Michael Santiago, one of two Black Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters who said they were barred from covering the George Floyd protests, has accepted a buyout from the paper and is quitting.
“Yesterday I accepted a buyout at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that was offered to employees in May. It was not an easy decision but as I said on Thursday night at the PBMF panel, how can I work for someone who doesn’t love me,” Santiago said in a statement posted on Twitter Sunday. Santiago said he does not know when his last day will be, only that “my time here will be over soon.”
He and fellow reporter Alexis Johnson said they were prohibited from covering protests in the city due to public statements they made. First Johnson, who on May 31 tweeted a mild joke comparing outrage over looting associated with some protests to the muted reactions that accompanies litter and destruction associated with sports fandom. She said was subsequently pulled from protest coverage and accused of “bias” by the paper’s management. After filing a complaint with the NewsGuild, the union representing Post-Gazette reporters, she went public on June 5, after which Santiago publicly supported her.
For that action, Santiago said he was also pulled from protest coverage. And according to the union, the paper punished two other reporters who expressed support for Johnson by deleting protest-related stories that had already been published, and then in response to complaints about that move, telling staff that the paper would simply cease all protest coverage. After reversing this decision, the paper re-published the articles, heavily edited and without bylines or acknowledgement, the union said.
This sparked a newsroom revolt inside the Post-Gazette that lasted throughout the next week. In response, executive editor Keith Burris published an open letter in which he called those accusations “an outrageous lie” and “defamation.” This did little to quell the matter and by Friday, June 12, NewsGuild called for Post-Gazette top editors Keith Burris and Karen Kane to resign for displaying what it called “Outrageous Insensitivity.”
Read Santiago’s full statement below:
“Yesterday I accepted a buyout at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that was offered to employees in May. It was not an easy decision but as I said on Thursday night at the PBMF panel, how can I work for someone who doesn’t love me. Pittsburgh has been an amazing city and I gained so much experience as a journalist working alongside my colleagues and grew as human being [sic] with the work I was able to do within the community. My fellow NewsGuild members are amazing dedicated journalist [sic] who I will truly miss working with. I hate to be departing under these circumstances but it is necessary. Thank you for everyone’s support. At this moment, I do not have a final day but my time here will be over soon. Even though I will no longer be here, I will continue to fight alongside my NewsGuild colleagues.”