drive you into a career.

Patience, patience, patience.

 

The Opinionated Truth: The Trains of Capital Hill

As I finally get into the swing of things in D.C., I find myself seeing the connections.  The errands I run for the staff on a daily basis take me to some amazing places.  Never in my life have I been to somewhere so secure, so debauched.  People are running left and right down the tunnels of the offices of the United States Congress; they know exactly where they are going.

For miles and miles, I am not running cross country; for miles and miles, I am running through the halls of legislation.

The Capitol building is connected to all the House offices as well. An absorbedly small subway train takes people to and from the offices to the Capitol building itself.  There, debate and conference take place.

It is fascinating to see the numerous amount of people walking through the basement of the House offices to get to this tiny little subway system (which by the way only saves them about a 200-meter walk).  But the importance of everybody’s purpose on that miniscule subway car is what makes captivates me.

Bills to be signed, cosigns to be made, meetings to attend.

The Opinionated Truth: Look at Iran

Is it really that bad in the United States?  Every day, this country displays to me how lucky I am to be here and not there.

On the other side of the planet, an influential election is taking place in Iran.  Hard-line candidate Ibrahim Raisi is challenging incumbent Hassan Rouhani to become the next Iranian president in this Friday’s election.  Rouhani has been known as a moderate president during his five years as the head of the country.  His moderation is not exactly humanistic, many say.

During his tenure, Rouhani has been an enemy to the advancement of human rights in the Middle East and the rest of the world.  According to Human Rights Watch, Rouhani has not fulfilled many of his campaign promises he made when he first ran for office. Drug-related offenders have been executed at an alarming rate and free speech continues to be a massive hurdle for Iranians. Facebook, Twitter, and hundreds of websites are barred from use.

Here in America, no matter how hard he has tried, Donald Trump has not been able to block any portion of the first amendment that has and will continue to be used against him during his time as president.

Over in Iran, users of Telegram and Instagram have been subject to arrest by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.  This proves to me just another reason why we have been so blessed in this country.  Freely, we can say what we want, post what we want, and spread all the fake news that our little heart’s desire.  Even our nation’s president can say whatever he wants, showcasing just how free our press stands.

As I sit in Tim Ryan’s congressional office on my second day, it is clear to see and hear the frustration around me with the Trump presidency.  Some of the calls to the office that I answer as an intern are simply therapy sessions for people worried about our president and his ties to Russia.  And believe me, there have been many.  Nevertheless, I sit here – writing what I want.

Here in America, the debates are about if a drug offender should be incarcerated for ten years or two.  In Iran, a drug-related offense can lead to an execution.

How lucky is the American public?

The Opinionated Truth: Confidentiality

I walked into my first day of work to think that I’d be busy and at the end of the day ultimately, to be exhausted.  I did end up being exhausted, but that was only due to my lack of sleep the night before and the constant traveling I have been doing; I have gone from Pittsburgh to Youngstown to Pittsburgh again, and finally to Washington – in three days.

One of the first things I did today was sign a confidential agreement with the Congressional Office; this agreement bars me from talking or writing about specific meetings, visits, and other information that goes around the Ryan office at Longworth House Office Building.

Today’s tasks were not too daunting.  My job mainly consists of answering phone calls, sending constituents to people on Tim’s staff, and taking notes on certain briefings to Congress.  The briefings are posted weekly and for the most part, as an intern, I get to pick and choose which ones I want to attend if I am interested in them.  This Thursday, I get to attend one involved NASA.

As I watched people come in and out of the office today for meetings with Ryan’s staff, I thought just how different it would be if Tim was elected Democratic House leader.  Nancy Pelosi is on television every day, always at a podium (tonight she is being featured on a CNN Town Hall).  Of course, Ryan is a rising star on Capitol Hill and wears many hats for the Democratic Party; but just how many more meetings would be happening in the office that I work in if Ryan was the Democratic leader?

How much more confidential would these meetings be?

The Opinionated Truth: Introduction

I guess I am not a big fan of losing.  I have never taken losing well.  Whether it was being on a winless flag football team and losing in the first round of pee-wee playoffs or losing a race on the track against an All-American, I just never took losing well.  Even when I was supposed to lose, it still frustrated me more than anything in the world.

Losing.

I guess that is why this internship in Washington, D.C. has become so important to conquer.  For the next six and a half weeks, I will be interning under U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH).  This is not the position I saw myself to be in during the early summer of 2017 – but here I am, sitting in my bed just a few blocks from District of Columbia’s downtown social haven.

After having dinner with Congressman Ryan, his family, and close colleagues this past January, I have seen just how much of an emotional impact his life took after Donald Trump’s November election victory.  Just by talking to him, one could tell that he is a man on a mission, fighting for his party and his congressional district in Northeast Ohio.

After his January loss against Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for House Democratic leader in an effort to alter the course of the blue party, Ryan has continually spoken out against Trump and his childish tenacities.  Ryan has disagreed with Trump about nearly everything; Trump’s refusal to invest in clean-energy and his administration’s consideration to eliminate the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

I believe that it’s safe to say Tim hates losing, too.

Over the next few weeks I plan to gain a better understanding for what is really happening in the highest office in the land.  What is the Democratic Party’s real plan to taking down Trump and his policies?  Is there a plan at all?

By watching any news station (go ahead, pick your poison), you would think it is a disaster in Washington.  With what the news media feeds us on a daily basis, it is easy to see why people think it is a mess in Washington.

And that is just our problem.  We don’t really know the truth and we don’t really have an understanding for it because we are hearing it from fabricated organizations that are trying to have a more compelling story than their rival networks.

As a journalism major at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, it has frustrated me beyond repair how many times I have seen cable networks try to battle each other.  There is no truth to their struggles.

I have tried to trust each and every network as I tried to understand why they were all so damn opinionated.  Every single news anchor has their opinion, and in the past year it was heard loud and clear into the ears of every American man and woman.  God, I hope they didn’t listen.

My profession is filled with liars, cheats, wannabe entertainers, and false advertisers.  Every day I am thankful for picking up my double-major to also earn my bachelor’s degree in political science.  Because then maybe I don’t have to deal with journalists trying to oust their competition rather than tell the truth.  They hate losing, too.

Journalism is dead.  Not because writing or poetry or storytelling is dead, but because the truth is.

For the first time in my writing career, I get to explore the inside.  I will be able to form my own opinion from seeing everything first-hand.  This is my story in Washington, this is my opinionated truth.

 

 

           

Four Years Gone

PITTSBURGH – With his ability to run away from opposing defenses, former Poland Seminary High School running back Darius Patton knew the key to making people cheer. His athletic ability and charismatic smile made him more than just a gifted football player.

Darius was known as a silently hard worker who could not only light up the football field, but also brighten up a room with his smile.

“People know Darius as an athlete, but there was a lot more to him that I will miss.  His smile would light up a room,” said Darius’s high school basketball coach Ken Grisdale to WKBN after hearing about his death.

Four years ago, the most iconic player to wear number four for the Poland Bulldog football team passed away and changed how people viewed mental illness and depression.

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Darius Patton graduated from Poland Seminary High School in Poland, Ohio in 2011.  Photo via vindy.com.

 EARLY CHILDHOOD

Darius grew up in Western Pennsylvania before moving to the Pittsburgh suburbs to live with his paternal grandparents.

“He did not know his paternal side of the family,” recalled Adella Patton-Dixon, Darius’s grandmother.

One of the reasons Darius moved out with his grandparents was to escape the hardships that his mother was facing.

“His mother was having a hard time handling Darius in New Castle,” said Patton-Dixon, “We had concerns that he had trouble with his mother.”

After moving in with his grandparents before entering sixth grade, his grandmother saw how much he valued learning.

“He was very smart, always asking questions, always open to learning.”

But even with his passion for answers, his grandmother saw something in Darius that others did not – his learning disabilities.

“It would take him a long time to get his homework done.  We eventually had a male therapist talk with him because we wanted him to talk to someone.”

As a social worker herself, Adella understood the problems children had growing up in difficult family situations.

“You work with kids who go through mental care and eventually move back with their parents after they get help.”

Moving back with his parents is exactly what Darius did when he grew up, where it would be easier for his family to keep up with him.

Darius was able to move back with his parents in the Mahoning Valley and attend Poland Seminary High School, where he began to sprout as a legend to the football culture of the area.

Patton-Dixon recalled, “One thing was for sure, he didn’t have low self-esteem in sports.”

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Adella Patton-Dixon and her husband raised Darius for a good portion of his childhood before he transferred from the Penn Hills School District outside of Pittsburgh to Poland, Ohio with his parents.  Photo via Adella Patton-Dixon.

A NEW BEGINNING

When Darius moved back with his parents, his family was in the midst of turning their lives around.  Per the Youngstown Vindicator, Darius’s father, Shawntel Patton, had many previous problems with the law that prevented him from keeping close ties with his children in their early childhoods.

In 1999, he plead guilty to forgery and was sentenced to six months to an alternative program.

In 2004, he was convicted for conspiracy to possess with intent of distributing cocaine.

Once Darius was back in his life, however, Shawntel began to show signs that he could lead his son down a good path.

“I had a relationship with his father,” said Mark Brungard, pastor of Church of the Rock and former Poland Head Football Coach.

“I was a little skeptical of his father.  But after things got sketchy for him with the law, he started to attend our church and change himself for Darius.”

When Darius joined the football team under Brungard at Poland, Brungard immediately saw a resemblance between him and his father.

“He looked exactly like his dad.  He was quiet.  He was an extremely hard worker and very athletically gifted.”

Brungard knew the Patton family all too well.  As a college quarterback at Youngstown State, he played alongside Darius’s father Shawntel who was a running back.

Brungard led the Penguins to two national championship victories in 1993 and again in 1994 with Shawntel – when Darius was just one years old.

“For Darius, there were kids who took to him right away and others who didn’t like him because he took their spot on the roster,” said Brungard.

Darius was a standout athlete all throughout the school year, where he played football, basketball, and ran track.

“For him as an African-American, I could not imagine coming from an inner-city school in Pittsburgh to a 95% white school in the middle of suburbia,” said Gabrielle Moore-Massey, track and field relays coach at Poland.

“He adjusted fairly well coming from his other school and having a tutor and such,” said Kevin Snyder, the principal at Poland.

In the classroom, Darius was able to hold his own because of his striving to learn.

“He was actually very respectful and a hard worker,” said Poland’s psychology and law teach Ronald Rowe, “The only negative was that he refused to ask for help on assignments.”

Darius eliminated his weaknesses in the classroom by showing his strengths on the football field, where he not only started – but shined.

During his senior campaign at wide receiver, Darius racked up 800 yards on 49 catches, 12 for touchdowns.

“He was that guy, that receiver for me,” said Darius’s former high school quarterback Collin Reardon to WKBN after hearing about the tragedy.

Darius ended up becoming an All-Ohio performer and later signed to continue his playing career near his former hometown at the University of Pittsburgh.

PROBLEMS ARISE

When Darius moved to Poland, he began to experience a sense of distance from people and it continued during his senior year, where he had many issues facing him.

“Darius felt like nobody could reach out to him,” said Patton-Dixon.

Darius’s attention deficit disabilities were present throughout his final two semesters at Poland.

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An opposing player recovers a live ball and returns it 70 yards for a touchdown as Poland’s Darius Patton (#4) walks away assuming the play is dead during a key conference matchup against Howland.  Photo via Geoffrey Hauschild.

“He was a great athlete with limitations because he wasn’t always there,” said Massey.

Darius had trouble proving his worth on the athletic field towards the end of his high school career because he was in and out of Belmont Pines Hospital while seeking help for his depression and mental illness.

“When one of our athletes got hurt, Darius was the next man up for some of the relays and Darius struggled with handoffs with the baton.  He acted like he never had done it before,” Massey recalled.

“We talked a lot in the sense of staying after his grades because of the opportunities that would be presented in front of him as far as being an elite athlete who wanted to play D-1 college football,” said Snyder, “His senior year was definitely stressful.”

When Darius got to Pitt, he immediately began seeing the playing field.  His ability to catch and run earned him a spot returning kickoffs and punts as only a freshman.

“It’s almost like football came intuitively to him,” said Rowe, who also acts as an assistant football coach.

FROM BAD TO WORSE

Darius’s position returning kickoffs and punts elevated him to have a future on the Pitt Panther offense.

But a mid-season collapse during a non-contact drill at practice pushed back those plans and marked the beginning of the end for Darius’s playing career.

“I talked to the medical staff at Pitt, and they were unsure if it was due to mental health or if it was something physical,” said Patton-Dixon regarding Darius’s collapse.

Darius was also said to have been going through depression while he was at Pitt.  He also began to isolate himself from his teammates and coaches just like he did while he was at Poland.

“He was very warm at first impression, but he didn’t connect well,” said current Poland Head Football Coach Ryan Williams.

Williams was the defensive coordinator under Brungard before Brungard stepped down to focus on his own kid’s high school careers.  Williams said that Darius was bright at first impression, but shut down after people got to know him.

“He wasn’t real connected,” said Williams.

Darius later dropped out of Pitt after the spring semester of his freshman year.  His next step in life was very uncertain.

“He was involved with a female from a different school and was trying to go to Florida to play football,” said Patton-Dixon.

Darius continued to struggle with his depression and never played football again, and on November 15, 2012, he took his own life.

“I was very surprised.  Even more surprised hearing about the episodes he was having prior to his death,” said Patton-Dixon.

Teachers and coaches who remembered Darius said he did a good job at hiding his true self and his feelings.

“The front he puts on is just a show, because he was very fragile inside,” said Rowe.

RAISING AWARENESS TODAY

Family members, teammates, and coaches remember Darius today through an annual walk every October in Youngstown.

“We have someone usually come to speak at the event and we take that month to raise funds.  A lot of his friends come in to walk,” said Patton-Dixon.

‘Out of the Darkness’ Youngstown is an annual event sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), which also hosts walks in Pittsburgh and in other cities across the country.

“It’s a way of taking a negative situation and turning it into a positive,” said Patton-Dixon.

Darius is remembered by many classmates, teachers, coaches, and family members who knew him as a silent, hard worker.  Many of them kept Darius’s family in mind after his death.

“You’re saddened for their loss as a teacher or coach, but I immediately thought of his father.  His father was going through a lot and I couldn’t imagine being in his position,” said Williams.

Brungard, who also performed the funeral services, stressed the importance of Darius’s situation after the tragedy.

“It reminded me again how fragile every person’s life is,” said Brungard, “Mental illness is real and is something that needs to be dealt with in a healthy way.”

 

 

Point Park Director of Communications Reaches More Viewers

PITTSBURGHPoint Park University’s Kevin Taylor has been an influential member in bringing innovation to the school. As the director of athletic communications and assistant athletic director, Taylor has changed the way viewers can watch Point Park athletic events.

When Point Park was a member of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC), they had a basic streaming service for athletic events.

Taylor wanted more, though.

Taylor led the coalition to bring a more reliable sports streaming experience using Stretch Internet, that is now utilized by the entire River States Conference, the new name of the KIAC. Through this service, people all around the world can watch Point Park sporting events via high-quality stream.

“They say those who can’t play, coach, and those who can’t coach write about it,” Taylor said while discussing his job requirements at the University.

Although he has never played in the green and gold, Taylor has been just as involved as any coach or player at the University.

“In my ninth year at Point Park I never lost or won a game,” Taylor said.

Taylor explained that his job requires him to cover the sports teams using social media, local media and Stretch Internet to provide the best coverage of Point Park athletics.

“We inform the media, cover (Point Park) sports teams and publicize them to the outside world,” Taylor said.

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Kevin Taylor has been an experienced voice in an ever-changing collegiate conference.  Photo via Bryan Partika.

Taylor started his career at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), where he majored in sports management. After a work study job with the sports information department, Taylor knew he had found his calling.

“At some point your career as a player will end,” Taylor, a former basketball and baseball player, said.

After his undergraduate experience at IUP, he returned as a graduate assistant.

Nine years ago, Taylor returned to Western Pennsylvania for his current position at Point Park.

“He’s the PR [public relations] guy – beginning and end,” Point Park Athletic Director Dan Swalga said. “He brings our face to the world.”

Swalga gave high praise for Taylor’s position at the University, which has grown tremendously over the past decade as more sports have been added at Point Park. According to Swalga, since 2006, the number of athletes at Point Park has grown from 109 to around 375. The number of sports at Point Park has grown from nine to 17, including the addition of men’s and women’s track and field.

“When we add programs, we bring in kids who would not have been interested in Point Park,” Swalga said.

Taylor’s passion about Point Park athletics is evident to Kelly Parsley, the University’s cross country and track and field coach.

“His enthusiasm and passion have led to the success of our teams,” Parsley said.

When Point Park joined the KIAC, now known as the Rivers State Conference, in 2012, Team1 Sports was the streaming service used by the entire conference.

“We wanted to introduce video streaming and cost was an issue,” Taylor said.

Team1 Sports was the most cost-efficient option because of the public service announcements it ran during streaming services. It was not entirely problem-free, so athletic directors within the conference began to talk about ways to improve their streaming services.

As the official streaming service of the NAIA, Stretch Internet became one of the leading contenders to replace Team1.

Although Stretch Internet had a higher cost than Team1, Taylor said reliability was more important for him. In collaboration with other universities in the conference, other athletic departments jumped on board and helped lower the cost for the service for the entire conference.

“Streaming a single game will cost $7.95 for a viewer, or the viewer can buy an entire season of streaming for $24.99,” Taylor said.

The streaming of Point Park sports greatly benefits teams that have international players whose families cannot make it to most of the sporting events. Men’s soccer has more than half of its members coming from other countries such as Saudi Arabia, England, Morocco and Brazil.

Mass Communications major Mike Turk said he loves being able to do play-by-play broadcasting at the University’s sporting events to an outside audience, which could not be done without the guidance of Taylor.

“He is a guy who knows his stuff and he passes it down to us broadcasters. He’s someone you can learn a lot from and he is very dedicated to his work,” Turk said.

Depending on the sporting event, there can be anywhere between 30 to 100 people tuning in to an event. But, Taylor wants to take it a step further for the overall viewing experience.

“I would like to get rid of the pay-per-view,” Taylor said.

Pay-per-view is “paying for the viewing experience.” Currently, viewers have to pay to watch the Point Park Sports Network, which Taylor wants to eliminate the cost in the future.

Taylor has already been able to get help from the new Center for Media Innovation (CMI), which has helped add a high-definition aspect.

He has begun utilizing the CMI as an outlet to broadcast the UView shows in HD. Taylor’s hope is to extend this relationship to the games on the PPU Sports Network.

“With the more coverage we get, the more real-life experience we get with it. Our equipment and broadcasters keep improving as time goes on,” Turk said.

A lot of that improvement for the years to come will lie in the hands of Taylor, who is determined to be a part of the innovation.

Press Forward Presses the Media

BY BRYAN PARTIKA

PITTSBURGHAt the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement Wesley Lowery started looking at the rates of police shootings where he found huge discrepancies in the numbers that were actually being reported.

Lowery and fellow Washington Post writer Keith Alexander followed the story to find out why police shootings were not accurately being recorded in police databases.

At the end of their 2015 investigation, the two won a Pulitzer Prize and recently spoke at Point Park University to talk about their findings at the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation’s Press Forward event held on September 21.

The event featured many media leaders around Pittsburgh to talk about diversity in the newsroom, where white newsroom workers greatly outnumber black workers.

DIVERSITY STUDY

The first panel discussion involved PBMF members Dr. LeTrell Crittenden and LaMont Jones Jr., who talked about the findings of the lack of diversity in local Pittsburgh media with Tené Croom, who moderated.

Croom’s first question spoke right to the PBMF findings.

“What is so important about diversity?” she asked.

“Newsrooms with individuals of color did a better job covering diversity situations,” said Jones.

“Diversity in newsrooms is only around 17%,” Crittenden added, “the Pittsburgh media area is one of the least diverse in the country.”

People of color make up around 20% of the population in Allegheny County, including 35% of Pittsburgh’s population.  The PBMF findings found that even with these population numbers, people of color only make up around 10% of workers in the area’s newsrooms.

The newsrooms that were surveyed also did not have a comprehensive plan to diversify their newsrooms, even though more people of color left the newsrooms that were surveyed over the past two years than were hired, per the PBMF findings.

FIXING THE DIVERSITY GAP

The second panel discussion included panelists from many areas of Pittsburgh media, including Washington Post writers Wes Lowery and Keith Alexander, to talk about the importance of fixing the diversity gap.

“We should not wait for a mass shooting in Wilkinsburg to find a positive story in Wilkinsburg,” said Scott Trabandt, managing editor at WPXI.

Trabandt went on to express how the coverage of black communities (like Wilkinsburg) need to be more focused on positive stories, which means the hiring of black newsroom workers to shed light on those areas.  Trabandt said that WPXI is taking measures to hire people of color in their newsroom.

“We’ve taken steps to spend time in the communities.  We go to where they are,” added Kristen Doerschner, assistant managing editor at the Beaver County Times right outside Pittsburgh.

Moderator Harold Hayes explained how shedding a positive light on these communities would benefit them greatly, since it seems as if they only get negative coverage from the media.

“Sometimes the headline is all someone will see of a story,” said Hayes.

Sometimes a negative headline and a location is all that people view, the panel discussed, even if there are positive stories to be told in those communities.

LOWERY’S FINDINGS

“We wanted to figure out how and why these people were being killed by police,” Lowery told the panel at Press Forward, “the government has no record of how many people are killed by police.”

After Lowery and Alexander realized the police shootings in the U.S. were not accurately being recorded in police databases and federal records, the two did what any good reporter would do – they took to Google.

“We would methodically search Google every day to see who was killed by police,” Wes explained.

The Washington Post team put people in positions to search Google daily to help develop the story, and the findings were staggering.

Lowery and his team found that more than double the number of police killings had occurred in 2015 than what the police databases and federal government had on record.  They found that almost one thousand people were killed by police last year compared to the under five-hundred that were on record.

Their findings also resulted in a big difference between the killings of white and black males in the U.S. by police officers.

Alexander later explained to the panel that while armed with a weapon, white males were killed at the highest rate by police officers.  While unarmed, black males were killed at the highest rate by police officers.

After publishing their findings in the Washington Post – and later winning a Pulitzer Prize –  the Black Lives Matter movement took off with the statistics about unarmed black males being killed by police officers at such a high rate.

“Our job [as reporters] is to be a voice for the voiceless and we hold the powerful accountable,” Alexander proclaimed.

Lowery said that they hope the data can be made into public record, but until then the data on recent police shootings can be found on the washingtonpost.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Innovation Arrives On Campus

BY BRYAN PARTIKA

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh media professionals gathered Tuesday to open the door to a changing world of journalism in the form of the new Center for Media Innovation.  The new center, open to students of Point Park University, provides new advancements in media, broadcasting, journalism, and the entire School of Communication.

“It is exciting to see this type of investment into journalism,” said Ben Howard, visual designer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

He was one of five keynote speakers at Tuesday’s event.

The multi-million-dollar facility, located on the corner of Wood Street and Third Avenue, has a ton to offer for students.  According to Point Park University’s website, the state of the art facility is completed with a television and radio broadcast studio, a multimedia newsroom, a photo studio, and a presentation gallery space.

WTAE reporter Michelle Wright stressed the importance of innovation in today’s tech-savvy media world.

“Ten years ago, we (the media) said ‘hey we should have a website.’  Now, almost every one of you has a website,” she told the students in attendance.

Wright would later go on to explain the importance of gaining experience in the field of work.  The importance of internships was stressed in her speech as well as building on the advantages of the fast world of social media.

“You still want to do serious, hard hitting news,” Wright said, “but you want people to know that you’re doing it.”

Point Park students will absolutely be letting the world know what they are accomplishing given the location and reach that the Center for Media Innovation (CMI) provides for the students.  The CMI allows students to expand their media experience and expand the way in which the entire School of Communication operates.  Classes will be pushed to use the CMI to learn how to use full-production cameras and many of the other spaces in the building.  The clubs at the school will also benefit, as the Globe (Point Park’s newspaper) and UView (Point Park’s television station) now have even more access to equipment and advancements.

“People need to stop saying that journalism is dead because the Center (CMI) is proof that it isn’t,” said Luis Fabregas, news editor at the Tribune Review.

Continuing on, Fabregas explained how journalism is growing at an unprecedented rate for online users.  “Users online are so unpredictable,” he explained.

He also explained how reporters are bettering their skills with the advancements of online media, where newspaper website viewership is growing as print viewership has gone down in recent years.

“Reporters will become more versatile, taking pictures, shooting video,” Fabregas explained as he mentioned the importance of journalists advancing their skills as technology grows.

Point Park University continues to strive in the dynamic ‘vertical campus’ of downtown Pittsburgh.  The School of Communications took a huge boost into the future with the new CMI and will only grow from here.

Producer and journalist Terry O’Reilly was the last keynote speaker at the event, but he made sure to make a statement on the students.  For students entering the field of journalism, the job opportunities can look slim with newspaper viewership declining.  O’Reilly quickly denounced that and encouraged students to continue to advance their skills as media advances in an ever-changing media world:

“The state of public media is good in the United States.”

 

 

 

 

 

Undercover Cops Uncover Drugs

BY BRYAN PARTIKA

KNOXVILLE, PA – Undercover detectives averted a confrontation with two heroin buyers, one who was armed, during an exchange at 236 Rochelle Street in Knoxville.

Kenneth Ensley was sentenced to six months in prison and Ramone Harrison was sentenced to three to six months after an incident in late August of 2014.

Ensley was found to have a “knotted baggie of marijuana and four bundles of white stamp bags containing heroin,” according to the Probable Cause Affidavit that was filed by Detective Mercurio.

Detective Lewis and Mercurio received information that an unidentified black male was selling heroin in a borough of Pittsburgh.  The two cops immediately took action to find the man.

On August 31, Mercurio began texting the heroin supplier.  The supplier responded with “I’m good,” indicating that there was, indeed, heroin for sale.

Detective Ladner and Mercurio next posed as heroin users, undercover.  There were also five other detectives on standby in case of an emergency situation.

As Lewis and Mercurio brought their car around to Rochelle Street, they observed more than one seller at the scene.

“Lewis observed (Maurice) Wallace deliver heroin to two separate persons at 228 Rochelle Street,” according to Mercurio.

Detective Ladner also was undercover posing as a heroin user.

“I received a call from the same male I had been conversing with throughout the event who directed us to drive onto the 200 block of Dove Way to meet him,” Detective Ladner said, according to the affidavit.

Wallace immediately approached the passenger door of Ladner’s vehicle and gave Ladner 13 white bags containing heroin.  Ladner then handed Wallace $100 and drove away from the area.

According to detective Lewis, two other transactions of heroin and cash happened as the night went on near the 200 block of Rochelle Street.

“Wallace walked to an unknown white man and delivered heroin to the unknown white male,” said Lewis in the affidavit.

“We decided to arrest Wallace at the next opportunity,” said Sergeant Lukitsch in the affidavit.

After the two transactions, Wallace made his way to the tail end of Rochelle Street, where he complied and was promptly arrested at the scene.

As Wallace was being detained, Kenneth Ensley and Ramone Harrison were spotted in front of a house on Rochelle Street observing the incident.  Ensley tried to get rid of a white bag that would later be seen to obtain marijuana.

As the detectives closed in on the two men, they ordered them to get to the ground and show their hands.  Ensley complied, but Harrison refused.

According to Detective Mercurio’s affidavit, “Harrison put his hood up over his face and placed his hands inside the waist area of his body.”

This action alarmed the officers, as they assumed he could be armed.

Detective Martin moved in and grabbed Harrison, where he began to comply to the officers’ orders.  Martin patted Harrison down and immediately felt a gun under Harrison’s hood.

Both Ensley, 30, and Harrison, 17, were detained and sentenced a few months later.