A reporter that was banned from covering Pittsburgh’s Black Lives Matter protests for a tweet she posted has now sued the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper she works for.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Alexis Johnson, who is a Black female reporter, filed the suit in a Pennsylvania federal court claiming that the Post-Gazette has acted in both racial discrimination and illegal retaliation. The suit reportedly goes on to say that Johnson’s editors instructed her not to follow through with her plans of covering stories on jailed protesters or efforts to raise bail funds on social-media because “A May 31 tweet she sent about the different treatment Black and white people get for doing property damage was an unacceptable public display of bias.”
“The Johnson Tweet was intended to — and did — mock, ridicule and protest discrimination against African Americans by society in general and by whites who equate property damage with human life,” the lawsuit reportedly says.
The suit reportedly claims that the ban on her coverage, “would tend to dissuade a reasonable newspaper reporter from making or supporting claims of race discrimination.”
Johnson’s tweet displayed pictures of trashed public spaces in the aftermath of a gathering, with the text: “Horrifying scenes and aftermath from selfish LOOTERS who don’t care about this city!!!!!” followed by, “…. oh wait sorry. “No, these are pictures from a Kenny Chesney concert tailgate. Whoops.”
The suit reportedly alleges that white reporters who have posted similar content on social media did not receive the same treatment.
“For example, Defendant’s reporters who spoke out publicly against discrimination and hate after the 2018 shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue — which did not involve actions by police directed at African Americans — were not removed from covering that story,” the suit reportedly says.
Michael M. Santiago, a black photographer for the paper who says he was also banned from protest coverage for the same reason as Johnson, has accepted a buyout and is leaving the news outlet. Santiago tweeted, “I hate to be departing under these circumstances, but it is necessary,” along with “how can I work for someone that doesn’t love me.”
Karen Kane, the managing editor for the Post-Gazzette, previously declined for comment, saying that the editors couldn’t discuss personnel matters.
Johnson is receiving support from fellow reporters, her union, and the city’s mayor. They’ve all sent tweets of their support of her.
Johnson’s Guild President, Michael A. Fuoco, who is a Post-Gazette reporter as well, reportedly stated that guild leaders were “appalled” by the newspaper’s actions and that the editors have not backed down at all in talks about Johnson’s status.