I used to keep a Jolly Roger flag over my desk at the Tribune-Review, and most people assumed that was because I root for the Pirates.
The real reason was that the newsroom — really every newsroom where I worked — felt like how I imagine the deck of a pirate ship to be: Under deadline pressure, people swear, slam phones, tell bawdy stories, get in fights. And that’s all before any of us hit the local bar.
Just as much has changed with the newspaper industry, we need to disrupt that part of the newsroom culture, too. The incident involving the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh’s former president, Michael Fuoco, who has been accused of sexual harassment — leading to his resignation from both the union and the Post-Gazette, where he worked as a reporter — calls us all to do better.
(Editor’s note: The Pittsburgh City Paper just published an extensive article documenting many of the allegations against Michael Fuoco over the years and the role of two local universities, where Fuoco taught. Read the article by Ryan Deto in full here.)
We have seen a national reckoning around the #MeToo movement with incidents involving high-profile journalists such as Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, and too many entertainers and entertainment professionals to name here.
Newsroom leaders need to make more of an effort — if they haven’t already — to be accountable at the local level too.
That means recognizing that inappropriate behavior can and does happen. We must create space for victims to come forward with an expectation that they will be heard. We must take the allegations seriously, investigating them with diligence and acting when evidence exists.
I reached out to former Guild president Mike Fuoco, but haven’t heard back from him.
The Post-Gazette let me know in a statement that it “engaged outside counsel to investigate the newspaper’s handling of any complaints related to Mr. Fuoco during his employment with the newspaper.” The investigation found only one complaint against him, from 2011, and it determined that “the Post-Gazette appropriately addressed that complaint by suspending Mr. Fuoco for five days without pay,” the statement says.
Leaders of the Guild are working to come up with new policies so that victims of sexual abuse feel more comfortable coming forward and feel like they will be heard, acting president Ed Blazina told me.
“One of the things we’re trying to do in response to this is look at what we can do as a union to create an atmosphere where people are coming forward with that information,” he says. “We have no tolerance for that kind of behavior and are looking to see what else we can do to make sure that kind of stuff doesn’t happen, or that if it does, people are comfortable reporting it so it can be dealt with.”
Guild holds second election
Blazina remains the acting president at the Guild despite the fact that the union held an election last month.
Initially, the union said that it narrowly had elected a new president, Lacretia Wimbley, by just a few votes. Then questions came up over the election process: Ballots had been mailed to the Guild’s office rather than to a secure post office box, and the elections committee had counted more than 30 ballots that did not have a signature or identifying information.
Based on advice from the Guild’s parent union, the elections committee decided to redo the vote, Blazina says. That likely will take place in January.
Spotlight on diversity
Spotlight PA, a statewide reporting collaborative, has started an online directory of diverse sources with the goal of making local and statewide news coverage more equitable and reflective of the state’s population.
The database lists more than a dozen experts in Pittsburgh, and it seems like a good start. Spotlight has invited journalists and others to help build out the list. Nominations may be sent to email@example.com.
Trib invests in diversity
Trib Total Media has doubled down on its unique internship programs which give graduating high school seniors a clear path to work in journalism — this time with a focus on diverse candidates.
The program includes a scholarship of up to $7,500 a year for four years, an annual internship with the Trib and an offer for full-time employment upon graduation. The new scholarship will go to a student who is culturally, ethnically or racially diverse and studying journalism, communication or English writing, the media company said in a statement.