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Saturday, March 13, 2021

Posted By on Sat, Mar 13, 2021 at 10:00 AM

It was a year ago this week when the pandemic reached Pittsburgh, and everything began to get canceled. Like so many others on social media sharing memories of their "lasts" throughout the week, Pittsburgh City Paper staff members also found ourselves sharing stories on our office Slack about the last time we saw a movie in a theater, the last time we saw a concert, the last time we saw a friend IRL. And instead of just keeping them to ourselves, we thought we'd share our stories with you, which you can read below. Do you have a story of your own you'd like to share? Email it over to If we get enough submissions, we'll throw up another post next week and share some of our favorites!

click to enlarge Jars of fermented squash and beets - CP PHOTO: HANNAH LYNN
CP photo: Hannah Lynn
Jars of fermented squash and beets


by Hannah Lynn, staff writer

Last year, right before lockdown, I was taking a weekly fermentation class at the Irma Freeman Center for Imagination run by Ferment Pittsburgh. The first week, we learned to make fermented squash and and beets. We were sent home with jars to let sit for several days, or a few weeks, until they were done. The second week, we made kimchi. Everyone in the class was aware of the virus, and we all lined up to wash our hands, but no one had masks. When I walked home with my jar of kimchi I thought, "I don't know if I'll feel comfortable going to the class next week." And then when I got home, I learned that Tom Hanks had coronavirus at the exact same second that Sarah Palin was revealed to be a contestant on the Masked Singer. Weeks later, I opened the jars and was grateful I had them.

click to enlarge Woody, Buzz, and Jackson - CP PHOTO: JASMINE HUGHES
CP photo: Jasmine Hughes
Woody, Buzz, and Jackson

Toy Story

by Jasmine Hughes, advertising director

The “shutdown” seems so long ago that I literally had to stop and say, “What was going on in my life sans-pandemic?” Then it hit me. That’s right, I just spent the last year of my life in the Toy Story COVID bubble. You see, that Sunday, we had just made a trip to the toy aisle to buy our son his first action figures. These weren’t just any action figures, though; these were Woody and Buzz Lightyear! Jackson, my son, had just watched Toy Story 4 and was obsessed with everything in the franchise. We were excited to be able to buy him his first toy that, in reality, he ever wanted. At only one and a half, most of the toys he had were just given strictly for development purposes. When buying those action figures and watching him play with them, we started talking about all the fun we would have that year taking him to the movies, Gateway Clipper character cruises, Disney on Ice, etc. Dreamers, I guess. Honestly, I am glad we had Woody and Buzz because working from home with a toddler during a pandemic was hard enough, and Buzz Lightyear got me through a lot of tough times.

click to enlarge Best Shitty Beer Bracket - CP PHOTO: ABBIE ADAMS
CP photo: Abbie Adams
Best Shitty Beer Bracket

Last Call

by Abbie Adams, art director

A small group of friends came over to answer the question, "What is the best shitty beer?" I labeled sets of Dixie cups with numbers and each person's name. We blind taste-tested, took notes, and reviewed our findings, each round getting fuzzier and louder than the last. Corona Light won.

As we drank, people shared stories of their past few days in the changing world. I imagine we talked about what might happen in the next two weeks. Maybe it was because of the pour after pour of beer, but that night is a warmly-lit memory. It would be the last time we shared our dining room table with friends, and I wish I would have known to hug them extra hard at the end of the night.

click to enlarge Dani Janae on stage at Locals Only
Dani Janae on stage at Locals Only

Till the World Ends

by Dani Janae, staff writer

One of the last things I did before COVID hit was perform some of my poems for Locals Only at Thunderbird. The show was organized by local drag and video artist Gia Fagnelli. Locals Only is a show that is curated to feature primarily Pittsburgh artists and creatives. Normally, I would perform a couple times a month, then take a couple months off to regroup, and I had a few more appearances lined up that got canceled or moved online. That night, I got the pleasure of meeting and seeing the artist Moody Ting perform on sax. When she opened playing Britney Spears, I knew I was in for a great night.

click to enlarge Zack Durkin finally says, "I do." - PHOTO: RYAN MAINE
Photo: Ryan Maine
Zack Durkin finally says, "I do."

Here Comes the Groom

by Zack Durkin, advertising representative

Right before closures started to affect the world, my fiancé and I had just put down the final deposit on our wedding for May. Luckily, we were already planning a small intimate event. But when it was clear that restrictions were going to go far beyond the two-week period we had all originally anticipated, we knew we had to reschedule. We also knew we did not want to wait much longer, and since our venue was outside, we found a date that fell right in September. Our small group of guests came fashioned in masks, showered us in socially-distanced love, and gave us a hell of a party to remember before we shut ourselves back up for the rest of the pandemic.

click to enlarge Villanelle hams it up for the camera at Grist House. - CP PHOTO: AMANDA WALTZ
CP photo: Amanda Waltz
Villanelle hams it up for the camera at Grist House.

Staying Paws-itive

by Amanda Waltz, senior staff writer

After we adopted our dog Villanelle in January 2020, my husband was so excited to take her out to a brewery. On the first warm day in mid-March, we took her to Grist House in Millvale. The place was packed. She was very nervous and shaky, but we wanted to socialize her with other dogs and people. One angelic dog whisperer pet her while she talked about her own rescue's struggles with anxiety. Not long after this, the shutdown happened, so Villanelle's socialization was put on hold. Instead, she has spent the last year bonding with us, aka sleeping on the couch for hours and begging for bites of food (she especially likes apples and carrots). Getting to know her and seeing her true personality come out has made this pandemic more bearable.

click to enlarge Owen Gabbey and friends
Owen Gabbey and friends

Don't Go, Bucs

by Owen Gabbey, advertising representative

Leading up to COVID, my main stresser was telling Pirates season ticket holders that there was nothing to worry about and that baseball games wouldn’t be getting canceled. That aged poorly.

Other than that, about a week before the pandemic hit, I went to a Cleveland Cavaliers game with a bunch of friends. We somewhat strangely took a bus trip there with a bunch of college students (my friend had an in with a professor who was leading a group trip there; I don’t know, still kind of confused on the details there). So my experience was public transportation, overcrowded restrooms, and arguing with a stadium employee who claimed I didn’t pay for my chicken tenders. How much I’d give right now to be arguing with a stadium employee that claimed I didn’t pay for my chicken tenders.

click to enlarge Kimbery Rooney eating in a restaurant pre-COVID.
Kimbery Rooney eating in a restaurant pre-COVID.

Up Hill Battles

by Kimberly Rooney, staff writer

The last weeks before quarantine were weeks of dissonance. I was starting a new job — my first full-time job after graduating — in a field relating to my undergraduate degrees, but I was letting go of the hundreds of hours I’d put into improving my milk aerating and latte art skills as a barista. I was meeting new coworkers and reconnecting with college friends, but I was trying to keep space for the friends I’d met through the coffee shop.

I was refuting every person I met who spread COVID-related conspiracy theories about China or repeated racist stereotypes, and I was walking without my headphones on as anti-Chinese attacks began. I was relearning how to ride a bike and even made it to the top of the Shady Avenue hill without shifting to a lower gear. I was checking my hometown on Johns Hopkins’ COVID-19 map every day because there was no other way I could check on my birth parents’ health. I was cherishing a last night out at the Cage with a friend because my life was changing, and I knew it would take a while to adjust.

click to enlarge Sweaty college wrestlers tussling on wrestling mats pre-COVID. - PHOTO: KAYCEE ORWIG
Photo: Kaycee Orwig
Sweaty college wrestlers tussling on wrestling mats pre-COVID.

Spring Brake

by Kaycee Orwig, photo intern

For me, the world started shutting down a year ago this week, when Pitt announced our move to online learning and the Pittsburgh Marathon announced its cancellation. It felt bizarre, as a less than a week prior I was in the Peterson Events Center photographing sweaty college wrestlers tussle on wrestling mats. Not a mask was in sight, but sure enough a week later, my spring break would turn into a half semester of virtual learning, and all of my college friends would move back to their respective homes. We didn’t know what we were doing, and our professors sure as hell didn’t, either. As an extrovert in a pandemic, the first month or two were rough, but I was lucky. I had a place to go home to, and a big family to support me. This past year, as crazy as it was, has been alright to me and has taught me a lot.  

  • Nicki Mulvihill and Victoria Birchok on board the cruise

All Aboard

by Nicki Mulvihill, advertising representative

The last thing I did before the world shut down was travel out of the country, which seems crazy to say now. A friend and I had booked a spontaneous 3-day cruise to the Bahamas (we had some extra vacation days and an itch to travel, so why not, right?) about a month prior to the shutdown, and the cruise itself sailed just over a week before things started to get canceled. To this day, I’m still shocked at how normal it all was: no masks, no temperature checks, and social distancing wasn’t even a term in our vocabulary yet. I cringe now when I think about being jam-packed on a plane and on a cruise ship, unmasked, with thousands of people just days before lockdown. In hindsight, I’m glad I was able to go and enjoy tropical paradise for a few days before being stuck at home for a year.

click to enlarge Jared Wickerham and the "team photo" squad before the BNP Paribas Open was canceled.
Jared Wickerham and the "team photo" squad before the BNP Paribas Open was canceled.

Empty Court

by Jared Wickerham, staff photographer

At the end of February, beginning of March, I was photographing a couple of tennis tournaments that I’ve worked for over the last six years. The Oracle Challenger Series was wrapping up on a Sunday as the word about COVID-19 circulated, and the BNP Paribas Open was set to start the next day. Ball kids were given gloves to wear, and hundreds of hand sanitizer stations were ordered for the larger tournament when the first case was discovered in Orange County. The OCS tournament finished around 3 p.m. on Sun., March 8. A few hours later, it was confirmed that the BNP Paribas Open would be canceled due to COVID-19, not yet declared a pandemic. That tennis tournament ended up being the first major North American sporting event to cancel amidst growing coronavirus cases.

click to enlarge Lisa Cunningham and Barratou Toure at the New Hazlett Theater
Lisa Cunningham and Barratou Toure at the New Hazlett Theater


by Lisa Cunningham, editor in chief

I had an unusually busy week a year ago, which in retrospect, feels like somehow I knew something was coming which pushed my normally shy and workaholic self out of the house and office to do so many things at once. And looking back at my Facebook memories, I'm grateful now to have those photos to remind me. On March 8, I went out to eat at Shaka in Federal Galley and then saw Prime Stage Theatre's play The Outsiders at the New Hazlett Theater with Barratou, my oldest and dearest Pittsburgh friend. (This is also the last time I've seen a friend outside of work since the pandemic began because I'm still going into the office at least several times a week and taking every precaution I can to stay safe. An entire year since I've last hung out with a friend!)

On the following day, I was thrilled to get to see the inspirational "Me Too" activist Tarana Burke in person at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, a talk moderated by Pittsburgh's own brilliant Deesha Philyaw. But it was on March 10 while watching the musical The Band's Visit at The Benedum Center that I knew things were about to change. Even though the play was a delight, I can still remember being painfully aware of every single audience members' cough that occurred in the crowded theater during the show. Two days after I published my review on our site, PNC Broadway was forced to cancel the rest of the performances because of the pandemic, and the Benedum Center sadly hasn't been able to reopen since. Fingers crossed, I'll get back there soon.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Posted By on Fri, Dec 4, 2020 at 6:29 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh City Paper writer Jordan Snowden - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Pittsburgh City Paper writer Jordan Snowden
Pittsburgh City Paper is proud to announce that two of its staff members, music writer Jordan Snowden and columnist Tereneh Idia, are winners in the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation's 32nd annual Robert L. Vann Media Awards contest.

Both writers won in the Excellence in Written Journalism: Non-Daily Newspaper/News Service category. Snowden was recognized for her Dec. 2019 story “INEZ releases her debut album, an audio diary of her growth as a woman” and Idia for “Pittsburgh: The Worst Place to Be You” and other entries in her Voices column.

This is the latest award earned by Idia, who earlier this year won a Golden Quill for Excellence in Written Journalism, Daily for Columns/Blogs by the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania, and was named Best Column (aka Billy Manes Award) by the 2020 Association of Alternative Newsmedia Awards.
click to enlarge Pittsburgh City Paper columnist Tereneh Idia holding her 2020 Golden Quill and AAN Award - CP PHOTO: AMANDA WALTZ
CP photo: Amanda Waltz
Pittsburgh City Paper columnist Tereneh Idia holding her 2020 Golden Quill and AAN Award
Snowden and Idia were both nominated for Golden Quill awards in 2019.

A press release describes the Robert L. Vann Media Awards as honoring “excellence in journalism coverage of African American and African diaspora communities, individuals, and issues.”

“As the pandemic unfolds, disproportionately impacting Black lives, and as the nation grapples with racial inequality, the commitment to journalism that covers the Black community is more important than ever,” reads the PBMF press release.

Founded in 1973, PBMF is a nonprofit organization consisting of Black professional journalists, public relations specialists, and journalism professors and college students. The journalism awards competition was launched by PBMF in 1988 to honor Robert L. Vann, the Pittsburgh Courier publisher committed to journalism and creating a voice for the Black community.

Entries were published or broadcast between Jan. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2019, and came from traditional newspapers or digital media news organizations publishing new written content four or fewer times a week. Other winners include reporters representing New Pittsburgh Courier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, PublicSource, WESA, and others.

Besides Snowden and Idia, several current and former CP interns also received awards in the 2020 Student Contest, including Ollie Gratzinger for their column “Inside Story: Tales of American Incarceration” for the Duquesne University student publication The Duquesne Duke, and Jared Murphy, and Nardos Haile, who were both recognized for their work on The Globe at Point Park University.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Posted By on Fri, Sep 4, 2020 at 3:33 PM

click to enlarge Screencap from Tereneh Idia's award announcement at the 2020 Golden Quill awards
Screencap from Tereneh Idia's award announcement at the 2020 Golden Quill awards
Pittsburgh City Paper received two Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania's 2020 annual awards ceremony Thursday evening, including the winner of Excellence in Written Journalism, Daily for Columns/Blogs for contributing writer Tereneh Idia's column "Voices."

"These columns focus on the issues of justice for people who don't have the same level of influence as the writer does," said local media personality Susan Brozek Scott, the master of ceremonies for the evening's virtual event, which aired online and on local cable channel PCTV because of the coronavirus pandemic. "From children protesters to Black women, she addresses uncomfortable truths without letting the readers off the hook."

This marks the second year in a row for Idia receiving the prestigious award. "Worst place to be you" is one of this year's award-winning columns which earned her the recognition.

click to enlarge Screencap from Jared Wickerham's award announcement at the 2020 Golden Quill awards
Screencap from Jared Wickerham's award announcement at the 2020 Golden Quill awards
Also winning a Golden Quill for the second year in a row is Pittsburgh City Paper photographer Jared Wickerham who received the 2020 award for Excellence in visual Craft Achievement-Sports Photo for his photograph of Pittsburgh Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

"Judges said, 'hands down the best entry in the category.' Great anticipation of the action and perfect timing," said Brozek Scott of Wickerham's photo when announcing his award.

Other Pittsburgh City Paper Golden Quill finalists included Wickerham's photo of Summer Lee for Excellence in Visual Craft Achievement-Personality Profile Photo; Wickerham's photo of "Barron's Entrance" for Excellence in Visual Craft Achievement-Sports Photo; and, Hannah Lynn's "Port in a Storm" for Excellence in Written Journalism, Daily-Traditional Feature.

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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2020 at 7:07 PM

Thanks to your feedback, there are now 10 new categories to vote for in Pittsburgh City Paper's Best of Pittsburgh readers' poll:

•  Best Local Farm
•  Best Tanning Salon
•  Best Children's Party Entertainer
•  Best Hummus

Last week when we announced the launch of this year's readers' poll, we asked readers for suggestions on 10 new reader-submitted categories. Above are the final selections, which are now open for nominations, along with the 255 previous categories, until Wed., July 22.

Once the nominations portion of the poll closes, Pittsburgh City Paper staff will sift through the nominations and disqualify any that we discover to have posted harmful defamatory racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or transphobic commentary on social media or elsewhere, as stated last week in our new elimination policy.

Then, the submissions that have gotten the most nominations in each category will move on to the final voting round on Wed., Aug. 5.

Nominate your favorites today at:

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2020 at 10:11 PM

Last month, after posting a news story about a public official who is trans on Pittsburgh City Paper's official Facebook page, our feed was soon filled with transphobic comments. Dozens of them in a short time span.

When hateful comments appear on our website or social media pages, we do our best to monitor and delete them. We also alert readers of our policy against hate speech, then block people's pages who ignore our warnings.

After June's transphobic comments, which were the worst examples of hate speech on our platforms we have seen in recent times, we added a long list of filters to our Facebook page moderation settings, where you can block posts or comments containing certain words or phrases. Still, more hateful comments continued to make their way through our page, despite our filters, which meant if we weren't monitoring our page 24/7, offensive posts could remain on our page for hours at a time.

Today, City Paper's management team — which includes myself (editor in chief Lisa Cunningham), ad director Jasmine Hughes, and our director of operations Kevin Shepherd — have made the decision to turn off all comments on

This decision comes in light of the difficult decision of company-wide furloughs and cutbacks on Friday, including three editorial staffers. This decision is made based on the fact that we no longer have the staff to monitor comments on our website. We would rather disable comments entirely than risk having even one transphobic, racist, or hateful comment appear on our site.

Let me be clear, however. Our aim is not to silence reader responses or voices, and we welcome readers to send us feedback on our stories, whether positive or negative. Since we are removing the comments from the website, we are instead announcing a new weekly curated Letters to the Editor section launching on our website as early as Mon., July 6 if we get submissions, which will include links to the stories readers are commenting on next to their feedback.

If you are interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, please email submissions to with "Letter to the Editor" in the subject line. Submissions must be 100 words or less to be considered for publication.

If you have a question and/or would like to request a response from a writer or editor, please include that in your email, and we will do our best to include answers in the post along with your letter.

Additionally, if it was possible to at least temporarily disable comments entirely from our Facebook page until we are able to get our furloughed staff back full-time, we would do so. Unfortunately, after looking into this, it does not appear to be an option. In the meantime, we will continue to try to monitor our Facebook page as much as we can, but since we are short staffed, we are afraid comments will sometimes fall through the cracks. If you do happen to see a comment slip through our filters, and if you are comfortable doing so, we would really appreciate it if you are able tag us on the post so it brings it to our attention, or you could email me directly at and put "HATE SPEECH" in the subject line, and we will do our best to remove it as quickly as we are able to do so.

And for any trolls reading this who are now just going to fill my inbox with hate mail: I've read it all before. At least try to be original this time.

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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!

• 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 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.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Posted By on Mon, May 25, 2020 at 7:37 PM

CP Illustration: Josie Norton
Never one to miss a good social media trend, we jumped on the bandwagon last month and created our own "Pick Your Pittsburgh Quarantine House" meme that gave us some good laughs:

But now a month has passed, and we're still haunted by readers telling us their favorites weren't included in our original list. Since we're still in the yellow phase and a lot of us are still stuck at home, we thought we might as well continue the fun. It's time to pick your own quarantine house! It's this week's #CPQuestionOfTheWeek.

You're quarantined with one Pittsburgh celebrity, one Pittsburgh food, and one Pittsburgh drink: What do you choose?

Scroll down to see who our readers chose when left to their own imaginations. (But, for the record, I still think our House No. 6 sounds like a blast.)

"Mister Rogers.
Potato Patch fries.
Arnold Palmer drink.
Brian K. Root on Twitter

"Betty Esper, 40 oz from Capris Pizza, crab legs from High Rollers. We don’t even have to leave Homestead."
@jeremyjoens on Instagram

"Gertrude Stein, Stations' Tagliatelle with Smoked Pork Shank, and those frozen jabronis from Tina's."
David Bernabo on Facebook

"Noodlehead Chang mai 100% - the person and the drink don’t even matter"
@galsgals on Instagram

"August Wilson - greens and beans from Collangelos and Rose cider from Threadbare."
Anna Rodi Benvenuti on Facebook

"Mikey and Bob. Primanti's. Rolling Rock, before it left Pittsburgh."
michael palmosina on Facebook

"Jeff Goldblum, Triangle Hoagie, Pittsburgh Lemon"
Jessica Amber on Facebook

"Jonas Salk, Pretzel Shop Anything, Turners Iced T"
@lukachris on Instagram

"Polish food with Andy Warhol and beer at Cinderlands"
Beth Oberly on Facebook

"Frankie Capri * Primanti's * IC Light 🔥🔥🔥🔥"
@jleighbob on Instagram

"Mister Rogers
Buffy the Mac Attack Slayer from The Yard
Hitchhikers Band of Existence IPA"
Michelle M on Twitter

"Pittsburgh Dad, Gooskis Wings, Wigle"
John Huxley on Facebook

"Tony Buba, Mineo’s pizza, East End Big Hop"
@samueledwardprice on Instagram

"Wiz khalifa, pierogis, turners chocolate peanut butter milk."
Jessica Grey on Facebook

"Joe Manganiello... and who needs anything else? 😄"
Becky Broderick on Facebook

The Pittsburgh celebrity people mentioned the most:

The man. The legend. The Rick Sebak.

"Rick Sebak, whatever people drop off at his house, and Marburger FARM Dariy chocolate milk."
Amy Brunner on Facebook

"I’m going with Rick Sebak, Turner’s Strawberry Lemonade and a wedding cookie table."
@kimmy_kimkimm on Instagram

"Rick Sebak, Fiori's, Arsenal cider"
Megan Elizabeth on Facebook

"Rick Sebak, Mason Dixon Hot dog and a variety of beers from D's Six Pax & Dogz! 🍻"
Regina Robinson on Facebook

"Rick Sebak, 'O' fries with whiz, Turner’s tea, all narrated by Rick Sebak, natch."
@mrswhitesclassroom on Instagram

"Rick Sebak, pierogies, Schneider's chocolate milk"
Matthew Frankwitt on Facebook

"Rick Sebak. Pierogis Plus. Parking Chair Vodka. There are no other answers..... 🎤 drop." on Instagram

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2020 at 4:23 PM

CP Illustration: Josie Norton
Yes, most of Western Pennsylvania is now in the yellow phase, and Beaver County is about to join us, but that doesn't mean life has returned to normal. We're still social distancing. We're still wearing masks. And we still can't return to life as we once knew it. So what does everyone miss the most about life before COVID-19? We reached out to our readers on social media and asked for our #CPQuestionOfTheWeek:

What do you miss the most about life before the pandemic?

"I miss being able to pet neighborhood dogs."
Tessamyn Wieczorkowski on Facebook

"Live Music"
@pittsburghmusicguy on Instagram

"I miss when every single topic that was talked about was not 'it'"
Face with rolling eyes
Andy Manos on Twitter

"Going to a Pirates game."
Katie Kowall Reed on Facebook

Going out to a local coffee shop and chilling out for an hour. 💛☕"
@crabbymum on Instagram

Rejoice Evans on Facebook

"I miss holidays with family and friends. Missing out on an in-person Easter and Mother's Day was tough."
Brian K. Root on Twitter

"Browsing independent bookstores and spending days in local libraries."
@literarylittorallenhart on Instagram

Our favorite comment of the week:

After numerous folks posted about missing hugs on our Facebook post, Jessica Jones Brendel shared this photo of a "hug curtain" her family created so her kids could hug their grandparents:

And me? What am *I* missing the most?

The sense of time. I told yinz I'd get this post up on Monday, and here it is Wednesday already. Hey, cut me some slack, will ya? There's a global pandemic going on! (What will I miss the most about the pandemic when it goes away? Being able to use that excuse.)

Monday, May 11, 2020

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2020 at 7:16 PM

CP Illustration: Josie Norton
With most of the department working from home these days, our editorial Slack channel has been filled with our staff sharing all sorts of odd quirks we've picked up during quarantine.

Amanda Waltz has developed an obsession for looking at luggage online, even though she's not going anywhere. Hannah Lynn has found herself browsing apartment listings, even though she's not moving. And me? As the solo editorial person still coming into the office during the pandemic, I've taken to raiding everyone else's desks for snacks left behind, even though I'm not hungry. (Thanks for the leftover Girl Scout cookies, friends!)

We reached out to our readers on social media to see if they too have picked up any new quirks for our new weekly series, #CPQuestionOfTheWeek:

What's the weirdest habit you've developed during quarantine?

"I researched 'cat language' and am trying to communicate with my furbaby on a new level."
Becky Klink on Facebook

"Watching YouTube videos of abandoned mansions"
@katie41222 on Instagram

"Reading old Hollywood wiki pages."
Jenna Thomas-Cline on Instagram

"Talking to my plants. I had never done it prior to covid 19."
Jeimy Ibarra on Facebook

"Sitting in different rooms of the house getting a feel for them"
@kirbycucumber on Instagram

"Not being able to hold an adult conversation. Does that count?"
Jessica Amber on Facebook

slimathee on Instagram

"Staying in my pajamas ALL day!"
— @vail4507 on Instagram

And readers who I'd like to think would appreciate my daily food hunts:

"Hummus in bed at 3am"
@m_zaharko on Instagram

"Increasing my snack intake. Look, it's been a rough couple of months ok? I haven't been able to do s——!"
Aimee K. Davis on Facebook