David Shribman Speaks to The Eagle


David Shribman speaking at Roger Morris University.

This past December, as Christmas carols filled the air and students waited with bated breath for news of a delay, we were lucky enough to get a chance to ask David Shribman a few questions about the truth in today’s America, the future of journalism, and tips for entering journalism.

For readers who are unaware, David Shribman is the Executive Editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a position he’s held since 2003. He has also worked at the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, and Buffalo Evening News. One of his favorite maxims is, “clear writing is a reflection of an organized mind.” This interview was spurred by an article Mr. Shribman wrote for the New York Times about the importance of the truth in the modern age. Click here to read it. 


Daevan Mangalmurti: In your op-ed, you said that people should and need to care about the truth, but do you think that journalists can, in this era, actually convince them to do so?

David Shribman: That’s the great unknown. I think we operate with the hope, but not the knowledge, that they will. But it’s hope, not knowledge.


DM: Do you believe that we’ll ever return to the era when a majority of people watched only a few news programs and newspapers but still believed that they were getting a balanced perspective?

DS: I think that just asking that question makes me know that you know the answer, which is no. That day is long gone, and it’s not coming back. That’s just the way it is.


DM: Is that an inevitable change, or a preventable one?

DS: Well, maybe things could’ve been done to prevent that, but who would’ve wanted to, except for the network executives? This is a democracy. We want as many voices to be heard as possible. It’s certainly hurt our business, but I can’t say it’s bad for society. I think there are some elements of it that are bad for society, and I think there are some problems with the new landscape, but I think we’ll eventually come to peace with it.


DM: Do you think that the influence journalism can have has decreased as news outlets have diversified?

DS: Certainly the influence of big media has decreased, the New York Times, etc. But there are still pretty powerful voices, prestigious voices, and they make positive contributions.


DM: Do you think that the Post-Gazette is doing well in adapting to the changing media environment?

DS: I think we’re doing as well as anyone is doing that’s a mainstream, metropolitan newspaper. We’re doing it, I think, with some style and grace. We haven’t been able to make it pay; we still lose money. We’re still doing it despite the fact that we lose money. So we’re committed to doing it, but we’re not necessarily sure we can ever make a whole lot of money doing this.


DM: When you get new writers coming into the Post-Gazette, what do you try to teach them?

DS: We introduce them to the basic principles of journalism, to our ethical policies, to the traditions we have here in Pittsburgh and across the country. We urge them to be custodians of those traditions, to tell the truth, and to be as honorable as possible. And they usually respond very nicely.


DM: Do you think we’ll see a time when print media is no longer viable?

DS: It’s not particularly viable now. Will it exist 50 years from now? I don’t know. I suppose it might. I don’t really know. I have no idea. Anyone who tells you they know is lying to you.


DM: Some years ago, you won the Pulitzer Prize. How did that feel?

DS: It was a wonderful moment. But it also added pressure, because you don’t want to be a guy who writes a piece and somebody is like, “that idiot won a Pulitzer prize? You gotta be kidding me.” So that’s part of the legacy.


DM: Your article said you were writing a book called A Short History of the Truth. When do you think you’ll be releasing the book?

DS: I haven’t written a sentence of it yet, so we’ll see. I’m just doing the research, so it’s going to take a couple of years. I’m trying to make it digestible and approachable.


Thank you very much to Mr. Shribman for speaking with us. We strongly encourage readers of this website to visit the Post-Gazette’s website. It consistently offers quality reporting about Pittsburgh and surrounding region. Click here to go directly to the website.