A black reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was told she could not cover the city’s protests over the death of George Floyd because of a tweet, and now dozens of her colleagues, fellow journalists, her union and even the city’s mayor are speaking out in support of her.
On Friday the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh and many of her fellow reporters at the Post-Gazette were demanding that Alexis Johnson be allowed cover the protests, sending identical versions of the tweet themselves and using the hashtag #IStandWithAlexis.
On Sunday, Johnson posted four photos that show trashed public spaces in the aftermath of a crowd.
“Horrifying scenes and aftermath from selfish LOOTERS who don’t care about this city!!!!!” the tweet’s text says. “.... oh wait sorry. “No, these are pictures from a Kenny Chesney concert tailgate. Whoops.”
It has since been retweeted nearly 50,000 times.
Johnson confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that she was told the tweet and the apparent bias it showed were the reasons she would no longer be covering the protests. She declined further comment, deferring to her guild.
Guild President Michael A. Fuoco, who is also a Post-Gazette reporter, told the AP that guild leaders were “appalled” by the move, and the paper’s editors have not yielded at all in discussions about Johnson’s status.
“We feel taking a black woman off the most monumental national story about civil rights in the last 50 years is punishment,” Fuoco said. “We have very few black journalists. Someone who has the contacts and the insights for this story, that is what you want.”
He said of the tweet that he “thought it was clever, I thought it was funny, and I thought it was food for thought. And that’s what we are as journalists. We put things out in the public square.”
Karen Kane, managing editor of the Post-Gazette, said in an email that the paper’s editors cannot comment on personnel matters.
Journalists from other outlets around the country and other unions were also speaking out in favor of Johnson, as did Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who said on Twitter that her reporting has always been fair and professional.
The Pittsburgh Black Media Federation released a statement saying that to “deny the African American reporter the opportunity to cover this news removes an opportunity for the Post-Gazette to present a more fair, nuanced, and informed portrait of what is happening in local communities.”
Johnson on Friday thanked her union for “going to bat” for her and said she was “crying” from the solidarity that has been shown for her.
“Thank you everyone for your support and your words of encouragement, your actions,” she tweeted. “I am just ... wow.”
Johnson’s removal from protest coverage was first reported by Pittsburgh City Paper.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton.