Of the hundreds of stories we published this year, by far the most read has been one about dogs, which seems appropriate enough for a strike “paper” that’s nicknamed the PUP.

Our Susan Banks reported and wrote it this summer based on her personal experiences with a pug named Wanda. Susan reports that Wanda is doing “great … She is almost breathing like a ‘normal’ dog. For a pug that is something to celebrate.” Susan is even happier that the story has helped other pets and their people.

Here’s “BOAS: A word owners of French bulldogs and similar breeds need to learn.”

Our second-most-read story was a news story on the federal court beat, one of several our Torsten Ove wrote pertaining to the biggest private residence in the state: “Owner of Pennsylvania’s biggest house asking for home confinement in region’s largest-ever tax fraud; feds say he deserves prison.” A month later, Torsten wrote about the man’s prison sentence.

What was our most-read story from our busy sports department? Brad Everett reported and wrote it in January, and it recently was found and read again this month when its main subject, then South Fayette girls basketball’s 6-foot-3 Ava Leroux, was in a serious car accident. Happily, our Steve Rotstein was able to report on Thursday that Ava, the daughter of ex-Pittsburgh Penguin Francois Leroux, was discharged from the hospital and at home with her family.

We’re amazed at the journalism our colleagues do while on strike on any given day and even more amazed when we take a look back over an entire year of stories and photographs, graphics and headlines.

You’re always welcome to explore our site, the home page and archives of which have also become popular destinations for reading and seeing our stuff. Below our some of our staff favorites.

We plan to keep adding to this body of work in the new year. Thanks for reading, sharing and otherwise supporting our efforts.

Sports photographer Matt Freed submits this as his favorite shot of the year. Its caption: Westinghouse’s Byron Lewis and the rest of his teammates had a lot to celebrate after a 36-20 win at Farrell Friday night in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals. The photo ran with this story by Steve Rotstein: PIAA quarterfinal rundown: Westinghouse storms back to win at Farrell; North Allegheny, Peters Township cruise to victories. Says Matt, “I enjoyed watching the joy of the Westinghouse players as they made another run through the playoffs. They came up short in the state championships but made the city proud once again.”

Some personal picks

We invited our colleagues to pick a favorite story, photo or graphic that they made in 2023.

Sports editor Rick Davis says his pick, literally, is his story about Mila Gagen “for the cuteness factor”: “It’s madness: Lower Burrell girl, 7, outsmarts ‘experts’ in ESPN basketball bracket.”

Sports writer Steve Rotstein goes with the more serious: “Sauer sisters shining for Shady Side Academy a decade after legendary father’s death.” The back story from Steve: “I remember my mother giving me a Peter Sauer basketball card when I was about 5 or 6 years old and he was playing at Stanford, and thinking how cool it was that somebody from around here was such a big-time player. Now, getting the chance to connect with Sauer’s daughters 10 years after his tragic death and share their stories of overcoming grief while following in his footsteps has to be the most personal and rewarding story I’ve ever written.”

Summer intern and lifelong friend Delaney Parks says the favorite she wrote during her time at PUP is “Exploring Pittsburgh’s progressive independent bookstore scene.”

Her counterpart Harrison Hamm still smiles about this one: “A group of Pittsburghers wants more skaters to roll with it.”

Designer Jen Kundrach has filled the PUP with extraordinary sports graphics and other art, but maps as a favorite single piece this one for Harrison Hamm’s report from the water: Hannah Hohman and Allegheny CleanWays are cleaning their way down the Mon River. Muses Jen, “I think the whole piece encapsulates so much of what I love about PUP: a story about a passionate group of people working together for the betterment of their community along with a fun map of their search for sunken ‘treasures’ in the river. It’s just the kind of engaging, creative work you get from people who really care about the communities we cover.”

Jon Moss worked with Helen Fallon and photographer Pam Panchak on SEIU, progressives on verge of biggest win yet in Allegheny County. He explains that he likes it because, “With the hustle and bustle of daily reporting, there often isn’t a lot of time to step back and look at larger trends. The story sought to study the rise of a particular wing of the Democratic party, and how it has steadily gained power over the last decade. What’s driving the change isn’t unique to Pittsburgh or Allegheny County — the region could be considered a case study for other parts of the state and country.”

For sports writer Brad Everett, it’s a love story: A ‘couple’ of coaches: It’s ‘Love & Basketball’ for Chris and Jordan Giles, who have guided respective teams to WPIAL playoff berths.

Vietnamese singer/songwriter and activist Mai Khôi stands outside her home in the Mexican War Streets. She is an artist-in-residence at City of Asylum. This is a favorite of photographer Nate Guidry. The photo leads Hannah Wyman’s profile: City of Asylum artist-in-residence Mai Khôi says her message ‘still focuses on freedom of expression’ Nate explains, “The image is moody and I was able to capture it using 2 Profoto B1X cordless battery-powered monolights and a 5-foot octabox, plus a little serendipity from the sun lighting the red brick wall.”

Hannah Wyman also loves having done the Mai Khoi profile, which she says was set up by Nate Guidry. “I’m a big fan of Nate’s work (and now Mai Khoi’s!) so it was truly an honor,” she says, adding, “I found great joy in being able to cover Pittsburgh’s AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islander] community for PUP readers.” Since Nate picked that one (above), we’ll give her another: “I am also pretty proud of this story” — Improving air quality a top priority for county executive candidates.

Deer Lakes celebrates its 61-60 victory against OLSH in the WPIAL Class 3A championship on Friday, March 3, 2023, at Petersen Events Center. The Steve Rotstein words: WPIAL Class 3A boys basketball championship: Deer Lakes stuns four-time defending champion OLSH for thrilling 61-60 win. ” I always have fun photographing WPIAL championships, especially when the games are as close as this one was,” says photographer Emily Matthews. She recalls taking this top-notch shot “right after the final buzzer …. One of my favorite things is capturing the array of emotions from both teams, and sometimes I’m lucky enough to get both the feelings of victory and defeat in one frame.”

Helen Fallon says her favorite piece is “about my longtime friend, David Wargo, and his odyssey to bring the book ‘American Promotheus’ to become the blockbuster film ‘Oppenheimer.’ It satisfied me on so many levels — including being the only one to tell his story, a forever thrill for journalists — but also because it demonstrates David’s perseverance and so much more. Enjoy it again!” Clairton native’s efforts helped bring ‘Oppenheimer’ to the screen.

Steve Mellon loves writing about history. He offers this century-old story as a favorite to retell: When the Klan came to town 100 years ago, Carnegie residents fought back — and things got bloody.

Photographer Alexandra Wimley says, “I’ll go with this photo as my favorite.” Its caption: Women dance and sing during a procession to celebrate the completion of a new Torah dedicated to Joyce Fienberg, one of the 11 victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, and her husband, Dr. Stephen Fienberg, as the crowd makes its way down Murray Avenue from Beacon Street to Shaare Torah Congregation in Squirrel Hill, Sunday, July 30, 2023. The photo published with this story by the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle’s David Rullo: New Torah dedicated in honor of Joyce and Stephen Fienberg.

Ed Blazina writes mostly about transportation, but says, “For a story, I’ll pick something a little different — this February feature”: Charter school, arts group restoring Wilmerding’s historic Westinghouse Castle.

Ed is a prime example of also doing things on strike that he wouldn’t normally do, and for him that has been taking photographs to go with his stories. “And if I have to pick a photo, too ….” Yes, Ed, you do. Good choice:

Transportation reporter Ed Blazina says this forward-facing shot is one of the photos of his that he likes best. Craig White, a consultant overseeing construction of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, looks from a recently cleared field along Camp Hollow Road in West Mifflin to the first work on the new toll road in Jefferson Hills in mid-December 2023. Construction will begin at Camp Hollow in 2024. Here’s Ed’s story: Finally: After 60 years of waiting, Mon-Fayette Expressway starts to take shape.

Why is this a favorite photo snapped by photographer Pam Panchak? She says, “Democracy in action.” U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, center, is sworn in by Common Pleas Judge Nicola Henry-Taylor, right, at her ceremonial swearing-in at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023, in East Liberty. At left is Lee’s mother, Shelda Lee. The story by Steve Mellon: Moments of history converge during Summer Lee’s ceremonial swearing-in.

Tough and dedicated copy editor-turned-sports writer John Santa writes, “The toughest and most dedicated athletes across the region may just be plying their craft every day at Team 412 Boxing’s unassuming gym located below the Subway restaurant at Third Avenue and Ross Street, Downtown. The fighters and trainers who put in their work there do so for the love of the support and each other. Their dedication to boxing and one another is inspiring.” Here’s his pick, Pittsburgh’s Team 412 Boxing molding champions, providing ‘safe haven’ for youth fighters from across Western Pennsylvania.

Copy editor Karen Carlin also has “worked” as a photographer and a reporter during the strike. She’s sweet on this image of a girl who drove with her parents to Pittsburgh on April 30 to support strikers “and was an active participant, demonstrating that union solidarity is a family affair in her household.” Lennon Polivka, 9, of Bellaire, Ohio, shows her CWA pride outside the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette facility on Sweeney Drive in Findlay. Her dad, Chad, is secretary/treasurer of CWA local 2006. Karen’s story: CWA leads caravan of union solidarity from West Virginia to Post-Gazette’s Findlay facility.

Interim editor Bob Batz Jr. says his favorite work of the year was the Union Progress collaborating with the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle to cover the summer-long death penalty trial in the Squirrel Hill synagogue shooting. But his own favorite story to report and write probably is the one where he had the opportunity to “Meet the mayor’s nominee for Pittsburgh EMS chief, Amera A. Gilchrist.”

Andrew Goldstein writes, “I rarely get the opportunity to write anything from a first-person perspective, so this piece allowed me to take some fun liberties that I likely never would have while reporting hard news. While it wasn’t what I was aiming for when I wrote this story, I think it exemplifies how one can find hope and joy even amid great struggle, especially when you’re surrounded by the right people. However, as you can read, working as a team with the folks from the Blade gave me a sense of melancholy because it made me remember how much I missed doing the same with my colleagues in the Post-Gazette newsroom. I am looking forward to getting back to that someday soon.” The piece: Fear and loathing in Toledo: A journey into the heart of the Blocks’ business empire.

This is Steve Mellon’s photograph of Rashad Askew giving his daughter Londyn a hug after her portrayal of entrepreneur and activist Madam C.J. Walker during the Black History Month living museum at Barrett Elementary School on Feb. 23. “I’m the father of three daughters and I’ve been lucky enough to experience a few moments like this, moments of pride in watching your child reach a goal or accomplish something significant,” Mellon said. “It’s a beautiful feeling — Mr. Askew’s face says it all.” Walker, who lived from 1867 to 1919, is recognized as the nation’s first female self-made millionaire. Andrew Goldstein wrote the excellent story: Black History Month comes to life at Steel Valley’s Barrett Elementary School.

The PUP is the publication of the striking workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Pittsburgh Union Progress

The PUP is the publication of the striking workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.