Last week, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dealt with an incident in which the paper’s publisher, John Robinson Block, burst into the newsroom with his young daughter and began shouting at employees.
Block demanded, according to the New York Times, for someone to take a photo of him and his daughter in front of the “Shame on the Blocks!” sign hanging in the Post-Gazette newsroom and publish it on the front page of Sunday’s paper.
The sign was hung by the journalists’ union in December following a long labor dispute between the Post-Gazette and Block Communications, which also owns the Toledo Blade.
This incident comes after other disputes between the publisher and the editorial board at the Post-Gazette.
While everyone would agree Block’s actions were wrong, it’s the implications of the event that pose the most serious issue.
Block’s behavior suggests that the publisher should have complete control over what is published—an acceptable presumption for a smaller publication but not a region-wide newspaper encompassing many viewpoints and opinions.
The publisher cannot influence the publication of a story that needs to be told, especially one that directly involves said person.
We practice this at the IC; our publisher, the Collegian Media Foundation, defers entirely to the editorial board in regard to content published.
There is a mutual trust on each side, with both recognizing the importance to publish the truth even if it comes with complicated consequences.
This kind of mutual understanding helps us operate efficiently while establishing a sense of boundaries. Our staff writers are free to report on issues affecting the UT community and write columns that truly reflect their opinions.
Having this sense of control over our journalistic freedom allows our writers to trust our management and work together as a team. This sense of trust is vital for a newsroom to function smoothly.
As more newspapers are fighting to remain relevant and struggling with a declining print presence, their last concern should be on the dynamics of work relationships in the newsroom.
The staff shouldn’t have to worry about poor treatment from their managers when they are already receiving this kind of animosity from a significant portion of the readership.
Especially in a world that continues to grow increasingly hostile toward reporters, we have to look out for each other and protect the integrity of journalism.
It’s this kind of environment that fosters growth amongst writers, photographers, editors and other staff. It pushes them to tell meaningful stories and excel in their respective careers.
The integrity of a newspaper should be the first priority of staff, management and readers. Allowing an owner’s ego to get in the way violates such principles.
Newspapers are already battling to remain relevant and respected by readers; such inane interference as Block’s actions only add to the notion that newspapers cannot operate without bias.
This kind of inexcusable behavior hinders our mission as journalists, tarnishes our reputations and challenges our ability to do our jobs. It keeps us from being taken seriously and only invites embarrassment to our profession.
Shame on the Blocks.