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BBC crew makes Pittsburgh its temporary home

PTRLIVPOPUPBBC110714
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
BBC's Pop Up's Matt Danzico (left) and Benjamin Zand stand atop their car on Mt. Washington. The film crew is in Pittsburgh for a month to do reports and a documentary.
PTRLIVPOPUPBBC110714
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
BBC's Pop Up's Matt Danzico (left) and Benjamin Zand stand atop their car on Mt. Washington. The film crew is in Pittsburgh for a month to do reports and a documentary.

Matt Danzico thinks he could be considered one of the “black sheep” of the BBC, and he’s glad to be grazing in Pittsburgh.

“We want to be the conduit for people in Pittsburgh to tell their stories,” says the Scranton native back in his home state on assignment for a British Broadcasting Corp. project. “I am part of an innovation effort.”

Danzico is part of a three-person team here for November as part of “BBC Pop Up,” a project by the broadcasting group to cover six areas in the United States.

The team began its work in Boulder, Colo., went to Baton Rouge, then looked for other cities. He says Pittsburgh edged out Milwaukee in voting on the Pop Up Tumblr account, a result that pleased him.

“I really wanted to get back to Pennsylvania,” he says. “I haven’t been here in 14 years.”

Benjamin Zand from England and Colm O’Molloy from Ireland are the other members of the Pop Up crew.

Danzico says this news-gathering mission is not an attempt to cover the politics-crime-culture-sports gamut of news. Rather, the team is moving into an area for a month as a way of learning that place’s language.

“We’re trying to lead normal lives and learn normal stories,” he says.

He says the crew is trying to “crowd-source” story ideas. The best ways to get in touch with them is through online connections: bbc.com/popup, bbcpopup.tumblr.com or twitter.com/bbcpopup.

Craig Davis, president and CEO of VisitPittsburgh, the tourism-advocacy group, is enthusiastic about the BBC mission.

“They, as outsiders, will get to learn the city,” he says. “They will get to meet the fabric that makes us up.”

He says he and VisitPittsburgh’s staff are proud of the “great visitor experience” that emerges here, and he is sure the BBC reporters will have one also.

Danzico says they have had something of that great experience already. That warmth showed in a meeting earlier this week at Carnegie Mellon University, where they were able to start gleaning story ideas.

At this point, he says, the group is looking into doing stories on what he finds a surprising international diversity in the area, on the history of distilling that is beginning to restore itself, and even one as obvious as the great number of bridges.

“I knew about that,” he says, “but I didn’t realize how the rivers and bridges make it more challenging just to navigate around. I don’t think Google Maps gives you that idea.”

He says he also was surprised to find that the air-quality issue still was a bit bigger than he thought. He believed most of that problem had cleared up with the demise of the steel industry, but has found information about its lingering nature here.

Besides doing individual reports on such matters, the crew will put together a documentary on the Pittsburgh area as a whole that will be broadcast at the end of the month. It can be seen on the BBC World News network and on “BBC World News America” on PBS, as well as on the bbc.com/popup.

Davis says he is particularly excited about watching that overall “look at what they have to say about the city.”

Bob Karlovits is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7852.

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