Pioneering sports journalist describes career transition

Written By Robert Berger, Co-News Editor

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To a standing room only crowd in 701 of the Student Center, journalist Dejan Kovacevic spoke to students and faculty about his 32 years of experience covering Pittsburgh sports.

The presentation was made possible by the Pittsburgh Center for Sports Media and Marketing. It was the group’s second event of the semester and the second time Kovacevic has spoken at Point Park.

Kovacevic took the floor with center co-director Tom McMillan, leading off the discussion speaking about his early days of covering Pittsburgh sports. He published his first article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1985, in which he covered Pittsburgh Central Catholic football.

Kovacevic continued to write on a freelance basis for the Post-Gazette throughout his college career. He was hired upon graduation to cover high school sports and work on page layout. He was eventually given the full-time Penguins beat in 1997. He covered the team from then until the 2004 NHL lockout.

After a stint of covering the Pittsburgh Pirates beat, he decided to leave the Post-
Gazette and work for the Tribune Review in 2011 as the lead sports columnist.

“It was there that I kind of figured out this wasn’t going anywhere,” Kovacevic said. “I don’t mean my job, I’m talking about the whole industry.”

It was during his time at the Trib when he grew tired of the print industry. After 29 years in the business, Kovacevic left the Trib in 2014 to create his own subscription-based Pittsburgh sports website, DK Pittsburgh Sports.

The website covers all professional Pittsburgh sports teams and local colleges.

McMillan continued the discussion asking about the risk when it came the creation of his website. Kovacevic admitted he had very little doubt that he would reach his goal of 10,000 subscriptions early on, which is exactly what happened. The site is nearly 500 subscribers away from 40,000.

“I really felt newspapers misjudged people’s willingness to pay for something that’s quality online,” Kovacevic said.

Kovacevic then mentioned the demographic of his readers. He revealed that the majority of DK’s readers are either “very young” or “very old.” It’s the 35-50 age demographic they struggle with readership the most. Kovacevic feels this is due to that age group being sceptical to pay for an online subscription.

Also in terms of demographic, Kovacevic said the website’s biggest readership struggle is Steelers coverage. Kovacevic believes this is due to the fact that 45 percent of season ticket holders live outside of western Pennsylvania.

“This city has become a hockey city,” Kovacevic said.

McMillan continued the discussion asking what it is that sets DK apart from other sports coverage sites. One main point Kovacevic brought up is that DK is one of two Pittsburgh publications that sends reporters on every road trip. The Post-Gazette is the other.

“The access that you get, the availability that you get on the road is way higher than at home,” Kovacevic said.

According to Kovacevic, most major publications cut travel first to save money. However, he feels travel is one of the keys to DK’s success. 

Sophomore Noah Khorey was in attendance for his first time hearing about DK Pittsburgh Sports.

“It was cool to hear about how they get the behind the scenes stuff,” Khorey said.

Kovacevic also said his site is different from major print publications because his writers have no deadline. He then recalled numerous times staying up late into the morning to publish stories, while newspapers reporters called it quits because of tight deadlines for printing.

His site was also one of the first local outlets to record video of interviews to be embed in the story itself.  This has since become a standard practice for all major media outlets.

Kovacevic wrapped up by taking questions from students. One student asked what his opinion on the rise of social media is. He said journalists tweeting a plethora of information is bad business, as all of the information is being sent out for free.

Another student addressed the coverage of women’s sports on DK. This lead Kovacevic to mention that DK was the only Pittsburgh publication to cover the 2016 Rio Olympics. Kovacevic himself has covered five Olympics in his career.

Each semester, the Pittsburgh Center for Sports Media and Marketing works to bring industry professionals to Point Park.

“You can hear from professors and guidance counselors and career development and all that’s very valuable but this is another piece,” McMillan said. “I think it doesn’t replace anything, but adds to everything you learn in class”.

In the past, the Center has brought in speakers such as, NBC’s Doc Emrick, Greg Brown from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Cavaliers play-by-play announcer Fred McLeod.

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