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Top 10 Pittsblogh posts of 2013

Written by Kim Lyons on .

Even though Pittsblogh has only been around for six months, we, too, want to get in on the end-of-year list thing everyone does all over the place at the end of December.

Our quirky little blog covered the summer of the Pittsburgh Duck, and the amazing playoff run of the Pittsburgh Pirates. We said goodbye to one of our team members when Heather Schmelzlen abandoned us, er, got a job in NYC, and got a mention in Editor and Publisher magazine. All in all, not a bad six months for our little toddler of a blog (there's probably a joke here about how we finally got our six-month old to sleep through the night, but then that leads to jokes about diapers, and no one needs that).

We ran the numbers to see which were the most-read stories from Pittsblogh so far. We'd love to know which are your favorites, and, if you have ideas for upcoming posts.

10. Thanks Burger King, but we got this

9. Bucco babies at Pittsburgh hospital

8. Petition to keep the duck in Pittsburgh

7. Sidney Crosby named one of NHL's best-dressed

6. Boots named Pittsburgh

5. Grilli on Sports Illustrated cover

4. Seven decades of visits to Kennywood

3. Pittsburgh's Rubber Ducky: from Sesame Street to Smithfield Street

2. Top 10 public records websites for Pittsburghers to know

1. Pirates players call for blackout at PNC Park

We'll always remember 2013 as the Year of the Duck. We miss that giant yellow fella.

Check out our photo staff's strangely moving photo gallery of the Duck's time in Pittsburgh.

Thanks for a fun 2013, Pittsburgh. Can't wait to see what comes our way next year.

 

duckyleaving

Photo by Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette

 

 

 







 

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Judging the "Pope Francis Effect"

Written by Peter Smith on .

snow angelAre you feeling the "Pope Francis Effect?"

There are multiple anecdotes to this effect, as I note in my story here on the pontiff's appeal to Pittsburgh-area Catholics.

But if you're a numbers wonk, as I am, you want to see evidence in hard statistics. Those aren't available, at least not yet. As I note in the article, Mass attendance and Catholic self-identification are at the same levels among Americans, according to the Pew Research Center. For what it's worth, Italian priests told pollsters they see an increase in Mass attendance, but that's different from doing a survey of grassroots Catholics.

 

We may get a better sense some time next year, when sacramental statistics for 2013 begin to get collected. Recent years have seen declines or stagnation in such crucial stats as baptisms and marriages. Catholics are hardly unique in that regard; other denominations are in the same boat as the barque of St. Peter. But it's a reminder that any Francis Effect would have to fight against years of other effects, such as the nation's growing secularism.

But Francis sure is popular. The New Yorker's cover artist imagines him in a playful mode and comments: “Pope Francis appears to be a decent fellow—a mensch—and a sincere advocate of goodwill and peace on Earth. But who am I to judge?” Author and former priest James Carroll depicts him as an embodiment of long-stalled aims of the Second Vatican Council. That's hardly undisputed, but it's a fascinating read. Carroll said Francis' vision can't be separated from his work among the poor and oppressed in Argentina.

 

 

 

 

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Will Duck Dynasty be the new Chick-fil-A?

Written by Peter Smith on .

duckdynastyYou heard it here first. Or maybe you didn't. But it's a safe bet that the "Duck Dynasty" franchise will become the latest commercial battlefield in the culture wars, following the Chick-fil-A boycott of 2012 and recurrent controversies over Hobby Lobby.

Simply put, "Duck Dynasty" is more than just a popular show. It's a rare case in which Christians, hunters, and other red-staters find themselves portrayed fairly and realistically. "It's amusing, it's quirky, it's clean and it's wildly popular," a Baptist Press writer said recently.

So news that A&E has suspended patriarch Phil Robertson from the program for proclaiming homosexuality to be sinful has already hit a nerve. 

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Now blogging on faith here

Written by Peter Smith on .

Greetings! I’m the new religion writer with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I write about people’s faith traditions, spiritual practices, ethical tenets and worldviews —secular or religious — and how these play out in thought, word and action.

Today we’re launching my new blog, “Popular Belief.” In this blog, I’ll be going into greater depth into the issues raised by the news of the day. I’ll also be looking at stories that might not necessarily get in the paper, or that might have originated in places far from southwestern Pennsylvania, but that we'd care about here.

First, a brief introduction. I’ve been here since November. I'm a Connecticut native with nearly 30 years’ experience in journalism. I come here most recently from Louisville, Kentucky, where I was religion writer for The Courier-Journal. (I guess I'm splitting the difference now, geographically speaking.) Before Louisville, I covered religion and other topics throughout North America and Europe in the late 1990s as a correspondent for Religion News Service, The Boston Globe, The Prague Post and other publications. And before that, I wrote and edited for various papers in New England. I earned a bachelor’s degree from Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma and a master’s of arts in religion from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Although I'm new to Pittsburgh, I’ve visited family here over the years. Plus, I find a certain familiarity in moving from one Ohio River city (Louisville) to another. Both are marked by coal-barge traffic, riverfront sports venues and long histories as industrial hubs and immigrant magnets. And both have a strong, historic presences of Catholics, Jews, Presbyterians and Methodists, although I find fewer Baptists and Disciples of Christ in these parts and more Lutherans and Eastern Christians. My first impressions are that Pittsburgh has a robust ecumenical community -- promoting cooperation among Christian churches -- while Louisville has more extensive interfaith ones, collaborating across religious lines. I'm surrounded by more Slavic and other eastern European names, foods and congregations here than in Louisville, but this takes me back to another chapter of my life, when I spent two years based in the Czech Republic, covering the resurgence of religion in formerly communist lands from Poland to Croatia. 

I love dogs, classical and folk music and photography. My sports interests mainly run to baseball, following the Red Sox for four decades, or long before that became fashionable in certain circles. But I do have a vacancy for a National League loyalty, especially if it has an elegant riverfront stadium. Got any ideas? I can also claim a slender local gridiron connection: The flag football team I played on as a kid was named the Steelers, and our coach insisted that he got our helmet stickers directly from Chuck Noll himself. It must have been true, because he said so.

When it comes to religion coverage, I seek out the most compelling stories, whether of individuals, small congregations or global institutions. I write about the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. That means covering scandal and redemption, growth and decline, change and controversy. I cover popes and evangelists, lamas and imams, street saints and clerical criminals, faith healers and foxhole atheists. I cover the wrenching demographic changes that are transforming America religiously, racially, economically and in the family, and in the always-contentious battles over the role of faith in the public square.

I plan to cover religious groups with a historic and influential presence here — such as Catholics, Jews, Orthodox Christians and Protestants — and also those that may be newer to the region, or newly growing — such as Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, the spiritual-but-not-religious and the none-of-the-above.

My aim is to post regularly on weekdays — sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the rest of the workload. I won’t be blogging on every topic that’s trending in religion new worldwide, but I’ll bring a unique angle or observation to the news where I can.

And it won’t all be serious. If I come across something funny, sublime or quirky — like the story a few years ago about the astrology website that closed due to unforeseen circumstances — I’ll share.

And speaking of sharing, that’s where you come in. Share your thoughts in the comments field as I post, or contact me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on Twitter @PG_PeterSmith. The usual rules apply: No libel, hate-mongering or otherwise abusive language. But you can step on my blue-suede shoes. They’re steel-toed.

 

 

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Pittsburgh sports teams' holiday wishes

Written by A Pittsblogher on .

It's that time of year, and we've all probably received our share of holiday cards, including some of... questionable taste: Families in matching sweaters, friends who dress in elf costumes, and other assorted weirdness.

Pittsburgh's sports teams are, of course, joining in the festivities. Over here we have Brett Keisel of the Steelers (aka Keisel Claus):

Unclear how many children would want to sit on Keisel Claus' lap, but he definitely fits the costume nicely... Just check out the video if you do not trust the picture.

Perhaps the crowning achievement so far is this album of terrible (fake) holiday songs repurposed with Penguins players' names.

 Your move, Pirates. We know you're not Grinches over at PNC Park...

 

UPDATED: The Pirates did not let us down. Clint Hurdle at the end, FTW!

 

 

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