So Long, Cori Shropshire; Hello, Pittsburgh

The Post-Gazette's Cori Shropshire, who has covered the tech beat in town for the last few years, is joining the Pittsburgh Diaspora. Yesterday was her last day at the paper, and I'm told that she's moving to Houston. In today's column, she writes:
Thanks to all of you who stumbled out of bed on Saturday mornings to read Bits & Bytes. You kept me on my toes and made a tough beat challenging and fun. And to my anonymous tipsters ... you rock.

Thanks, Cori, for bringing some media sunshine and some good writing to the entrepreneurial scene in Pittsburgh, and good luck with your next gig.

Will the P-G appoint a new beat writer for tech and entrepreneurship? I hope so; the energy level surrounding entrepreneurship in Pittsburgh right now may be at an all-time high. The phrase I've heard repeatedly in face-to-face and email conversations over the last several weeks is "tipping point," as in, Pittsburgh is at a tipping point. All of these entrepeneurs and investors and technologists and researchers and artists, and even a lawyer or two, sense a window of opportunity. Will Pittsburghers seize it? Or will it pass, and will Pittsburgh remain a region of unfulfilled potential? I've heard it from media folks (though not at the P-G); from investors; from researchers; from entrepreneurs; and from local politicians.

If this really is a tipping point, then on the one hand, a good newspaper, particularly a local newspaper-of-record like the Post-Gazette, should be there in person to record and critique what's happening. Beat journalism remains key. On the other hand, several of my "tipping point" correspondents believe that the P-G is fast becoming irrelevant in this emerging space. Blogs and other, more modern communications tools are how information is being shared these days. If the New Pittsburgh is realized, the revolution will not be televised. It may be on YouTube and an RSS feed instead.


8 Responses to "So Long, Cori Shropshire; Hello, Pittsburgh"

Anonymous said... 7/15/2007 1:26 PM

I hope I am wrong, but my guess is that the P-G will not replace her and the bits/bytes column. Cori had such a hard time getting the beat from the tech companies in the 'burgh. While I suspect that part of this problem was she didn't build enough of the relationships that are necesary, the bigger problem is that the tech company leaders are so worried about what the press will say, they don't say anything to the media. Or, they don't realize or appreciate the benefits of being in the news often (except when they have something to announce in a "controlled" way. There are very interesting and great things happening at many tech companies in the region. It doesn't matter if the tools are blogs, You Tube, RSS or the P-G, if people don't share information, there won't be any beat. Think about it - when was the last time you heard ANY thing about some well-funded startups like Renal Solutions and Akustica? are they still around???? Or from others like LogicLibrary and DesignAdvance after their former CEOs left? Or promising companies like Cohera and TalkShoe? Do they realize how much easier it will be to recruit talent later if people see/hear their names more often? Remember the days when FreeMarkets and Fore were a regular part of the tech beat and the value they gained from that? Management and technical talent is increasingly in tight supply around here; those that embrace the media will stand out among the "competition." I hope the P-G continues the column, but it will be hard to fault them if the supply isn't there.

Jefferson Provost said... 7/15/2007 4:00 PM

I think that local tech entrepreneurs may have good reason to be wary of what will be written about technology in the local papers. Take this Trib article (in which I am somewhat ironically pictured). The article breathlessly reports that "wireless Internet is a growing trend." Really? If this article had been written in Austin five years ago, it still might not have been news. Then it goes on to quote the CEO of the Downtown Pittsburgh Partnership describing free WiFi as "a new idea" that's "not like buying a car." (!?!)

With reporting like that, I could easily see how local tech entrepreneurs could choose not to talk to reporters. That article doesn't make Pittsburgh look tech-savvy, it makes Pittsburgh look tech-retarded. A total lack of local tech coverage would be better than advertising to the world that Pittsburgh is just figuring out technology that places like Austin and the bay area have had for years.

Cori Shropshire may have been an exception -- I'll take Mike's word for it, I guess, since I didn't read her column. But I wouldn't be surprised if local tech entrepreneurs are way too busy to be able to differentiate the good tech reporters from the bad.

Anonymous said... 7/15/2007 9:09 PM

"Renal Solutions"? For real? Maybe you never hear about them in the news because their name could be a clinical euphemism for pee. As in, "please submit your renal solutions to the nurse for testing."

I feel bad for their employees at parties. Just thinking of the phrase "I work for renal solutions" sets off a scat-joke chain reaction that a good comic should be able to work into at least two or three minutes of standup material.

I'm sure they're a fine company, and somebody's gotta work the lucrative dialysis equipment market, but couldn't they have come up with a better word to come after their "Renal"? Anything would be better. Renal X.

Maybe they're staying out of the news to avoid Scott Adams finding out about them and putting them in Dilbert. Oops. Now he probably already has.

Jim Russell said... 7/16/2007 1:50 AM

I read Cori's column and I appreciated her efforts. My concern is that Cori is leaving at a critical time for Pittsburgh's start-up culture, which is the point I think Mike's post raises.

What I am hearing and reading is that some local entrepreneurial efforts feel under-appreciated. Unfortunately, there seems to be more interest in local ventures outside of the region than in and around Pittsburgh.

I don't think Cori is to blame for that shortcoming. If anything, she was the only bright side to otherwise dismal coverage. If Cori did have "a hard time getting the beat", then I have a much greater respect for her column.

Those are big shoes to fill.

Not only does the Pittsburgh tech scene deserve greater coverage, it also needs comparative context. Navel gazing will only get you so far...

Schultz said... 7/16/2007 3:47 PM

Sounds like the door is open for a Techcrunch of the Pittsburgh region.

Do we have something like Techcrunch here in the burgh? If so I am not aware of it. This is a huge void if that is the case, especially now that Cori has left. A colleague of mine was just talking to me about starting up a tech and entrepreneurial blog.

My initial reaction was that there was already several out there, but then I recalled a meeting I had two weeks back with a young entrepreneur who wanted to start something along those same lines. So where do we go from here?

Anyone willing to get serious about starting up a Pittsburgh Techcrunch?

Jefferson Provost said... 7/17/2007 9:54 AM

It's worth pointing out that media articles highlighting tech and tech companies don't just come out of nowhere. Many, if not most, are the result of dedicated campaigns by hired PR firms. Maybe Pittsburgh tech firms haven't figured this out? Maybe the PR firms just ignore Pittsburgh media. Or maybe the Pittsburgh papers are immune to their pitches, though I'd find that hard to believe.

Jim Russell is right about needing comparative context, particularly with what's going on in the rest of the country. The thing that gets me is not so much that there are ways in which Pittsburgh seems to be behind the times with high tech adoption, but that so often nobody seems to even realize it!

Deb said... 7/19/2007 9:47 AM

To all of you out there looking for more tech coverage in the 'burgh, check out Pop City. The e-mag has been out for more than 1 year and recently beefed up its coverage of local tech, innovation and job news. It has already established itself as a great source for development news. Akustica, Deep Local, BitArmor, Matrix Solutions, reCaptcha are just a few of the recently featured companies and the list goes on and on. It's well written and well researched. I encourage you to help Pop City grow. Subscribe and read. Send us your tech tips!

Anonymous said... 7/19/2007 9:59 PM

San Fran's newspaper has less tech coverage than the PG

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