At a meeting with representatives from Pittsburgh’s remaining minority media outlets, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl pledged to improve communication between the city and the African-American community.
While the journalists, talk show hosts, and publishers commended the mayor for his efforts, many came to the meeting armed with a list of complaints from their constituency.
“There’s a disconnect between the officials in Pittsburgh and the African-Americans in Pittsburgh. The African-Americans I talk to don’t feel connected to the city. People feel that they are being ignored,” said Bev Smith, a radio talk show host with American Urban Radio Networks. “I think there should be some kind of meeting where the message gets out there that we’re being included.”
The consensus among the group was that communication with the mayor’s office, and the mayor in particular, had ranged from being intermittent to nonexistent. Like the community they represent, many from the media felt they too had been ignored by the mayor.
Not at the meeting but responding to the meeting, New Pittsburgh Courier’s Managing Editor Ulish Carter said, “if the mayor wants to improve relations with the Black media and Black community he can return calls when we call. We have asked him in for Editorial Board meetings and he has not even responded with a yes or no. We have called him on various issues and he has not gotten back to us. If the county executive and the governor can come in or return calls to us, why can’t the mayor? We haven’t had this problem with any other mayor in my time here, which includes the 1990s and the 2000s.”
A few others said the city as a whole has done very little to promote diversity. However, the mayor was quick to counter with a list of minority appointments to high profile city positions and his administration’s creation of DiverseCity 360, an initiative promoting diversity year round.
“One of the things I think we’ve done a good job with is being a diverse city,” Ravenstahl said. “One of the things we haven’t done well is communicating that message to the African-American and minority community. We’ve failed miserably at communicating that.”
To better reach the community, the media professionals said the mayor should have a greater presence at community meetings. They also suggested periodical editorials in minority publications as well as broadcasts on minority radio stations.
Some in the media said the city should spend more advertising dollars with minority media and complained that many of Pittsburgh’s businesses do not support the minority media platform. They also said the city should collaborate with minority media outlets to promote their initiatives.
“Our goal is to define what we should be doing,” Ravenstahl said. “We want to figure out what is the best way because you’re the ones out there carrying that message. We need to find a defined plan”
As the media voiced their concerns, the mayor asked for their help in return regarding how he should respond to the African-American community after violent incidents. He worried that the Black community might view his presence in a negative light.
“We are sincere, but I understand how the community could see that as not being sincere,” Ravenstahl said.
With the loss of WAMO, Pittsburgh’s most popular urban radio station, many African-Americans feel as though their community has lost its voice. Still, those at the meeting said there are many other media outlets left to fill the void and the mayor should utilize them.
“Me and the mayor had a conversation and we discussed how, with WAMO being gone, do we engage with the minority community,” said Ed Gainey, coordinator of economic development with the mayor’s office. “Some of the issue is not what we haven’t done, it’s that we haven’t conveyed that message.”