PublicSource wins awards for 2019 reporting and thanks storytellers and the community for their trust

PublicSource has been honored with six state, regional and national awards for coverage in 2019. From toxic chemicals in the environment to first-person perspectives on mental health and a deep look at what it means to live on low wages in Western Pennsylvania, these awards honor excellent reporting of stories often left untold. 

While PublicSource does not measure its impact in awards, we believe it’s important to recognize the work of journalists and express gratitude to the people who trusted PublicSource with their stories. 

Below are the highlights: 
Good River: Stories of the Ohio
PublicSource visuals producer Ryan Loew, Allegheny Front managing editor/reporter Julie Grant and Pittsburgh-based freelance photographer Njaimeh Njie were honored for their work in the Good River: Stories of the Ohio project. They received first place for environmental reporting in the Society of Professional Journalists’ [SPJ] Keystone State Chapter Spotlight Contest. A judge wrote that, “this entry’s multiple stories were impeccably reported, meticulously researched, crafted with precision and great storytelling effects. What a remarkable collection of stories centered around pollution on the Ohio River.”

Good River project team members also won first place for best environmental reporting in the Cincinnati SPJ awards for excellence in journalism.

J. Oliver Choo is a graduating senior from Fox Chapel Area High School.

Black Fox Chapel students have spoken up about racism in our school district. Now students like me are no longer afraid to share our experiences.

Until a month ago, I was proud of graduating from Fox Chapel Area High School. I was grateful for the enthusiastic faculty as well as the friendships I had made. However, the recent controversy surrounding racism at Fox Chapel has compelled me to revisit my own experience with prejudice at the school – one that I have tried hard to forget. My ethnicity is half-Taiwanese and half-Korean. My heritage is known for its legendary empires, scientific innovation and excellent cuisine.

‘Welcome to the movement’: Hundreds rally against police brutality, racism at Allderdice, in Bloomfield and Fox Chapel

Hundreds gathered at Allderdice High School and in Bloomfield and Fox Chapel borough on June 11, the 13th day of Black Lives Matter protests in Pittsburgh. 

Those in attendance carried signs, participated in chants and listened to impassioned speakers who called on the crowds to show solidarity with Black students and residents in the Pittsburgh area along with those who have experienced police brutality. "Welcome to the movement because we are going to need every single one of you ... Oppressive institutions don't get to tell the oppressed how to fight for their freedom." —State Rep. Summer Lee

In Bloomfield, skateboarders convened to honor George Floyd and others taken by police violence. At one point in their rolling march, they shut down traffic on Bloomfield Bridge and the Black Lives Matter demonstration ended in Friendship Park.

A resident lights a candle for Breonna Taylor during a demonstration in Lyndhurst Green on June 5, 2020. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

As Black Lives Matter marches go on, Pittsburgh launches a task force to find “people intent on causing destruction”

Pittsburgh protesters on Friday honored what would have been the 27th birthday of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot in March by police officers in Kentucky. On the same day, the seventh of anti-racist demonstrations locally, the Pittsburgh police bureau announced a multi-agency task force to target the “small group of people intent on causing destruction” amid the largely peaceful protests. The task force, formed earlier this week, has already launched investigations into: “...people who have attacked journalists, looted business, caused property damage and committed other crimes such as arson,” the press release stated. Protesters gathered in Friendship Park in Bloomfield at noon Friday calling for an end to system racism and police brutality against Black citizens and protesters. The hundreds in attendance marched from Friendship Park about 2 miles to Lyndhurst Green in Point Breeze, where they stopped to hold a vigil in honor of Taylor and her birthday. 

Louisville, Kentucky police officers killed Taylor at the age of 26 in her home on March 13.

Cristie Bloom with her husband, Chris Gabuzda, and their four children ( Lillian, 9; Miles, 8; Eleanor, 6; Elias, 4). (Courtesy photo)

In search of another large, cautious Pittsburgh-area family to join our ‘quarantine pod’

The world as we know it changed when COVID-19 surfaced and brought with it new ideas about what it means to be safe. I trust in science and appreciate the need to minimize risk, but maximizing the opportunity for my family's happiness is also important. 

As we move forward into this new world where social distancing, masks and the constant smell of sanitizer are expected to continue without an end in sight, the future looks brighter with the thought of friends by our side. 

So, one night, in the middle of our latest Netflix binge, I asked my husband how he would feel about finding another family to quarantine with us. He stared at me blankly and laughed. "How would that even work? How would we know that another family would follow the same precautions that we're taking?

Our cities are burning, and so is the mental health of this African-American teen

“To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” —James Baldwin, author and civil rights activist

This is the perfect quote to describe my reaction to the recent events involving Black men that have taken place during quarantine: a constant state of rage, sadness and hopelessness. Perhaps being able to go out and converse with my friends and peers would help me cope with these events, but unfortunately that wouldn’t help with my healing. 

Quick to judge: Let’s reform how healthcare workers treat people with substance use and mental health disorders

The emergence of COVID-19 has put health care in breaking news. Every day, we hear of the tragic deaths due to this pandemic. We are also hearing of heroic efforts by healthcare workers, what they are doing for their patients and how communities are coming together to help one another out in this trying time. COVID-19 has also exposed weaknesses in the U.S. healthcare system, like the lack of personal protective equipment, poor regulations on long-term care facilities and poor response from government agencies. 

Another weakness to consider is the stigma and bias that those with mental health disorders and substance use disorders experience in the healthcare system. The bias and stigma come directly from healthcare professionals. 

I know firsthand the effects of stigma and bias on patients because I have been working in health care for 22 years; 19 of those years have been serving people with mental health and substance use disorders.

What is lost: On (not) teaching during a pandemic

On the sixth day of social distancing, I sat on my couch and finished rereading “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” which my AP literature class is — or was — studying. Even after teaching the novel for years, I still don’t get the title. 

Near the end of the book, a hurricane whips and cracks against the cabin where Janie, Tea Cake and their friend Motor Boat are riding out the storm. Along with the people in the other cabins surrounding them, “[t]hey seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.” 

For a book so invested in exploring the individual and her relationship to the community, this sudden turn to nature, catastrophe and God has always felt random to me. But perhaps that is the point. Because that is just how all life is — struck down by random turns of the divine. 

Just over a month ago, my life was dedicated to lesson plans, critical theory and equitable grading practices.