It was an honor to interview Rob Taylor who, as executive editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier, directs one of the city’s most respected publications.
Throughout our interview, I was struck by Rob’s urge to write, even at such a young age. And wherever he worked he was determined to include black voices.
Speaking of voices, Ohio residents might recognize Robs. After graduating from Ohio State University, Rob produced and hosted radio shows for years. From Urban One Radio in Columbus to Dayton’s ESPN radio to Cleveland’s 92.3 The Fan, Rob became very well known in the broadcast business.
With a mission to share positive black stories, Rob shared how the New Pittsburgh Courier continues to honor its centuries-old legacy. Read our full interview below.
Where are you from?
I am a Pittsburgh native born and raised in Highland Park.
Why did you choose to become a reporter?
When I was little I carried a notepad everywhere. I always wrote down thoughts. As I got older, I fell in love with reading sports stories by Ed Bouchette and Bob Smizik, which inspired me to start writing.
In fourth grade, I started a newsletter called Rob’s Wide World of Sports, which I borrowed from ABC’s Wide World of Sports. I remember writing it by hand, about four pages long, making copies in the post office, and mailing it to friends. It became quite popular with my group of friends.
In high school, I started The Beat, a typed publication that covers everything about Central Catholics.
Writing has always been a matter of course for me, so I’ve always found ways to do it.
Where did you go to school?
I graduated from Ohio State University in 2003, where I founded and published Black Horizons Magazine, an idea inspired by Chris Moore’s Black Horizons community program on WQED. ((Read more about it here.)
As a freshman, I joined the African American Student Services group and started working on their quarterly magazine. In my sophomore year I was able to expand it to a larger staff, rename it and secure funding from the student association.
Where was your first job
Technically, my first job in journalism was my internship at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. During the summer youth work program, I had the opportunity to learn from reporters and editors in a newsroom when I was 16.
As a freshman, I began writing for The Call and Post, a popular African American weekly newspaper based in Cleveland. I freelanced for the Columbus edition covering sports, crime, news, and other stories.
After graduating from college, I moved to Dayton, Ohio, where I spent a lot of time playing various music and sports radio stations as an on-air talent. For 12 years I worked full-time for a hip-hop station and at the same time for Dayton’s ESPN radio. I also freelanced for the Dayton Daily News.
How did you get to Pittsburgh?
After leaving Dayton, I moved to Pittsburgh with the aim of making connections and started speaking to various reporters.
I started freelancing for the courier in 2001 and met Rod Doss, the courier’s editor, and Ulish Carter, the courier’s editor-in-chief at the time.
When Ulish retired in early 2017, I was offered the position. Even after accepting, I kept commuting to Cleveland every weekend to act as the weekend sports anchor at 92.3 The Fan, but I stopped when the pandemic hit.
Tell us about the New Pittsburgh Courier.
The Pittsburgh Courier is a 111 year old publication focused on sharing stories about and for Pittsburgh’s African American communities. It was founded in 1910 and quickly became one of the best-selling black newspapers and one of the first to publish local and national editions. After it was sold in the 1960s, it was later renamed the New Pittsburgh Courier and it is now on a mission to share positive news about the Black Community that is not published in other publications.
Famous employees at the courier include Bill Nunn, a former Pittsburgh Steelers scout and now Pro Football Hall of Famer, and Charles “Teenie” Harris, a legendary photographer.
Would you like to know more about the amazing history of the courier? Check out these stories:
New Pittsburgh Courier is one of the few black newspapers in the country (WPXI) A beacon for change: The Pittsburgh Courier Story (PBS)
How has the pandemic affected the courier?
Our focus has always been on advocating for the black community, so the pandemic gave us an opportunity to highlight the inequalities.
For example, in February we were the only release that went to the Allegheny County’s Department of Health to release the exact number of African Americans vaccinated. When we were able to shed light on the issue, several organizations took the initiative to work with black churches to distribute vaccines. The courier is known for this type of reporting. That’s why we’ve been able to build trust and credibility with the Black Community, which continues to sign up.
The pandemic weighed on many news organizations, but we knew we had to keep the courier going. This was the greatest story – a once in a century virus that disproportionately affected African Americans. It was important that we were here to tell.
Fortunately, we were able to keep subscribers but had to cut back. Right now I’m the only full-time employee on the editorial team, so we need to carefully choose what we can cover. We also have help from 15 paid freelancers and our beloved photographer Ricco JL Martello. Ultimately, we want to highlight new people while covering the news, sports, entertainment, and health.
What’s one of your most memorable stories?
A few years ago I interviewed Brennan Marion. He is best known for his professional football and coaching career, but what many don’t know about him is that he hails from Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood, where he admits he was “not immune to violence.” Before he received a scholarship to study soccer at the University of Tulsa, he was homeless, including while playing soccer. He thought he made it when he got to the Conference USA Championship Game with Tulsa until he tore up his ACL in that game. While it put off NFL scouts, he was eventually signed to the Miami Dolphins. After tearing up his ACL the third time, he knew his career as a player was over. But that didn’t stop him. He began training and was appointed wide-angle receiver coach for Pitt Football in February.
His story is so inspiring. It is a good reminder for black students to keep their faith and keep working hard. I know we didn’t hear the last from him. He’s only 34 years old, but I think he could be the next Mike Tomlin.
Check out Rob’s full story about Marion Here.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I am still a huge sports fan. My favorite teams are the Steelers, Buckeyes, and Dayton Flyers basketball teams.
The New Pittsburgh Courier publishes a hard copy every Wednesday. Subscribe to for home delivery or pick up the latest issue from kiosks, including 18 Giant Eagle and GetGo locations.
– Robin Rectenwald, WordWrite