PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has published an open letter to its readers in response to claims that a black reporter and photographer were taken off coverage of stories of recent George Floyd protests in Pittsburgh.

The executive editor of the paper now claims that the readers of the Post-Gazette have been subjected to a great deal of disinformation.

The open letter titled, “Truth, Fairness and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,” appeared on the PG’s website shortly after 6 a.m. Wednesday.

The byline is Keith Burris, who is the executive editor of the paper.

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The letter is the paper’s response to claims that reporter Alexis Johnson and photographer Michael Santiago, both of whom are black, were pulled from covering the police brutality protests in the City of Pittsburgh following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Burris writes that the reporter and photographer were not singled out and banned from covering local protests because they were black. He writes, “That is an outrageous lie — a defamation, in fact.”

Following the backlash the newspaper received, Burris writes, “We underestimated the power of social media and the corrosive potency of the racist label.”

He writes what was done was “purely for journalistic reasons,” and that calling it racism was a tactic as part of “a labor dispute.”

Burris’s response continues, “A tweet was issued and a dialogue followed that editors felt was strong commentary — opinion — on a story the reporter was only supposed to report. This person was not taken off a story, but was never on it.”

Earlier this week, Johnson and Santiago responded during a news conference with the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

“There was no warning, there was no, ‘Hey, can you take the tweet down,'” Johnson said. “By Monday morning, they had decided I was no longer able to cover it.”

“I’m disappointed that I’m not out there covering the protest. When I put my press badge down, I’m still a black man in America,” Santiago said.

Burris writes when other journalists repeated the tweet, they also were disqualified from reporting on the protests.

Burris also wrote that the vast number of reporters who stood with Alexis Johnson were white, and that the paper believes it too stands with her, valuing her life experiences, as all colleagues are valued.

KDKA is a newspartner of the Post-Gazette.

Lisa Washington