Natalie Bencivenga first got to know Tony Norman almost a decade ago while standing around the copier in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newsroom.
The former Post-Gazette SEEN editor and advice columnist often would converse with Norman “about the state of the world” as they waited around the proverbial water cooler. They remained close even after Bencivenga left the newspaper to pursue other media-related ventures in 2020.
As of about six months ago, Norman is also no longer with the Post-Gazette and now writes a weekly column for NEXTpittsburgh. Recently, Norman and Bencivenga reunited at NEXTpittsburgh as co-hosts of the newly launched podcast “In Other News,” which takes full advantage of the chemistry those two have been inadvertently honing since 2014.
“In Other News” made its official debut Jan. 27, and new episodes will be dropping every Friday morning on NEXTpittsburgh, YouTube, Spotify, iTunes and Google Play. Each episode features spirited conversations about topics of national and local interest, a guest whose expertise is relevant to those discussions and an “action item” so folks can stay engaged on those issues after the episode ends.
“If they’re sick and tired of living in a silo where they feel as though they’ve heard it all, what we’re providing is a space for commentary, conversation and solutions to issues,” Bencivenga told the Union Progress. “You can get inspired, educated and can activate in communities following our episodes.”
Unsurprisingly, both Bencivenga and Norman have some thoughts about the ongoing labor situation at their former workplace that has resulted in most members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh being out on strike since Oct. 18.
“We’re both heartbroken by the way things are going so far,” Norman said. “We’re both pro-union and pro the workers. We’re both disgusted with the way the Blocks have conducted themselves during the negotiations.”
Bencivenga left the Post-Gazette “under duress” due to working conditions at the time and is on the same page as Norman regarding the strike. They both made a point to highlight the Union Progress as their inaugural episode’s action item.
“We talk a lot about the importance of local journalism but also protecting local journalists,” she said. “We all know local journalism is under attack. The weaker it becomes, the more ripe the space comes for fascism and authoritarianism.”
Since leaving the Post-Gazette, Bencivenga has gone on to host the Instagram-based interview series “After Hours” for Pittsburgh City Paper; co-host the YouTube talk show “Heating Up”; do a regular segment for the now-defunct “Alone / Together / Pittsburgh” web series; start her own production company, Benci Productions; and co-own digital media strategy company XSquared Media with former Post-Gazette colleague Sara Bauknecht. Patrons of East Liberty’s Square Cafe can currently purchase a “deconstructed Benci biscuit bowl,” with part of the proceeds benefiting local nonprofit Sisters PGH.
When Norman first began talking with NEXTpittsburgh about launching a podcast, he was quickly confronted with the fact “I don’t know a f—ing thing about podcasts.” He knew he needed a partner, and he approached Bencivenga despite the reasonable assumption that she would be too busy to dive into yet another project.
“Natalie just sort of spontaneously popped up and kept rising because she’s a really great contrast to me,” he said. “She’s smoother and more organized … and I like her a lot.”
It didn’t take much convincing for Bencivenga to jump right into producing and co-hosting “In Other News.” For her, Norman had always been “a true mentor and ally in the newsroom” while they were at the Post-Gazette together. This was her chance to pay Norman back for being “of the very first people to go to bat for me.”
“I always admired Tony as a writer and creator,” she said. “I also thought it would be a really interesting juxtaposition of where we both exist. We’re different generations, genders and races, but we have a similar outlook on the world.”
The podcast’s production team consists of assistant producer Emma Honcharski, editorial adviser Margie Ruttenberg, and sound engineer and Sorgatron Media founder Mike Sorg. Early guests have included Gisele Fetterman, local TikTok star Dr. Rhonda Johnson and NEXTpittsburgh digital editor Crissy Holtzer.
So far, there haven’t been too many growing pains for either Bencivenga or Norman in terms of getting “In Other News” off the ground. Bencinvenga’s only mild concern is “keeping the momentum going” on a weekly basis. For Norman, it’s getting used to stricter recording schedules. He said that “Natalie has certainly cured me” of his naturally easygoing attitude toward timing.
When asked who their dream guests for “In Other News” would be, Bencivenga shouted out actor Billy Porter and author-activist Sonya Renee Taylor. Norman has spent a career interviewing prominent folks with Pittsburgh ties, and there are very few left on his wish list.
“If we called someone, they say they’re willing to do it and they show up, that would be my dream guest,” he quipped.
Anyone who wants to see Bencivenga and Norman at work can catch a live recording of “In Other News” at Downtown’s Cafe Momentum on Feb. 21. Otherwise, you can hear their dulcet tones and witty banter every Friday through your headphones.
“‘In Other News’ is going to be an opportunity for Pittsburghers of whatever opinion or ideology to come across an idea or opinion they may not be familiar with,” Norman said. “It’s an invitation to have a conversation as opposed to a conflict.”