Photo by Jeff Swensen for The New York Times.

“Tensions between newsroom employees and their bosses are nothing new at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which is owned by a family-run company, Block Communications,” says The New York Times in an article published June 10.

“This is the newspaper that published an unsigned editorial, on Martin Luther King’s Birthday in 2018, that led with the line “Calling someone a racist is the new McCarthyism.” Detractors of the editorial included newspaper employees and 16 members of the Block family, who published a letter to the editor noting that it had been “printed without the Post-Gazette editorial board’s consensus” and faulting it for “attempting to justify blatant racism.”

One family member, John R. Block, the news organization’s publisher, did not agree with the criticism. About a year after the editorial appeared, he promoted the man who wrote it, the editorial page editor Keith C. Burris, to the job of top editor.

Now Mr. Burris is locked in a dispute with the Post-Gazette newsroom,” writes The New York Times.

The article goes on to report the story of Alexis Johnson who has been thrust in the national spotlight for being admonished for a sarcastic tweet about the Kenny Chesney concert, comparing the debris from the protest to the annual piles of litter and mess from the concert. She was told she was showing bias and therefore could no longer cover the protests.

The support for the #IStandWithAlexis movement was swift and strong, resulting in a petition signed by more than 4,400 people demanding that the two black reporters at the center of the dispute, Alexis Johnson and photographer Michael Santiago, be allowed to cover the protest. That included Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Lt. Governor John Fetterman, reports The New York Times.

Their article also includes the response from Keith Burris who denies that the move to remove the reporters from covering the protests had anything to do with racism. The article points to the Post-Gazette’s very different treatment of another reporter, who is white, who supported Johnson and who was admonished by management for a tweet of his but allowed to continue covering protests.

In recent days, the story of Alexis Johnson and other reporters at the Post-Gazette has been covered by numerous national publications including NPR, the Associated Press, CityLab and The Washington Post.

Read the full New York Times story here.

NEXT staff

The staff at NEXTpittsburgh writes about the people driving change in the region and the innovative and cool things happening here.