Back Home on a Mission
    Carmen Gentile

    Carmen Gentile

    When journalist Carmen Gentile returned to Western Pennsylvania, he was on a new mission. Back in Pittsburgh, not far from his hometown in New Kensington, Gentile has some dramatic professional adventures to his credit. He suffered a life-threatening injury while working as an embedded journalist in Afghanistan. In 2018, Gentile and colleague Matt Stroud co-founded Postindustrial, a new media venture with an office at 2519 Penn Avenue in the Strip.

    Since the Lawrenceville resident was first featured here with the 2018 publication of his book Blindsided by the Taliban (see The Strip! Fall 2018), he has now been applying his life and professional lessons to Postindustrial. This magazine and its set of digital products are aimed at demystifying the Rust Belt and Appalachia.

    “It was funny that something that happened to me 20 years ago has relevance to Postindustrial and what I’m doing now,” Gentile muses. After his undergraduate studies at Villanova University, he personally witnessed how American towns were being transformed during an eight-week trek across the U.S.

    “The first time I knew there was something awry with small-business America was on a cross-country bike trip,” he says. “I remember that before entering each town I’d see a Walmart. I saw small American towns that had been decimated by the big box stores.”

    So how does a magazine make a difference? Three years ago, Gentile and Matt Stroud, another seasoned journalist, were struck by how Rust Belt residents where broadly and often inaccurately characterized.

    “One of the reasons why we started Postindustrial was a result of the 2016 election,” he explains, “when much of the media and candidates treated the region’s people as caricatures of what they really are.”

    Stroud explains on the Postindustrial website that his group of journalists is creating “a media outlet that covers the postindustrial region—not with stereotypes, but with depth; not with vague allusions to steel and coal, but with specific stories of the people who live there, the successes they’ve had, and the challenges they’ve faced.”

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    Gentile and Stroud had their fill of surface-skimming “diner interviews” and too few in-depth stories about the real people of postindustrial America.

    “The combination of the Rust Belt and Appalachia is what we call postindustrial America,” Gentile explains. “We consider Pittsburgh the de facto capital of this vast region. Pittsburgh has also has had a lot of success in reinventing itself over the past decades.”

    The geographical boundaries allow for covering regions as far west as the Mississippi River, and as far east as Philadelphia and Baltimore, then north to Michigan and Upstate New York and south to Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama.

    Postindustrial’s stories are written by an impressive stable of contributing writers. Gentile is gratified that Postindustrial draws on dozens of great photographers and writers who are based in and know the coverage area. He describes the approach as deep-dive, long-form journalism showcased by “fantastic art and design” and all about “a region that is often overlooked and misunderstood.”

    Recent stories represent the approach of editor Kimberly Palmiero and the team to stay on mission: “Making a Brownfield Green Again,” “Hilltop Revival,” and “Can a Coal Magnate Make Iron City Beer Great Again?” Gentile credits Palmiero’s work over the past months with “maintaining the vision, guiding the stories we produce, keeping everyone rowing in the same direction. She’s amazing.”

    In wrapping its first year, Postindustrial has appeared in the form of two print magazines and a host of digital products that include a newsletter and weekly editions—all complemented by a network of contributing podcasts.

    “We are finishing our third issue right now and have built a robust network,” Gentile says. Subscribers include readers throughout the U.S., notably many who have relocated away from this region and are following their home turf.

    Events in the community are expected to be a hallmark of the company’s engagement. In October, Postindustrial partnered with leaders in Gentile’s hometown of New Kensington to spark more interest in investment and business in that former industrial river community. The real estate event aimed to build community-minded investment and attract people interested in rehabbing (but not just flipping) properties. Walking tours were offered to potential investors while residents showcased work on their homes.

    Postindustrial’s office in an old warehouse space is shared with some of the photographers and videographers collaborating on his media projects. “I love being in the Strip. It’s centrally located. It’s fantastic for doing business as people love coming to meet with us here.”

    Gentile sees the pathway to success as constantly raising the bar. “You put your heart and soul into it and you put out the best product that you can,” he says, while chuckling about the pressure of always getting it right. “You have to excel all the time.”

    Follow Postindustrial and all its editions at postindustrial.com.

    Yvonne Hudson, a Pittsburgh-based writer and editor, has also worked in communications in New York and Washington, DC. When not writing, she performs in her solo shows Mrs. Shakespeare and as poet Emily Dickinson.