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Friday, June 26, 2020

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2020 at 9:08 PM

click to enlarge Sadly, we didn't realize "Summer Survival Guide" would have so many different meanings to us when we put out this week's issue :( - CP PHOTO: LISA CUNNINGHAM
CP photo: Lisa Cunningham
Sadly, we didn't realize "Summer Survival Guide" would have so many different meanings to us when we put out this week's issue :(
The past few months have been some of the hardest in my 20+ years at Pittsburgh City Paper, with periods of uncertainties, watching our small staff of under 20 full-time employees work their asses off to keep our publication going during a pandemic.

Today was without a doubt the hardest.

Just yesterday, Millvale Music Festival — the last large Pittsburgh music fest to have a date still listed on this year's calendar — finally announced it was postponing to 2021. This morning, 61 new confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 were reported in Allegheny County. And this afternoon, months after launching a membership campaign, after working day and night to bring you more stories than we've ever put out before, after putting out new products as way of trying to generate additional funds we lost because of events and businesses closing their doors and discontinuing advertising, Pittsburgh City Paper faced a day we've been trying to avoid since the pandemic first began, a day none of us ever wanted to see.

Today, we had to bring company-wide cuts in order to ensure that our paper survives post-COVID. The hits are devastating, and they will be noticeable. For the most part, though, we are optimistic they will largely be temporary.

There's no denying it. Our editorial furloughs are huge.

They include managing editor Alex Gordon and senior arts writer Amanda Waltz, and I honestly don't know how we're going to survive the next month without them.

Alex is the main copy editor on almost all of our stories, and our content is going to suffer immensely without him here. I'm very worried errors are going to slip by. I'm worried weaker stories are going to pass by without him. Actually, I know weaker stories are going to get posted without him. He's an incredible story editor and story teller. His own story on the Pittsburgh Muslim community celebrating Ramadan during coronavirus is still one of my personal favorites from the last few months. He's funny as hell, too. God, writing this fucking sucks, man.

As our senior arts writer, Amanda hasn't been able to write about the arts and culture scene nearly as much as she would have liked to over the past few months, but just this week, she was able to preview an exhibit at the Heinz History Center. She's also done such an amazing job switching gears to covering news stories like writing about a local nail salon accused of racist remarks, and she just wrote a heartwarming tribute in memory of her friend, Jeffrey "Boosie" Bolden, a literary figure highly loved in Pittsburgh who passed away earlier this week.

More temporary furloughs announced today include our events and marketing coordinator, and two graphic designers. Our sales and events sponsorship manager had already turned in his two weeks and was going to be replaced with a new Digital Advertising Strategist. That position is now on hold.

I'm writing all this out to ask you, readers, to help me make sure Alex, Amanda, and the rest of our furloughed staff come back ASAP. I'm pretty much begging you to keep reading. Keep supporting us. I'm asking you to please forgive us a little over the next month for our inevitable spelling errors that slip through, and to let us know if you notice a problem so we can fix it as quickly as we can.

All of these furloughs were based only on financial reasons, and not for any of these folks' performances. These are talented employees who we want to bring back as soon as we can, and our remaining staff is going to work as hard as we possibly can to make sure we don't skip a beat in our coverage to make sure that we're still bringing you great issues and online stories because now we're fighting even harder for them too.

And if you know anyone with big foundation money or deep pockets ready to buy some ads, CALL US CALL US CALL US CALL US.

Other changes:
We also had to make the really difficult decision to layoff our Digital Media Manager, Josh Oswald who in addition to his web maintenance and social media duties, also wrote the hilarious column Just Jaggin.

• Lisa Cunningham, editor in chief (that's me); Jasmine Hughes, Director of Advertising; and Kevin Shepherd, Director of Operations, will all be taking an unpaid week's vacation in July, and each will be taking a pay cut.

• While we remain committed to continuing to bring readers a weekly print product, our page counts will begin to shrink to 16 pages starting with our July 1 issue unless we can sell more advertising. (If you are a business who needs advertising, we're getting more positive feedback than ever from readers, I swear. But we need your ad dollars to keep going. We are not pay to play, so no — I will not write about your business if you place an ad, but our ad director Jasmine Hughes is amazing, and she will take care of you. Email her! jhughes@pghcitypaper.com)

• We are asking anyone who is able to continue to support us in the following ways:

- Consider becoming a member: Pittsburgh City Paper's Membership Campaign (It includes perks like a free T-shirt and a photo print from our photographer, but some members have asked us if requesting no perks would save us money and it actually does. So if you become a member and would like to request no perks, please email supportus@pghcitypaper.com because to be perfectly honest, any little bit helps us right now.)

- Purchase Pittsburgh Kitchens J'eet Jet? Cookbook (half of proceeds go to 412 Food Rescue)

- Purchase Pittsburgh City Paper's Over-the-Top Completely Ridiculous Yinzerffic Coloring Book (half of proceeds get split evenly between the 35 local artists who illustrated the artwork inside the coloring book)

- Purchase a Woke Commie Rag T-shirt (proceeds benefit both City Paper and local print shop CommonWealth Press)

- Purchase a 1-Year Subscription to Pittsburgh City Paper for $250

- Purchase a 6-Month Subscription to Pittsburgh City Paper for $150

- Purchase a 6-Week Subscription to Pittsburgh City Paper for $32

Thank you from the bottom of all of our hearts for your continued support, but I cannot stress this enough. In addition to people supporting our editorial product by reading us, we also need financial support and our door (email, phones, pockets) are open for ideas.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2020 at 9:10 AM

It's Best of Pittsburgh time, baby!

If you're rolling your eyes a bit, hear me out. You think these things are rigged, right? You think advertising controls the winners? You're tired of the same people winning every year? Or, you've just seen too many of these, and you're bored with them?

I've been working at Pittsburgh City Paper since 1997. This is my 23RD STRAIGHT YEAR OF THESE THINGS, people! So believe me when I say we've done everything we possibly can to bring new life to our poll this year to bring some energy, and I gotta be honest. I'm kinda psyched.

This is your issue, the one issue of the year we get to give control of the content to our readers, and we've tried really hard to make this year's poll more inclusive than ever to help ensure that more people and communities feel welcomed and represented in our poll.

Our nomination process starts today and lasts until July 22. Start off by nominating your favorite Pittsburghers in as many categories as you'd like, then check back on Aug. 8 to vote for the final round. (Don’t worry, we’ll remind you.)

Here are some of the changes we've made this year:

New elimination policy:

We will eliminate and immediately disqualify any nomination that we discover to have posted any harmful defamatory racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or transphobic commentary on social media or elsewhere. Pittsburgh City Paper does not condone this kind of behavior in our own staff, our contributors, and we will not accept anyone who posts these viewpoints in any of our polls effective immediately.

New music categories:

You asked, and we listened. Last year, we heard a lot of feedback about problematic music categories that were left over from years ago, and our music writer Jordan Snowden took time developing new categories. For example, we took readers' suggestions and split up old combined categories like Jazz and Blues and gave them each their own categories this year, and added new genres like Electronic and World Music. Plus, we added new categories like Legacy Performer and Legacy Band, in hopes that readers will vote for their favorite established Pittsburgh celebrity musicians in those categories, and give rising stars a chance in the other categories. (It is, however, always up to the readers to interpret the categories their own ways. So if people still vote for The Clarks as best Pop Band, please remember: WE TRIED.)

More inclusive categories:

We aimed to add more inclusive categories this year, in terms of adding in more diversity. You'll find new categories like Best Venue for Diverse Musical Acts in the Culture and Nightlife section; Best Black-Owned Restaurant and Best International Grocery Store in the Food and Drink section; and Best Black-Owned Hair Salon, Best Black-Owned Barber Shop, Best Women-Owned Business, Best LGBTQ-Owned Business, and Best Person of Color-Owned Business in the Goods and Services section.

Reader Submitted Categories:

And, because chances are high we have missed some important categories, we're asking for your help. For one week only, I'm opening my email up for readers to send over Best of Pittsburgh category suggestions, pertaining to diversity and inclusivity. What did we miss? Please reach out and email me and let us know. (If you write "BEST OF SUBMISSION" in your Subject Line, that'd be a huge help.) The deadline for category suggestions is next Wed., July 1 at 9 a.m. We will be adding 10 new reader-submitted categories to our official poll next Wednesday at noon, which will still give all of our readers three full weeks to nominate folks in these new categories.

Bonus: Answers to that top paragraph:

• No, the poll isn't rigged.
• No, advertising doesn't control the winners. (Anyone can buy an advertisement on our website or a "Vote for me!" ad on a Best of Pittsburgh voting page, but no one can buy a vote.)
• We often switch up the categories from year to year to try to keep things fresh, so the same people don't keep winning year after year, but sometimes people just really, really love what they love. I'm really feeling optimistic, though, that by adding some new categories, we're going to see some new faces.

Our theme for this year's Best of Pittsburgh is City of Champions, but not in the way everyone typically uses that term. Sure, we dig our sports teams as much as the next person, but even more so, we wanted to recognize that the champions in Pittsburgh are also the folks performing on local stages, serving up our meals, and creating amazing artwork on gallery walls. There are so many champions in our city, and we can't wait to see who you choose.


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