Pittsburgh can be proud of its local media.
Last week, representatives from most local media outlets joined with representatives from the Jewish community, including those most closely impacted by the attack at the Tree of Life building last fall, to discuss how to report on the one-year commemoration of the massacre with sensitivity and integrity.
The off-the-record discussion was held at WQED, and was organized by WQED’s Vice President of Content Darryl Ford Williams, and Andrew Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University. More than 50 people were in attendance, including faith leaders, representatives of the three congregations targeted in the attack, and representatives from the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh and Jewish Family and Community Services.
Convened to help those in local media understand the community’s concerns, plans and preferences in regard to the commemoration, the discussion was a lesson in honest and open communication, and gave us cause to be optimistic that, at the very least, local coverage of the events will take into account the psychological well-being of those impacted directly by the massacre, as well as the interests of the wider Jewish community of Pittsburgh.
Members of the media heard from Jewish stakeholders regarding their concerns when it comes to news coverage, including appropriate and accurate verbiage and ways to respect Jewish traditions while sharing their stories. Members of the Jewish community, in turn, learned about the aims and needs of Pittsburgh’s media outlets.
In just a few weeks, our city will mark one year since the mass shootings of members of Congregation Dor Hadash, New Light Congregation and Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Congregation fundamentally — and perhaps permanently — altered Jewish Pittsburgh. We expect the city to be swarmed again by national and international journalists, as it was on and after Oct. 27, 2018. Some of them will get the stories right, and, as happened last year, some will fail in doing so.
But we applaud our local media for the proactive steps it is taking in ensuring fair and thoughtful coverage, and its openness in hearing what will best preserve the dignity and wellness of the victims, the families, and the survivors of the attack.
Emotions, understandably, have been and will continue to run high as Oct. 27, 2019 approaches. While there is little we can do to control how and what is reported by those journalists who descend upon Pittsburgh from elsewhere, we are optimistic that our local coverage will be fair, and will attempt to avoid, as much as possible, the re-traumatization of families and emotional triggers.
The charge of media — to report the truth — is one that is crucial to the preservation of a just and democratic society. We are proud of the fact that representatives of Pittsburgh’s print, digital, radio and television outlets are heading into the one-year commemoration of the massacre with intention, compassion and forethought. pjc