It was an honor to interview Rob Taylor, who leads one of the city’s most respected publications as managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.
Throughout our interview, I was impressed with Rob’s drive to write, even at such a young age. And wherever he worked, he was determined to include Black voices.
Speaking of voices, Ohio residents might recognize Rob’s. After graduating from Ohio State University, Rob spent years producing and hosting radio shows. From Urban One Radio in Columbus to Dayton’s ESPN radio to Cleveland’s 92.3 The Fan, Rob became very well known in the broadcasting business.
With a mission to share positive Black stories, Rob shared how the New Pittsburgh Courier continues to honor its century-old legacy. Read our full interview below.
Where are you from?
I am a born-and-raised Pittsburgher from Highland Park.
What made you decide to become a reporter?
When I was little, I carried a notepad everywhere. I was always writing down thoughts. As I got older, I fell in love with reading sports stories from Ed Bouchette and Bob Smizik, which inspired me to start writing.
In the fourth grade, I started a newsletter called Rob’s Wide World of Sports, which I borrowed from ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” I remember I would write it by hand, about four pages long, make copies at the post office and mail it to friends. It became pretty popular among my friend group.
In high school, I started The Beat, which was a typed publication covering all things Central Catholic.
Writing has always come naturally to me, so I always found ways to do it.
Where did you go to school?
I graduated from Ohio State University in 2003 — that’s where I founded and published Black Horizons Magazine, an idea inspired by Chris Moore’s “Black Horizons” community affairs programming on WQED. (Read more about that here.)
As a freshman, I joined the African American Student Services group and began working on their quarterly magazine. By my sophomore year, I was able to grow it to a bigger staff, rename it and secure funding from the student association.
Where was your first job?
Technically, my first job in journalism was my internship at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Through the summer youth works program, I had the opportunity to learn from reporters and editors in a newsroom at 16 years old.
As a college freshman, I began writing for The Call and Post, a popular African American weekly newspaper based in Cleveland. I covered sports, crime, news and other stories as a freelancer for the Columbus edition.
After graduating from college, I moved to Dayton, Ohio, where I spent a lot of time working with different music and sports radio stations as on-air talent. For 12 years, I worked full-time with a hip-hop station and at the same time, I worked for Dayton’s ESPN radio. I also freelanced for the Dayton Daily News.
How did you make your way to Pittsburgh?
After leaving Dayton, I moved to Pittsburgh with the goal to make connections, so I started talking to different reporters.
In 2001, I started freelancing for the Courier, so I got to know Rod Doss, the Courier’s publisher, and Ulish Carter, the Courier’s managing editor at the time.
When Ulish retired in early 2017, I was offered the position. Even after accepting, I continued to commute to Cleveland every weekend to fill in as the weekend sports anchor on 92.3 The Fan, but I stopped doing that when the pandemic hit.
Tell us about New Pittsburgh Courier.
The Pittsburgh Courier is a 111-year-old publication focused on sharing the stories about and for Pittsburgh’s African American communities. Founded in 1910, it quickly became one of the top-selling Black newspapers and one of the first to publish local and national editions. After being sold in the 1960s, it was later renamed the New Pittsburgh Courier and is now on a mission to share positive news stories about the Black community that aren’t being shared in other publications.
Famous staff of the Courier include Bill Nunn, a former Pittsburgh Steelers scout and now Pro Football Hall of Famer, and Charles “Teenie” Harris, a legendary photographer.
Want to know more about the Courier’s astounding history? Check out these stories:
How has the pandemic affected the Courier?
It has always been our focus to advocate for the Black community, so the pandemic gave us an opportunity to highlight the inequities.
For example, in February, we were the only publication to go to the Allegheny County Department of Health to publish the exact numbers of African Americans getting vaccinated. Once we were able to shed light on the issue, we saw several organizations take initiative to partner with Black churches to distribute vaccines. That’s the type of reporting the Courier is known for. That’s why we’ve been able to build trust and credibility with the Black community who continue to subscribe.
The pandemic placed a strain on many news organizations, but we knew we had to keep the Courier going. This was the biggest story — a once-in-a-century virus that was disproportionally affecting African Americans. It was critical we were here to tell it.
Fortunately, we’ve been able to maintain subscribers, but we have had to cut back. Currently, I’m the only full-time staff person in the editorial department, so we have to choose carefully what we can cover. We also have help from 15 paid freelancers and our beloved photographer, Ricco J.L. Martello. Ultimately, we’re looking to spotlight new people while continuing to cover news, sports, entertainment and health.
What is one of your most memorable stories?
A few years ago, I interviewed Brennan Marion. He’s most known for his pro football and coaching career, but what many don’t know about him is that he’s from Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood where he admits that he was “not immune to violence.” Before landing a scholarship to play football at the University of Tulsa, he was homeless, even while pursuing football. He thought he made it when he got to the Conference USA Championship Game with Tulsa, until he tore his ACL in that game. While it scared off NFL scouts, he was eventually signed with the Miami Dolphins. After tearing his ACL the third time, he knew his playing career was over. But that didn’t stop him. He started coaching, and in February, he was named Pitt football’s wide receivers coach.
His story is so inspirational. It’s a good reminder for Black students to keep their faith and keep working hard. I know we haven’t heard the last of him. He’s just 34 years old, but I think he could be the next Mike Tomlin.
Check out Rob’s full story on Marion here.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m still a big sports fans. My favorite teams are the Steelers, Buckeyes and Dayton Flyers basketball team.
The New Pittsburgh Courier publishes a print copy every Wednesday. Subscribe to receive home delivery or pick up the latest issue at newsstands including 18 Giant Eagle and GetGo locations.
– Robin Rectenwald, WordWrite