Editorial: PG publisher silences staffers, increases tension

(Photo by Thomas Yang | Visual Editor)

One of our newspaper’s daily features is the editorial — a short piece briefly discussing an issue our community is facing and presenting the editorial staff’s collective point of view.

Editorials are deliberately not credited to any specific author. This isn’t meant to be a way for the writer to hide their personal beliefs behind the paper’s reputability, but rather a means of giving readers an understanding of the editorial staff’s opinion.

Unfortunately, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette owner and publisher John Robinson Block seems to have fundamentally misunderstood the editorial’s role in his paper. After publishing an editorial Monday defending President Donald Trump’s racist immigration comments, Block faced strong disagreement from his editorial staff.

The Executive Committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, the union that represents much of the Post-Gazette staff, submitted a letter to the editor explaining its disagreement with hopes of it running in the Post-Gazette Wednesday. But Block decided to keep the response out of the paper, according to editorial page editor John Allison.

It’s unacceptable for an individual to masquerade personal opinions as the beliefs of an institution, regardless of what position of power they may hold. But Block went further, denying his staff the right to have their own opinion heard, though his paper printed several other letters responding to the same issue. On a point where he could have acknowledged that his actions were wrong, he has yet to make things right.

The Guild sent the letter to The Pitt News after Block denied them a voice in the Post-Gazette. Here’s the letter in its entirety:

To the Editor:

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, the union representing 150 reporters, photographers, copy editors, artists and other editorial employees at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is collectively appalled and crestfallen by the repugnant editorial “Reason as Racism.” As a matter of course, the Guild does not weigh in on editorial positions, but this piece is so extraordinary in its mindless, sycophantic embrace of racist values and outright bigotry espoused by this country’s President that we would be morally, journalistically, and humanly remiss not to speak out against it.

This editorial is a blight on the 231 years of service the Post-Gazette has provided its readers. Over its long life, it has railed against racism and supported civil rights and justice for all. Given this history, the shameful and unconscionable editorial that ran on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, of all days, is an abomination that cannot go without condemnation from journalists committed to fairness, accuracy and decency. To be clear, no member of the Newspaper Guild had anything to do with that editorial and we stand together in solidarity against the bigotry, hatred and divisiveness it engenders.

Our hope is that, like us, readers of the Post-Gazette will decry this lapse in promoting common decency, equal opportunity and justice across our great land and the world. This editorial and its sentiments solely represent the opinions of the Block family, owners of the Post-Gazette, and not their loyal employees who use our talents to fight against what this editorial stands for.


The Executive Committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

Michael A. Fuoco       Jonathan D. Silver       Ed Blazina     Joe Smydo         Melissa Tkach

Patti Sabatini Dan Gigler      Zack Tanner      Alyssa Brown     Courtney Linder    Erin Hebert

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