Our August Behind the Byline column features Pittsburgh native, Kristy Locklin, the Eat/Drink and News Editor with NEXTpittsburgh. I have the luxury of working with Kristy often, and more than once, her emails have made me chuckle out loud. She’s always such a pleasure to work with, so I was thrilled when she agreed to do this interview. In fact, this was her response:
“Wow! Cool! I’m honored. The only time I’ve ever been interviewed for a story was by John Shumway from KDKA in 1990. My mom took me to buy new school shoes (Chuck Taylors forever!) and she was mad because I had a hole in my sock on camera.”
Read on for more interesting tales and chuckles from Kristy Locklin:
What do you cover or like to write about?
My focus at NEXTpittsburgh is on food and beverage. Even during a pandemic, there’s so much happening on the local restaurant scene, from new breweries and coffee shops to taco joints and food trucks. I think that says a lot about the passion the owners and staff members put into these businesses.
I also enjoy writing features on interesting people, places and things. Documentarian and Pittsburgh icon Rick Sebak is my hero, so I try to emulate his style, which is informative, friendly and entertaining.
What part of Pittsburgh are you from?
I grew up in Cranberry Township and, as a teenager, moved to Plum Borough (my parents had a thing for fruit, I guess). I studied communications at the University of Pittsburgh, where I was president of Kappa Delta Sorority. People are always shocked by this tidbit of information, perhaps because I dress like a 15-year-old boy at a horror convention.
How did you decide to become a reporter?
When I was a kid, I watched “Transylvania 6-5000,” a movie starring Pittsburgh native Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley, Jr. They play tabloid reporters sent to Transylvania to investigate sightings of Frankenstein’s monster — my dream (nightmare?) assignment! — and hilarity ensues. It’s a ridiculous flick, but it made me want to pursue journalism. Since I’m a diehard horror fan, I’ve done a lot of features on macabre subjects: hearses, cemeteries, haunted houses, insects, mortuary schools, funeral homes, death cafés, coffin-making workshops and Tom Savini, Pittsburgh’s own Godfather of Gore. I guess you could say I’m on the dead beat.
Where was your first job?
I was co-editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper and worked at The Pitt News in college. I interned at Pittsburgh City Paper and a few other now-defunct publications before landing my first “big girl” job at Ocean City Today newspaper in Ocean City, Md. I lived a block from the beach and cured my homesickness by drinking Iron City Beer at Buxy’s Salty Dog Saloon, one of the local Pittsburgh bars. It was like a paid vacation, but I learned so much about writing and met a lot of interesting characters along the way. After that, I moved back to the ‘Burgh and worked full-time for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s weekly papers.
What’s one of your most memorable stories?
About 12 years ago, I did a story about Matisse Reid, a little girl from New Zealand who moved to Pittsburgh to await a multiple organ transplant. Her rare illness made it impossible for her to eat, so she relied on feeding tubes and ostomy pouches. I’m happy to report she got the operation and is back in her native country. I was so inspired by her courage and incredible family that I named my daughter Sarah Matisse.
Tell us what it’s like being a freelance writer in Pittsburgh.
The Onion, a satirical publication, once released an article with the headline “Freelancer Loves Being Able To Barely Scrape By Livelihood On Own Schedule,” and that’s 100% accurate. As other local journalists can attest, it’s a tough gig, but we do it because we value the written word. Also, I’m totally unemployable otherwise.
How has COVID-19 changed how you write and report on stories?
A lot of my freelance work — for publications such as the Trib and Local-Pittsburgh — has dried up because of COVID-19. No money from advertisers means no money for writers. A lot of other people are worse off than me, so I feel blessed that NEXTpittsburgh is still going strong and my boss, Tracy Certo, has faith in my abilities. The service industry is hurting, so I try to do as many stories as I can that showcase the resilience of the owners and employees.
What do you do for fun? Have you picked up any new projects or hobbies during COVID-19?
All through high school and college, I worked at Video Hits in Oakmont. Movies are still a huge part of my life. I’m happy to see drive-in theaters making a comeback. Riverside Drive-In in Vandergrift hosts a weekend-long Monster-Rama where you can camp out and watch horror films all night! When I’m not busy writing, geeking out over zombies and raising my daughter — she’s 10, wears pink and rejects all the creepy stuff I love — I paint and sell pop-culture-themed clothespin ornaments. If you’re interested, check out and like my Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/undeadheaddesigns.
If people have a story idea, where can they share it? What advice do you have for people sharing stories?
I love quirky stories; subjects that could easily go unnoticed but deserve recognition. I once met an elderly woman in an art class and we got to talking about movies from the Golden Age of cinema. She casually mentioned that, as a girl, she drew sketches of celebrities and mailed them to Hollywood with a letter asking the stars to sign the drawings and send them back. The result: a massive, one-of-a-kind collection of autographs; everyone from Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart to Greta Garbo and Fay Wray. I live for that kind of stuff. If you’re opening a new eatery, brewing good beer or have an interesting tale to tell, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Robin Rectenwald, WordWrite