The community that The Globe serves is quite small. This is especially apparent when our community is compared to the community served by other, professional news outlets—such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a newspaper that has been in operation since the 18th century.
However, the function and purpose that The Globe and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have are extremely similar. Both outlets exist to provide fair, balanced journalism that keeps our community members informed. This is why recent actions, in addition to less recent actions, taken by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s ownership and management has been so devastating to witness.
Currently, employees of the Post-Gazette who are members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh are beginning to and preparing to strike after P-G management has refused to concede during contract negotiations regarding salary and benefits. (The Guild also represents full-time faculty at Point Park.) According to the Guild, P-G employees have not received a raise in 14 years.
This is unacceptable. The Globe staff stands behind the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh and the employees of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 100-percent, in their fight for fair treatment and adequate compensation.
But this isn’t the only problem.
Over the summer, the Post-Gazette management, namely managing editor Karen Kane and former executive editor Keith Burris, made a tremendous misstep in removing reporter Alexis Johnson, a black woman, from covering the protests occurring in Pittsburgh as part of the international Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality.
Johnson was responsible for a tweet, comparing damage done by rioters and looters, to the infamous aftermath of a Kenny Chesney concert that took place here in Pittsburgh several years ago. Johnson was swiftly informed by P-G management that she would no longer be allowed to cover the protests, as her tweet had shown “bias.”
But was this really all over a tweet? Or was Johnson’s implied “bias,” in the eyes of P-G management, due to the color of her skin? Should this really be the case, I urge Kane and Burris of the Post-Gazette, in addition to publisher John Robinson Block, to consider their own bias in how they view this international movement.
Every journalist approaches every subject with their own point of reference that comes from their own life experiences. To expect otherwise would be to dismiss journalists’ humanity. As a student of journalism, some of the most interesting, personable and overall human people that I have met have been fellow students of journalism.
In addition, Michael M. Santiago, a former photojournalist for the Post-Gazette, a black man, was also taken off of protest coverage after showing support for Johnson, followed by over 100 P-G reporters who had copied Johnson’s tweet and were thus “conflicted out” of protest coverage.
The Post-Gazette’s mismanagement and racism extends beyond this, as I recall the publishing of the “Reason as Racism” editorial, published on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 2018 and written by Burris, who was promoted to the position of executive editor despite the blatant racism contained within the piece that drew national criticism. The piece defends the current president’s use of the term “shithole countries,” and attempts to equate calling out someone’s racism as meaningless slander. The piece is shameful, and it even led to the Blocks, owners of Block Communications who publish the Post-Gazette, to release a statement clarifying that their opinion does not match that of the article’s.
To make matters worse, Burris then embarked on an “I’m not racist,” defense piece, under the title of “Truth, Fairness and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.” The piece, again, attempts to undermine the term “racist,” by claiming that its use in accusations was a “tactic in a labor dispute.” It also defends the PG’s decision, under the guise that what they had done with Johnson was in the spirit of the “journalism gold standard.” To you, Mr. Burris, I ask, where was your concern for the “journalism gold standard” when you unpublished reporters’ stories and republished them under the same headlines, with no bylines and with different reporting? Where was your concern for this “journalism gold standard” when you fired award-winning cartoonist Rob Rogers for his criticism of the current president?
These actions, past and present, taken by the P-G management are, honestly, revolting. But what can we expect, coming from an institution that has not given its staff a raise in over a decade? Or that receives a vote of no confidence from the guild that represents its employees? Or that is published by an individual who embarks on angry newsroom tirades, threatening jobs while his young teenage daughter begs him to stop?
From the management and ownership, we can expect nothing but malpractice. However, from the talented and hardworking reporting staff, we can expect greatness—sometimes even in the form of a Breaking News Coverage Pulitzer Award, the highest honor in journalism.
To the Post-Gazette staff who have no option left but to strike, we, the next generation of journalists who will tell the human story, see you. And we are with you. To Ms. Johnson and Mr. Santiago, especially, we see you, we support you and we stand with you. To the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, we thank you for all that you contribute and all that you fight for.
There is no P-G without you. And as far as I’m concerned, there is no P-G without fairness, equality and ethical leadership.
Editor-in-Chief, The Globe