IS THIS ‘BIAS?’ City Paper unveils 2016 photo of PG’s Keith Burris with Trump

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by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
Just as Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Executive Editor Keith Burris penned an op-ed on the newspaper’s website reiterating that two Black journalists under his watch showed “bias” in a tweet, the Pittsburgh City Paper pulled out its Investigative Journalism handbook and found a 2016 published photo of Burris with then-candidate Donald Trump, who, as everyone knows, later became President of these United States.

City Paper editor Lisa Cunningham wrote her own op-ed, posted on June 10, with the headline, “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette& editor’s photo with Trump proves own journalistic bias he claims to condemn.”
Cunningham said her paper received the photo from “a source who took a screenshot of it from John Robinson Block’s Facebook page.”

Block is the publisher of the Post-Gazette.

The City Paper reported that at the time the photo was taken, Burris was the editorial page editor of the Toledo Blade, which is also owned by the Block family. He now is not only the executive editor of the PG, but the director of the opinion pages of both the PG and Blade.

“Why is the Trump photo significant?” Cunningham asked. “Because when you’re calling out a staff member for bias, without even explaining what exactly her bias is, it’s important to take a look in the mirror.”

In general, those in the media business are to remain impartial and unbiased, unless they are an opinion columnist. Alexis Johnson, the Black reporter who was banned from covering local George Floyd protests, has endlessly said that her tweet on May 31 which jokingly compared the Pittsburgh looting and destruction from May 30 protests to the annual Kenny Chesney concert tailgate parties at Heinz Field showed no bias.
Her employer disagreed. Then, the Post-Gazette banned a Black photographer from covering the protests because he retweeted Johnson’s original post. Santiago announced on June 14 that he was leaving the Post-Gazette.

Joshua Axelrod, a White reporter at the Post-Gazette, said on June 8 that he was treated in a “more lenient” manner than his Black colleague, Johnson, in a social media post that he made which was questionable. He was permitted to cover the protests.

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, among other organizations, has called for the both Burris and PG managing editor Karen Kane to resign. Neither have resigned nor apologized, as the Guild has demanded, but Giant Eagle responded by ceasing the selling of Post-Gazette newspapers in its Western Pennsylvania stores.

“So … it’s not biased for a newspaper publisher and executive editor to fraternize with a Republican presidential candidate, who later becomes President of the United States, and to apply conservative bias into editorial decisions that defend that politician and views that align with him,” Cunningham, the City Paper editor, wrote. “Just as it’s not biased to pull a Black reporter off of protest coverage for a tweet, while not doing the same for a White reporter.

But it is& bias for a reporter to tweet a photo about trash in a parking lot and make a joke about looters. Got it.”

“So … it’s not biased for a newspaper publisher and executive editor to fraternize with a Republican presidential candidate, who later becomes President of the United States, and to apply conservative bias into editorial decisions that defend that politician and views that align with him, just as it’s not biased to pull a Black reporter off of protest coverage for a tweet, while not doing the same for a White reporter.
But it is& bias for a reporter to tweet a photo about trash in a parking lot and make a joke about looters. Got it.”
LISA CUNNINGHAM
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, CITY PAPER

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FEATURED IMAGE: Donald Trump, then a candidate for president, with Keith Burris, who now is the executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The newspaper’s top editors banned Black reporter Alexis Johnson from covering local George Floyd protests due to a tweet that managers flagged as showing “bias.” (Photo obtained by the City Paper via Facebook)

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