PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh is one of the only cities in the country to have a Black newspaper. The New Pittsburgh Courier has had a front row seat to the Black experience for more than 100 years.
Channel 11 Anchor David Johnson recently talked with the man who runs the newspaper, it’s editor and publisher Rod Doss.
“Put the New Pittsburgh Courier into context for me, not just as a Black newspaper in Pittsburgh, but nationally,” Johnson asked.
“Well, I think the newspaper itself has a great history across the country. We are privileged to have been one of the newspapers, Black newspapers, that had 21 separate editors at one particular time that were distributed throughout the country. That’s along with the national edition,” Doss answered.
By the early to mid 1900′s, there were at least 250 Black newspapers in the country. The Pittsburgh Courier, which was founded in 1907, was among them.
Doss called the newspaper’s lifetime a phenomenon, and said if he visits large cities like New York, Detroit, Chicago or Atlanta, people know the New Pittsburgh Courier.
The late CBS newsman Ed Bradley grew up in Philadelphia. Once when he met Doss he told him he sold the courier when he was a child.
From the 1930′s through the 1950′s, Black newspapers shipped to the South were often burned. The Courier was one of the papers Union and Civil Rights Activist A. Philip Randolph and his Pullman Porters carried on trains to send out to Black ministers and their congregations.
“Therefore, people (got) the news they otherwise would have never seen,” Doss said. “It was important because other newspapers did nothing about telling stories about African Americans unless it was a negative story.”
Doss said that goes to the heart of the mission of the Courier.
“The stories that were told in the pages of the Pittsburgh Courier were stories of African Americans doing things. Largely, they were doing things of a historic note. They were transforming society, politics, the music world entertainment and sports,” Doss said.
He showed Johnson the recent front page featuring Bill Nunn, the former Steelers scout who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer. Doss had known the late Nunn and his accomplishments for decades.
“It was years before his story was really told,” Doss said. “You look back — we knew the story, we saw it happen years before it was told in the larger community.”
It’s those stories not usually or often told that is the story of the New Pittsburgh Courier, and what has kept it going for more than 100 years.