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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Free agent: P-G sports scribe moves across town

Posted By on Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 4:20 PM

After 26 years at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, high-profile sportswriter and former Pirates beat writer Dejan Kovacevic is leaving to become a sports columnist at the Tribune-Review.

The reason? The Trib promised him a long-coveted job as columnist.

"I've worked pretty much every position this job has to offer over the years from copy editor to covering table tennis at the Olympics in Athens," Kovacevic said during a phone interview Wednesday night. "But becoming a sports columnist is what I've always wanted to do and I feel I'm ready to make the move.

"Honestly that's the only motivation behind leaving. I want to be a columnist, and this was the best opportunity for me to do that."

Kovacevic's move is rare -- Pittsburgh is a two-newspaper town, and competition is fierce -- but not unprecedented. Sports guy Rob Rossi left the P-G in 2002; Bill Steigerwald also made the jump, seeking out an editorial page more in sync with his libertarian sensibilities. 

Kovacevic's column will begin appearing tomorrow. He will write two weekly columns for the Trib on Monday and Friday throughout the summer. When there are more sports to write about, he says, his writing load could increase to three times per week.

"I'm looking forward to the summer to get my feet wet and developing my voice as a columnist," Kovacevic says.

Kovacevic spent six years covering the Pirates. Earlier this year, however, he asked to be removed from the beat and began writing sports features and blogging on the Post-Gazette's premium online site, PG Plus; sources inside the paper all agree he was a major draw, with a significant following.

He left the Pirates beat, he says, because it because with the advancement of social media and live blogging, covering the team became a 24-hour job. "You're never off," Kovacevic adds.

And while he says he was enjoying his new online duties, it still wasn't column writing.

Then about two weeks ago he was first approached by the Tribune-Review. The Trib has lost some of its own marquee talent in recent years; Joe Bendel having left for radio in the 2000s, followed by Mike Prisuta in 2009,  Kovacevic says that after the Trib reached out, he met with P-G editor Dave Shribman and told him about the Trib's overtures. He said there were attempts to keep him at the P-G. But sources close to the situation tell CP that none of those pledges included the promise of writing a column in the immediate future.

Kovacevic's departure comes hard on the heels of the resignation of Colin Dunlap, who had replaced Kovacevic as Pirates beat reporter, then left last month to spend more time with his family. There has been speculation that Kovacevic's move had to do with the paper's history of financial troubles, layoffs and buyouts. But he says that's not the case.

"The decision really doesn't have a lot to do with the Post-Gazette," Kovacevic says. "The paper is filled with great people and tremendous journalists.

"It's rare for anyone in our business to be able to move on and be able to make an upward move. It's even more rare, I think, in a competitive two-paper town. So for me this came down to making the best decision for my family and for myself professionally."

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