Jonathan Silver: “It stings like hell that after 25 years of loving this paper, it doesn’t love me back.”

Twitter thread from Jonathan Silver at jsilverinnpgh:

Twenty-five years ago today I walked into the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. My first day on the job gave me my first byline — an A1 story on the field amputation of a steelworker’s lower leg, which had gotten pinned at a warehouse when a tower of steel rolls collapsed.

The PG assigned me the password 8week on its old CMS because I was originally hired as a temp for a two-month stint, meaning my employer won’t “recognize” my start date until my full-time anniversary in February. Somehow eight weeks became (checks math) 1,300 weeks.

I say “recognize” because aside from the slim possibility of having my name enshrined on a plaque in a newsroom where I haven’t been since March 2020 — a recognition that a younger me dismissively thought happened only to PG lifers — I don’t think anyone could care less.

There are a few of us old-timers left, but the numbers are dwindling. Bill Schackner was already here when I arrived. Torsten Ove would join a short time later. Several others. So much experience and institutional knowledge has walked out the door in recent years.

I’ve had loads of fun. I covered the lengthy investigation into the crash of USAir Flight 427. I told the story of Steeler Mike Webster, whose travails played a pivotal role in discovering CTE. I watched a double lung transplant inside an OR.

I came face to face with at least two killers now doing hard time. I exposed corruption at the highest levels of Pittsburgh police and the terrible beating of a guy by guards at the jail. I’ve tagged along on a pre-dawn narcotics sweep and ridden with undercover cops at 3 a.m.

I’ve been chased and bitten by dogs and threatened with my life multiple times. I worked with stellar colleagues to create a special section about the crash of Flight 93 on 9/11, a project that remains close to my heart all these years later.

But despite those memorable stories and countless more, it’s a bittersweet anniversary today. What to think when the place to which you’ve given 25 years of your professional life gives you nothing back and instead only takes and takes and takes?

Over the past decade I’ve proudly served as unit chair of our union. And in that role I have confronted an uncomfortable reality about my industry and my employers: Both are intent on creating labor strife that harms the people who show up daily and do the work.

From a labor perspective, my 25 years here and the sweat equity I’ve put in trying to making the PG better hasn’t gotten me much more than a clear conscience. My reward has been for the Blocks who own the paper to attack my union — to attack me — and try to destroy it.

What does 25 years at the PG mean to me? Gutting my contract. An attempt to destroy the Guild. Worse health insurance. Stolen vacation. Endless legal battles. Contempt and disregard by ownership. A shrunken newsroom. Pay cuts. No raise in 15 years. Unfair labor practices.

It’s not just me. It’s the Bill Schackners and Torsten Oves of the PG. It’s the rest of my colleagues. And my union peers, who haven’t had a raise in 18 years. It’s my fellow journalists across the country fallen victim to morally bankrupt owners and hedge funds.

Why didn’t I leave? Mortgage. Kids. Quality of life. It’s complicated, right? But also for a long time the PG was a good place to be, a very good place. The news is still great here. My boss is terrific. My colleagues are top-notch.

Yes, it’s been a terrific run, and I’m by no means done yet. Regional journalism remains crucial. I fervently believe in its value. Yet here’s the bottom line: It stings like hell that after 25 years of loving this paper and doing my best for it, it just doesn’t love me back.

Happy anniversary to me.

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