Thursday, September 11, 2008

WELCOME TO "BLACK & GOLD"

Twenty-five years is a long time to go between articles, but I guess once writing gets into your blood, well, there's no getting it out.
Let me first tell you a little about me. I graduated from Point Park College's school of Journalism and Communications in 1976 and after becoming frustrated with my options upon graduation, I decided to take the unseemly step of starting a newspaper of my very own. I can remember saying back in those days, "Well if no one will hire me, then I'll hire myself!" In retrospect, those were brave words that were spoken by someone whose only prior blueprint for success was the hard work put in on a daily business at his family's grocery business by his parents and grandparents. Of course I won't rule out extreme naivete in this instance as well.
Yes, if I had no reason to be afraid, it was because I could relate back to a story that my grandfather used to tell in his broken English. When he was contemplating opening a neighborhood grocery store and butcher shop, his family, incredulous at the prospects asked, "Well who's going to be the butcher?" "Well I'll be the butcher" he smiled almost defiantly in recollecting the story. So it was that with a backbone that was inspired by a fear-nothing grandfather and backed up by parents who I know wanted to see me be successful on my own, I launched in 1977 "The Pittsburgh North Star", a free distribution newspaper that covered the North Side and North Hills areas of Pittsburgh.
Shortly after starting the "North Star", "The Pittsburgh Press" responded with its' first 'North' edition which was no small coincidence for me. The resultant crunch in advertising dollars (not to mention a very weak economy) led the then-young managing editor to scramble for new and as yet undiscovered advertising revenue. With my love of all things Pittsburgh clearly in tow, I came up with the idea of launching a second publication, one that was dedicated to Pittsburgh's three professional sports with a simple name that encompassed all three... "Black & Gold".
That would have been a great story in and of itself, but at the same time that "Black & Gold" began rolling off the presses, I learned that there was another sports publication that was funded heavily by one Terry Bradshaw titled "Pittsburgh Steelers Weekly". While this publication was focusing strictly on football, it was nevertheless a bitter pill to swallow, especially considering that they they had the inside edge in dealing with the Steelers. Once again, what I thought would be a niche to help solidify my young company turned out to be an opportunity lost. Under capitalized and out of options, I've always remembered how I cried on the day I closed my newspaper business, because this was something that I loved to do and something that I felt that I had a future in. But it didn't work out that way.
In those days there were no such things as blogs. The very idea of publishing anything required expensive typesetting equipment. Pages had to be "pasted up" then "shot" for a negative before "burning" a printing plate. As you can imagine, all of this equipment cost a lot of money, so getting your thoughts published was a lot more difficult, not to mention expensive than they are today.
By my launching "Black & Gold" again today, I'm once again throwing my hat back into the sports writing ring. The difference is that today there are no typesetting machines, no plate burners, no printing presses and no distribution process. Pretty amazing stuff this Internet.
I can remember when we first installed a "United Press International" (UPI) teletype in our offices for the first time for "Black & Gold", that I marveled at what this tool represented. "Just think", I daydreamed one day. "If every house had one of these, we'd eliminate having to distribute newspapers!" Nice idea, but I think this one...the Internet... is a lot better for about a million reasons.
I must confess that one of the motivations for my deciding to resurrect "Black & Gold" is because of the stunning success that my own son, the inimitable author of "MondesisHouse.com", Don Spagnolo, has had with his now iconic blog site. "After all", I figured. "His witty style of writing had to come at least partly from me," (since his mother also has a degree in journalism from the now-university that was once known as Point Park College) so it would be unfair of me not to share my own witty style with you, right?
I also thought it would be a lot of fun to occasionally exchange opposing viewpoints with Raul while hopefully building a following of readers on my own. In addition to sports commentary, I'm also planning on writing an editorial segment entitled "Clearing My Desk". This area will be primarily sports-based, but it will also offer up some editorial comment on the more pressing matters of the day. "Anything to get the pot stirred up" is what I'll use as a criteria for mention.
I can remember in my newspaper days that we would relish receiving any "letters to the editor" because they meant that people were really interested in reading the publication and were moved to write their opinion. They even had to invest in a stamp to let their opinion be known! I will always gauge the popularity of this site by its' ability to generate comment. Therefore, I want to go on record as saying that I strongly encourage you to post your comments and become one of the "B&G Regulars" by adding your two cents to each post that appears here.
I'm really looking forward to lacing back on my writing boots and providing you with (hopefully) an interesting blog. I know that it's going to be a tall order for me to ever measure up to "Mondesishouse", but at least I have something to shoot for.
See you soon!
Angelo Spagnolo

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