Sorting through the racially charged wreckage of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Even as national attention was focused on the latest internal drama at The New York Times, a disturbing, racially charged crackdown was playing out in a newsroom nearly 400 miles to the west. Pay attention, because what’s happening at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette threatens the ability of journalists everywhere to exercise their conscience and cover their communities with integrity and empathy.

Read the rest at WGBHNews.org. And talk about this post on Facebook.

Bennet’s out as newsrooms come to terms (or not) with Black Lives Matter

Photo (cc) 2010 by samchills.

At least at the moment, I have little to add to the story of James Bennet’s departure as editorial-page editor of The New York Times beyond what Ben Smith of the Times, Tom Jones of the Poynter Institute and Jon Allsop of the Columbia Journalism Review have written, and what I wrote last week.

As Smith, Jones and Allsop point out, Bennet’s misguided decision to run Sen. Tom Cotton’s ugly commentary advocating violence against protesters should be seen as part of a larger story that encompasses Wesley Lowery’s unfortunate experience at The Washington Post, the resignation of Philadelphia Inquirer executive editor Stan Wischnowski over his paper’s horrendous “Buildings Matter, Too” headline, and the right-wing Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s meltdown over Alexis Johnson, a Black reporter whom they claimed couldn’t be trusted to cover Black Lives Matter protests because of an innocuous tweet she had posted.

Because of the Times’ central place in our media culture, Bennet’s departure is the big story. As the coverage makes clear, Bennet lurched from one misstep to another during his time as editorial-page editor, so it would be a mistake to attribute his departure solely to the Cotton op-ed. I don’t think he ever fully recovered from his mishandling of a Bret Stephens column in which Stephens came very close to endorsing a genetic basis for intelligence.

Bennet will be replaced through the election on an interim basis by deputy editorial-page editor Katie Kingsbury, who won a Pulitzer when she was at The Boston Globe. Kingsbury is terrific, and I hope she’s given a chance to earn the job.

Finally, a semi-related incident involving the Globe. You may have seen this on the front of Sunday’s print edition:

There’s no question that the cover, which you can see here, would have been considered entirely inoffensive before a police officer killed George Floyd. Even now I’m not sure how many readers would have been outraged. Still, I think the Globe made the right call. An abundance of caution and sensitivity is what’s needed at the moment.

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Pittsburgh’s strawberry fields

david_shribmanThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has unveiled a paid Web site intended as a supplement to its free online edition.

According to editor David Shribman (photo), the Boston Globe’s former Washington-bureau chief, “We were always selling chocolate and vanilla [the print and free online versions]. Now we are also selling strawberry.”

Editor & Publisher’s Joe Strupp reports on what you’ll find in Pittsburgh’s strawberry fields:

A peak [sic] at the PG Plus lineup finds a mix of pay-only blogs and discussions, as well as a Facebook-like online community in which users sign on to post comments, interact with other users and Post-Gazette staffers. Online discussions with journalists and others also will be held.

Members will also receive discounts and gain access to various entertainment and sports events. The cost: $3.99 a month, or $36 a year.

Will it work? Who knows? I do think it’s the right approach, and similar to what Globe editor Marty Baron said might be in the works at Boston.com when he was interviewed by Emily Rooney in July. Readers have demonstrated that they’ll pay for chocolate but not vanilla. Will they pay for strawberry? We’ll soon find out.