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'Under Siege': Post Gazette Journalists Protest Newspaper Owners

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will withhold their bylines from stories, photos and graphics starting Wednesday.

Today the newsroom staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette held a vote of "no confidence" in PG Executive Editor Keith Burris, Publisher John Robinson Block and newspaper owner Block Communications Inc. (BCI) for "their escalating unconscionable treatment of employees, union members and managers alike," according to a press release from the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

Besides withholding bylines, members of the paper who do not use bylines normally will wear buttons reading "I support the byline strike."

Everyone will wear "No Confidence" buttons in the newsroom and stickers that directly target the BCI and their alleged mistreatment of managers. Some of the stickers read "Good Managers Punished Here," "Blocks: Cruelty Incarnate," and "we love(d) our managers."

(Photo Credit: Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh)
(Photo Credit: Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh)
(Photo Credit: Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh)

"Keith Burris, John Robinson Block and his twin brother Allan, BCI chairman, have declared an unprecedented scorched-earth war on their employees and the culture of the PG newsroom," said Michael A. Fuoco, a 35-year PG reporter and Guild president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh/CWA Local 38061.

"We must take a stand against this orchestrated attack on the very soul of the newspaper we love," Fuoco said.

"We find it hypocritical of Burris to opine in his columns about the need for civility in society when his treatment of employees is so outrageously uncivil."

The press release claimed that since Burris became executive editor nine months ago, he "forced out" three newsroom managers after they criticized his actions, has refused to speak with the Guild and generally has created a workplace environment that led to 16 journalists leaving in six months.

According to the Guild's website, the Guild's contract for union workers expired on March 31, 2017. They have been in negotiations with BCI for 33 months as of November 2019.

The press release also made allegations against publisher John Block. It said that the firing and dismissals of cartoonist Rob Rogers and former PG executive editor as well as Pulitzer Prize-winner David Shribman were because of Block's actions.

They also mentioned an incident in February where Block "manhandled" his 12-year-old daughter in the newsroom in front of journalists, called employees "working class" and threatened to shut down the paper unless the Guild removed a "Shame on the Blocks" sign in the office.

Fuoco said that the strike will continue until Burris and the Blocks stop their alleged unfair treatment of workers.

"We will fight for our right to work in an environment free from hostility. And we vow to continue to produce journalism worthy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and our readers, even as we are daily under siege by Burris and the Blocks."

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