Two of the country’s leading journalists, Matt Stroud and Carmen Gentile have raised more than $12,000 in one day through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to better tell the stories of what they call “Postindustrial America.”
Can you explain what the term “postindustrial” means? What makes an area or community postindustrial?
Generally speaking, “postindustrial” is a sociological term referencing the point in a society’s history when services begin to play a bigger economic role than manufacturing. But it also represents the time of transition associated with that change. When a society shifts in that way, it’s a big deal, and everyone in that community ends up playing a role. Technically the entire community of the United States is “postindustrial,” but the term typically references cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit that have experienced that change — and lost significant portions of their populations as a result — in the last half-century.
We think of it in that sociological way, sure. But we also think of it in a more individualized way: When someone decides that they’re moving on to a new and unexplored period in their lives, we think of it as being “Postindustrial.” When someone decides they’re going to leave their corporate job and high rents in New York to start a brewery in Pittsburgh, that’s a Postindustrial decision. When someone decides they’re going to play a bigger role in a civil rights issue in their community, that’s a Postindustrial decision. When someone young who’s never played any role in politics before decides that they’re going to run to be mayor of their town, that’s a Postindustrial decision.
It’s about transition and building new communities and pursuing ambitions and dreams. That’s what it means to us.
What motivated you to launch Postindustrial Media?
It started with the 2016 election — the way that the region was portrayed and pandered to. It was as if we were all laid off coal miners or steel workers disaffected as “forgotten Americans” in the midst of some revenge mission of the “white working class.” That seemed wrong to us, so we started thinking about who and what we are actually becoming as a region and as individuals in places like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and Cleveland and Detroit. Postindustrial Media is our attempt to tell that story
Why is a project like this important now?
Well, for one thing, 2020 is right around the corner, and we don’t want the same kinds of stereotypes to define the region. So that’s a big part of why we chose to launch now. But it’s also an interesting time to be in media and publishing. Traditional news sources are morphing and, in some unfortunate cases, dying, so there’s a lot of experimentation happening — particularly in long form journalism and in audio. We want to be a part of that environment.
What have been the biggest challenges so far? Have there been any surprises?
Biggest challenge has been making the transition from journalism into publishing. We — Carmen and Matt — are both long-time journalists now in the position of building a media business. It hasn’t always been as smooth a transition as we’d like, but it’s fascinating and fitting, we think, that we’re embodying the exact kind of transition that he hope to highlight. Main surprise, honestly, has been how supportive people seem to be of a print product. We thought it would be a much harder sell, but people we talk to have very much accepted that the kind of in-depth journalism we produce is served well in a print format.
In addition to a weekly e-newsletter and a collection of podcasts, you’re about to launch a print magazine. Why did you choose these mediums?
Our goal is to give context and nuance to the region and the people here. Putting out a weekly product that highlights one big story gives us the time to do the work that such nuance requires. Same general idea with the magazine: Our stories have depth, and we want to give readers the opportunity to sit down and read something that’s not going to barrage them with constant digital notifications all the time. Print is optimal for that. And podcasts give listeners the chance to hear conversations that go beyond quick Q&As.
What’s one of your favorite stories that you’ve covered so far?
At its center is Dr. Barry Kerzin who’s on a mission to instill compassion into sectors like hospitals and law enforcement. His story has gotten a lot of attention in Pittsburgh but most of those stories miss the context around why he’s here making this pitch and who’s behind that pitch. Our story has those details — and some pretty sweet photography. Worth a read.
What stereotype about postindustrial America annoys you the most?
That the region is nothing but a collection of poorly educated, out-of-work, former coal miners and steelworkers. That really irks us. Postindustrial America is home to some of the country’s best and brightest, innovators and job creators, artists and interesting folks from all walks of life and from every nation.
Who is one person you’ve covered whom everyone should know about?
But one that sticks out is Jake Voelker. An Afghanistan veteran whose assignments as an officer included helping to construct combat outpost Restrepo, he came back to Pittsburgh after the war and as built Voodoo Brewing into not only a thriving business, but one that has helped places like Homestead and Meadville — which are very much in the midst of their own Postindustrial transitions — into successful communities. Read about him here: https://postindustrial.com/the-region/veterans-issues/a-soldiers-new-mission-franchising-craft-breweries-2/
What’s your favorite thing about living in the Pittsburgh area?
Pittsburgh has so many distinct neighborhoods, each with its own unique vibe, so you never get bored here. Plus there a a multitude of interesting characters from all walks of life that create a citywide tapestry unlike any other.