Look for the Helpers: Pittsburgh, PA Media Landscape Check-Up

By Chris Mueller

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Those were the wise words of Pittsburgh’s own Fred Rogers, who for more than three decades, taught lifelong lessons of kindness, acceptance and empathy to millions of children across America through his critically-acclaimed television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers practiced what he preached beyond the screen, embodying the true essence of “a good neighbor” through the compassion he exuded to both friends and strangers alike.

In a 1999 interview with the Academy of the Arts, Mr. Rogers spoke about the importance of positive, localized media coverage highlighting relief efforts during times of societal turmoil. “There will always be helpers on the sidelines,” he said. “That’s why I think news programs (should) make a conscious effort of showing rescue teams, showing medical people, showing anybody who’s coming into a place where there’s tragedy. …Because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.” 

His desire for a spotlight on the helpers resonates more than ever today. While the ripple effects of an unprecedented global pandemic continue to alter life as we know it, the helpers of our communities have emerged to the forefront.

In recent weeks, the Pittsburgh media landscape has shared compelling stories about countless local helpers in the fight against COVID-19. From multi-million dollar relief efforts and initiatives by Pittsburgh’s top nonprofit foundations to one woman’s donation of 1,000 handsewn masks for police officers, we’ve observed notable coverage themes across local publications that highlight the compassion, expertise, innovation and resilience in Pittsburgh’s response to COVID-19. 

Good Neighbors

Pittsburgh is a close-knit community with a knack for rallying together during times of crisis. People are always willing to lend a helping hand. When highlighting prominent COVID-19 relief actions, local publications are balancing between organizational initiatives, diversity/inclusion efforts, and human-interest features.

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Medical Missions 

Like our friends up in Boston, Matter Pittsburgh is located within one of the top medical hubs in the country. The city’s major healthcare systems are pioneering breakthrough COVID-19 research focused on vaccine development, therapeutic treatments, antibody testing and more. Local publications are emphasizing in-depth reporting on vaccine research, alternative treatment options, PPE access and expanded testing capacity. 

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Technology Solutions

Home to a thriving technology scene with a variety of companies spearheading digital innovation, it’s no surprise that Pittsburgh’s technology capabilities are already being utilized to combat COVID-19. Local media is focusing on how advanced technology can support healthcare, education and contact tracing during the global pandemic.

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Local Impact

The impact of COVID-19 on a local level is evident throughout Pittsburgh. The health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations, as well as economic implications for the hospitality sector, service industry and small businesses are among the most alarming realities. COVID-19’s local impact has been covered with a delicate balance of honoring  the lives and legacies of local victims while highlighting unique challenges and inspirational stories of triumph.

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In Mr. Rogers’ image, we can all do our part to spread hope as we navigate the twists and turns of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Here at Matter, we’ll continue monitoring media coverage in the Pittsburgh area and beyond to keep a pulse on the state of our local communities. We’d love to hear from you. Are there any stories that have caught your eye? Are there others that still need to be told? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!