Black journalists working at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette say they are being cut off from doing their job during one of the most pivotal news-making events in history—the ongoing protests for racial justice—on accusations that they are biased.
The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh says a number of black journalists have been barred from doing protest-related stories for the Post-Gazette, while others have had their articles censored and their bylines removed, in apparent retaliation for a tweet posted by Alexis Johnson, a black reporter who writes for the paper.
The tweet in question:
From the Washington Post:
Michael A. Fuoco, another journalist at the Pittsburgh paper and president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, told The Post that editors rejected several of Johnson’s pitches for protest-related coverage Monday. They then told her she could not cover them at all because her tweet showed bias, Johnson told The Post.
Management told her that her byline on a protest-related article could lead “the credibility of the newsroom [to] be questioned and people might question if I was biased,” Johnson recalled.
The newspaper does not have an official social media policy, Fuoco said. Johnson said she had never before had any issues about her social media presence or a race-related incident at work.
“I thought it was a funny tweet and something to think about, as we’ve seen destruction in the city over the years for different motivations,” Johnson said.
Johnson isn’t the only journalist who says they are now being sidelined at the Post-Gazette—when reporting needs black perspectives more than ever.
Michael Santiago, a black photojournalist who helped the Post-Gazette earn a Pulitzer Prize last year, says he has also been barred from working the protests:
Another reporter at the Post-Gazette, Ashley Murray, says a story she wrote about police brutality was pulled from the paper’s website over the weekend:
“The PG simply does not remove stories, ever, for any reason,” The Newspaper Guild tweeted on Saturday, outlining why they believe the silenced journalists are being specifically targeted. “It is a longstanding policy in journalism and at the PG that you do not remove published material; it is simply unethical to do so.”
The Guild has since launched a petition demanding that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reinstate the black reporters and their colleagues who they say have been retaliated against for supporting Johnson, the reporter who made the initial tweet. Johnson has also filed an official grievance against her employer for barring her for covering the protests, according to the Washington Post. So far the Mayor of Pittsburgh has even chimed in to vouch for her as a professional journalist with integrity.
What’s so appalling is that Johnson’s integrity as a professional is even in question because she is a black woman with an opinion, in the midst of an uprising against systemic racism that threatens black people in a myriad of ways and shows up in all sorts of institutions—including in newsrooms.