Editorial: Post-Gazette executive editor threatens newspaper integrity


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Keith Burris, who published an editorial last year headlined “Reason as racism,” will assume the additional duty of executive editor of the Post-Gazette.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Whitewashing racism on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and approving misogynistic editorial cartoons tend to not correlate with promotions and career success. But employees of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette saw this unfold when a notice posted in the newsroom informed them publisher John R. Block appointed editorial director Keith Burris to the position of executive editor.

“John Robinson Block, Publisher and editor-in-chief of the Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade, has announced that effectively immediately Keith C. Burris, editorial director for Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo will assume the additional duty of executive editor of the Post-Gazette,” the notice read. “Mr. Burris will continue to direct the opinion pages of both newspapers.”

Not only does Burris’ new assignment indicate a condonement of the whitewashing of racism, but it flies in the face of journalistic ethics.

Burris drew criticism last year for an editorial headlined “Reason as racism,” which he wrote and published on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, arguing that accusations of racism had become “a term of malice and libel.”

“Calling someone a racist is the new McCarthyism. The charge is pernicious,” the editorial read. “The accuser doesn’t need to prove it. It simply hangs over the accused like a great human stain.”

The editorial went on to defend President Donald Trump’s suggestion that immigration policies favor predominantly white countries rather than “shithole countries” like Haiti or in Africa.

“That’s not racism, it is reason,” the editorial read.

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh broke from its general practice of not commenting on editorials and wrote it was “collectively appalled and crestfallen by the repugnant editorial.”

Burris has also played a key role in publishing other questionable content. A series of editorial cartoons published in January depicted misogynistic tropes, drawing further criticism from local publications and the Newspaper Guild.

The man behind the promotion, publisher and Editor-in-Chief John Block, has also exhibited behavior worthy of condemnation. Block allegedly walked into the newsroom after a dinner in downtown Pittsburgh with his preteen daughter and screamed, kicked the wall and punched a union poster. A video recording of the newsroom incident has since surfaced, corroborating eyewitness accounts.

But this new appointment also represents a breach of basic journalistic ethics. Burris was responsible for high-profile, controversial and opinionated content, and his new position as the top editor of the Post-Gazette gives him direct control over what should be unbiased and fair reporting. His simultaneous management of opinions and news is unethical and unacceptable.

Prior to this appointment, Burris exercised control over solely opinionated editorial content and never extended into the Post-Gazette’s news reporting.

This latest change could very well put an end to unbiased newsroom leadership at the Post-Gazette.