The Post-Gazette began its history as a four-page weekly called The Pittsburgh Gazette, first published on July 29, 1786, with the encouragement of Hugh Henry Brackenridge. It was the first newspaper published west of the Allegheny Mountains. Published by Joseph Hall and John Scull, the paper covered the start of the nation. As one of its first major articles, the Gazette published the newly adopted Constitution of the United States.
In 1820, under publishers Eichbaum and Johnston and editor Morgan Neville, the name changed to Pittsburgh Gazette and Manufacturing and Mercantile Advertiser. David MacLean bought the paper in 1822, and later reverted to the former title.
Under combative editor Neville B. Craig, whose service lasted from 1829 to 1841, the Gazette championed the Anti-Masonic movement. Craig turned the Gazette into the city's first daily paper, issued every afternoon except Sunday starting on July 30, 1833.
In 1844, shortly after absorbing the Advocate, the Gazette switched its daily issue time to morning. Its editorial stance at the time was conservative and strongly favoring the Whig Party. By the 1850s the Gazette was credited with helping to organize a local chapter of the new Republican Party, and with contributing to the election of Abraham Lincoln. The paper was one of the first to suggest tensions between North and South would erupt in war.
The Pittsburgh Post first appeared on September 10, 1842, as the Daily Morning Post. It had its origin in three pro-Democratic weeklies, the Mercury, Allegheny Democrat, and American Manufacturer, which came together through a pair of mergers in the early 1840s. The three papers had for years engaged in bitter editorial battles with the Gazette.
Like its predecessors, the Post advocated the policies of the Democratic Party. Its political opposition to the Whig and later Republican Gazette was so enduring that an eventual combination of the two rivals would have seemed unlikely.
The 1920s were a time of consolidation in the long-overcrowded Pittsburgh newspaper market. In 1923, local publishers banded together to acquire and kill off the Dispatch and Leader. Four years later, William Randolph Hearst negotiated with the Olivers to purchase the morning Gazette Times and its evening sister, the Chronicle Telegraph, while Paul Block arranged to buy out the owner of the morning Post and evening Sun. After swapping the Sun in return for Hearst's Gazette Times, Block had both morning papers, which he combined to form the Post-Gazette. Hearst united the evening papers, creating the Sun-Telegraph. Both new papers debuted on August 2, 1927.
Joint operating agreement
In 1960, Pittsburgh had three daily papers: the Post-Gazette in the morning, and the Pittsburgh Press and the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph in the evening and on Sunday. The Post-Gazette bought the Sun-Telegraph and moved into the Sun-Telegraph's Grant Street offices.
The Post-Gazette tried to publish a Sunday paper to compete with the Sunday Press but it was not profitable; rising costs in general were challenging the company's bottom line. In November 1961, the Post-Gazette entered into an agreement with the Pittsburgh Press Company to combine their production and advertising sales operations. The Post-Gazette owned and operated its own news and editorial departments, but production and distribution of the paper was handled by the larger Press office. This agreement stayed in place for over 30 years.
The agreement gave the Post-Gazette a new home in the Press building, a comfortable upgrade from the hated "Sun-Telly barn." Constructed for the Press in 1927 and expanded with a curtain wall in 1962, the building served as the Post-Gazette headquarters until 2015.
Strike, consolidation, new competition
On May 17, 1992, a strike by workers for the Press shut down publication of the Press; the joint operating agreement meant that the Post-Gazette also ceased to publish. During the strike, the Scripps Howard company sold the Press to the Block family, owners of the Post-Gazette. The Blocks did not resume printing the Press, and when the labor issue was resolved and publishing resumed, the Post-Gazette became the city's major paper, under the full masthead name Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sun-Telegraph/The Pittsburgh Press.
The Block ownership did not take this opportunity to address labor costs, which had led to sale of the Press. This would come back to haunt them and lead to financial problems (see "Financial Challenges" below).
During the strike, publisher Richard Mellon Scaife expanded his paper, the Greensburg Tribune-Review, based in the county seat of adjoining Westmoreland County, where it had published for years. While maintaining the original paper in its facilities in Greensburg, he expanded it with a new Pittsburgh edition to serve the city and its suburbs. Scaife named this paper the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Scaife has invested significant amounts of capital into upgraded facilities, separate offices and newsroom on Pittsburgh's North Side and a state of the art production facility in Marshall Township north of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County. Relations between the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review, during its existence as a local print publication, were often competitive and frequently hostile, given Scaife's longstanding distaste for what he considered the Blocks' liberalism.
In 2015, the paper moved into a new, state-of-the-art office building on the North Shore on a portion of the former site of Three Rivers Stadium, ending 53 years in the former Press building and more than two centuries in Downtown. Block Communications, feeling that the building is being greatly underutilized considering its proximity to Point State Park, still owns the building and plans to have the property redeveloped.
The newspaper sponsored a 23,000 seat outdoor amphitheater in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, the "Post-Gazette Pavilion", although it is still often referred to as "Star Lake", based on the original name, "Star Lake Amphitheater", and later "Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheater" under the former sponsor. They gave up naming rights in 2010. First Niagara Bank, which had entered the Pittsburgh market the year before after acquiring National City branches from Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services, took over the naming rights to the facility and is now known as the KeyBank Pavilion.
The newspaper once had ventures in television. In 1957, the Post-Gazette partnered with the H. Kenneth Brennen family, local radio owners, to launch WIIC-TV (now WPXI) as the area's first full-time NBC affiliate. The Post-Gazette and the Brennens sold off the station to current owner Cox Enterprises in 1964. Although the Post-Gazette and WPXI have on occasion had some news partnerships, the Post-Gazette's primary news partner is now KDKA-TV.
In September 2006, the paper disclosed that it was experiencing financial challenges, largely related to its labor costs. The paper also disclosed it had not been profitable since printing had resumed in 1993. As a result of these issues, the paper is considering a number of options, including putting the paper up for sale. While deep concern about the paper's future ensued, negotiations proved fruitful and in February, 2007 the paper's unions ratified a new agreement with management mandating job cuts, changes in funding health care benefits and so forth.
In August 2018, the Post-Gazette ceased publishing daily. It began publishing online editions on Tuesdays and Saturdays and print editions the rest of the week. In October 2019, the paper eliminated the Monday and Wednesday editions, publishing paper editions three days a week.
Shift in editorial stance
In its report of 14 June 2018 on the Post-Gazette's firing of a noted critic of Donald Trump, its long-time editorial cartoonist, Rob Rogers, the Washington Post referred to statements of Rogers and the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh that noted that the Post-Gazette's editorial page had shown increasing support for Donald Trump and "pro-conservative orthodoxy". Pittsburgh Mayor, William Peduto, issued a sharp rebuke to the paper over what he termed "the wrong message about press freedoms". The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists stated in its editorial concerning the firing, "It's as simple as this: Rogers was fired for refusing to do cartoons extolling Trump. Let that sink in."
Although that Washington Post report of June stated that the Post-Gazette's publisher and editor-in-chief, John Robinson Block, denied any political motivation behind the June firing of Rogers at that time, the Post reported four months later that the Post-Gazette had hired conservative editorial cartoonist Steve Kelley as Roger's replacement.
The Post-Gazette won Pulitzers in 1938, 1998, and 2019. Photographer Morris Berman maintained that the paper would have won a Pulitzer in 1964 but chose not to run his iconic Y. A. Tittle picture that he took at Pitt Stadium. The photo would go on to win awards, hang in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, be used for the back cover of Tittle's autobiography and used in a Miller Beer High-Life commercial in 2005.
Staff photographer Martha Rial won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography for her photographs of Rwandan and Burundian refugees.
In addition to the Pulitzers mentioned above, the Post-Gazette also won the Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Council (RCC) in 2017 for religion editor Peter Smith's work, Silent Sanctuaries.
In popular culture
Post-Gazette per copy prices are: daily, $2 and Sunday/Thanksgiving Day, $3 in Pennsylvania, including Allegheny/adjacent counties. May be higher outside the state; sales tax is included at newsracks.