PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh is calling for leaders at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to step down after two black journalists were barred from protest coverage.
The guild said Friday it’s joining the NewsGuild international president in calling for the immediate resignation of Post-Gazette Executive Editor Keith Burris and Managing Editor Karen Kane “for the sake of the paper, its staff and readers.”
Journalist Alexis Johnson and photojournalist Michael Santiago say they were pulled from George Floyd protest coverage after one of Johnson’s tweets went viral, and the situation at the Post-Gazette has garnered national attention. Giant Eagle halted sales of the newspapers “due to recent actions by the publication.”
The guild’s statement on Friday follows an open letter the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published to its readers Wednesday in response to Johnson and Santiago’s claims.
In that letter Burris, the executive editor, says the readers of the Post-Gazette have been subjected to a great deal of disinformation. Burris wrote the reporter and photographer were not singled out and banned from covering local protests because they were black and that accusation is “defamation.”
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Burris’s response continued, “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.”
“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.”
Horrifying scenes and aftermath from selfish LOOTERS who don’t care about this city!!!!!
…. oh wait sorry. No, these are pictures from a Kenny Chesney concert tailgate. Whoops. pic.twitter.com/lKRNrBsltU
— Alexis Johnson (@alexisjreports) May 31, 2020
“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.
As the guild calls for Kane and Burris to resign, a statement says they are “unquestionably unfit to lead.”
“We are truly at a precipice. We want the Post-Gazette to survive. These two top editors have shown they are incapable of quality leadership. For healing and redemption, they must leave now,” says Michael Fuoco, a 36-year reporter at the paper and local guild president in a press release.
KDKA is a newspartner of the Post-Gazette.
- READ BURRIS’S FULL LETTER: “An open letter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette”
- READ THE NEWSPAPER GUILD’S FULL STATEMENT: Newspaper Guild Of Pittsburgh supports national call for Keith Burris and Karen Kane to resign immediately