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They like us, they really like us

September 24, 2009 |  9:26 am


As a multi-generational Pittsburgher who spent most of my career in the erstwhile Steel City, I have mixed feelings about the media's G-20-inspired rediscovery of my home town. The stories about the city's comeback have ranged from the puffy to the perceptive. (I recommend a Wall Street Journal sketch that quotes my boyhood pal Chris Donahue, though it misspells his name). But a lot of the commentary was patronizing. "Pittsburgh is a nice place? Who knew?!"

Of course, it's always a bit disillusioning to read a news story about a place or a phenomenon you know well. Sometimes nuances get lost. Sometimes there are downright howlers.

Years ago, a reporter for a major national newspaper swooped down on Pittsburgh to troll for opinions about some big story or other. Rather than spending all his time in shot-and-a-beer bars, he canvassed Burghers all over the area, dutifully taking down names and neighborhoods. But Pittsburghers cackled when they read the story, which referred to one interviewee as a resident of the "neighborhood of South Hills Village."

South Hills Village is a shopping mall.

The macro-mistake of some of the coverage of Pittsburgh has been an exaggeration of the city's very real remaking of itself after the implosion of the steel industry. If you're interested in a balanced view of post-industrial Pittsburgh, I recommend this piece by my old boss John G. Craig Jr., the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in its heyday. It's astute, complimentary but gush-free.

-- Michael McGough

Photo: Downtown Pittsburgh. Credit: Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images.

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