Courtesy of Curtis Pharmacy

Barger: New managing editor sees the future and it is DKPS

Journalism is dying. I've been hearing that at least since I was the sports editor of my junior high school newspaper more than a few decades ago. The public perception was that this honorable profession, the only one protected by the U.S. Constitution, was going the way of blacksmiths, telegraph operators and doctors who made house calls.

The evidence was seen clearly in the newspaper business, which even before the boom times of the 1980s was showing cracks.

The price of fuel was rising dramatically, to the point that the mere delivery of the newspaper was a money-losing proposition. Timber forests in Canada were dwindling, making the cost of paper similarly rise. Then along came the Internet, which derailed the train that delivered millions of dollars through classified ads. Newspapers constricted their circulation areas and cut staffing in staggering numbers. Some chose to limit production costs by eliminating the print product on certain less profitable days of the week and others chose to cease publishing entirely.

The public sentiment was melancholy but no one would argue the inevitability of this industry's demise.

But I learned a betting maxim in the sports books while living in Las Vegas – the public almost always is wrong. Journalism wasn't dying. It was evolving at the speed of light, driven by the very devil that had cursed the business – the Internet. Now newspapers could become multimedia companies and their reports could be supplemented by an active and involved audience of readers, enhanced by the wizardry of smart phones and enriched by social platforms.

All of which brings this little story and my own journalism career to DKPittsburghSports.com – a revolutionary idea if ever there was one: Unparalleled coverage of local teams offered for a reasonable subscription fee. And it worked, the proof of which being the numerous imitators it has spawned.

Whether it succeeded because of some special level of sports passion the Pittsburgh fans have or because so many former Pittsburghers have been spread across the country is for historians to debate. In the meantime, we get to enjoy it.

I have wanted to be a part of this groundbreaking enterprise almost from its start. The concept was exciting, the volume of intelligent interaction with the paying customers was a welcome if surprising by-product of the pay-per-view model, and the landscape around sports journalism was surely changing.

But the strongest pull of all was Dejan Kovacevic, the site's founder. I've known Dejan for more than 25 years since our days together at the Post-Gazette, and I knew his relentless passion and the ultra-high standards he set for his own work would be key to driving this endeavor. He simply would not allow it to fail.

He and I worked in one of the nation’s top sports departments at the Post-Gazette, me as the sports editor and Dejan mostly as the chief designer for the daily and Sunday sports sections. It was a great situation. The staff was immensely talented and we all worked for assistant managing editor/sports Fritz Huysman, the kindest and most supportive boss I have known. But I longed to have a department of my own, which set me on a nomadic course that crossed the country three times – from Las Vegas to Santa Rosa, Calif, to Bristol, Conn., and then back to Santa Rosa. My wife would joke that we didn’t take vacations but instead moved to new places.

California was a beautiful place but the cost of living was staggering and in recent years there came a new concern – wildfires that would consume timberland and whole towns in mere moments. It convinced us that it was time to go home to Pittsburgh.

The future holds great promise. Dejan has assembled a staff that blends the experience and knowledge of longtime and respected reporters with the energy and talent of tech-savvy young people. No media outlet can match the commitment to Pittsburgh sports coverage and the depth of coverage that DKPittsburghSports provides – for home games and road trips.

So here I am, eager to get started, eager to find ways to help this business thrive and this staff to grow. There will be no more moving trucks in our life and no worries about the death of journalism. That myth has been laid to rest.

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