• Union asked Post-Gazette to lift ban on black journalists
  • Black journalists not allowed to cover George Floyd protests
  • Reporter Johnson was removed from covering protests
  • 2 reporters who supported Johnson, stories removed
  • Santiago tweeted support for Johnson, not allowed to cover
  • Kane refused to give comments

A Pennsylvania newspaper union launched a petition on Sunday (June 7) urging a Pittsburgh publication to allow black journalists to cover the protests over the death of George Floyd.

NBC News reported that the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh launched a petition for the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette to lift its “ban” against black journalists after Alexis Johnson, a reporter, tweeted photos last week of a parking lot full of trash and made a joke in the caption saying that they showed “horrifying scenes” from “selfish looters who don’t care about the city”.

Johnson said that the photos were actually from a tailgate gathering at a Kenny Chesney concert.

The Post-Gazette did not allow her to cover protests after that because, according to Johnson’s statement in MSNBC’s “AM Joy”, the publication felt like she “showed bias publicly”.

In the same report, she added that the editor talked to the other reporters about their social media use, including one white male journalist who was allowed to cover the protests.

"I was the only one who was told that I couldn't cover the protests," she said.

According to the guild, the union representatives filed a complaint on Johnson’s behalf but the managing editor and other personnel at the paper refused to put her back on duty.

Other reporters in the newsroom showed their support for Johnson by tweeting using the hashtag #IstandWithAlexis on Friday (June 5).

The union said that the stories written by the two reporters who tweeted their support for Johnson were taken down from the Post-Gazette’s website.

"Queries to management were met with silence," the union said. "To us, the cause and effect is clear."

Michael Santiago, a black photojournalist, told the MSNBC that he was also barred from covering a demonstration after he tweeted his support.

The union reportedly claimed that, after the managers told guild members that the protests won’t be covered anymore, the stories which were scheduled for Saturday spiked with no explanations.

The union’s petition requested the paper to lift the restrictions and "allow these black journalists to cover the most monumental civil rights movement in more than 50 years."

Karen Kane, managing editor, did not respond to a request for a comment on Sunday and refused to comment to The Associated Press saying that the newspaper’s editors were not allowed to speak on “personnel matters”.

Protest: Residents of Mathare demonstrate against police violence
Protest: Residents of Mathare demonstrate against police violence AFP / TONY KARUMBA