Updated: 5:51 p.m. June 14
Readers have been asking us this question lately: Should I cancel my subscription to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette?
And while consumer boycotts can certainly be effective tools for bringing about institutional change, they may not be the best tool for dealing with the Post-Gazette.
Allow us to explain.
Readers — and regional grocery chains, apparently — have lots of reasons to be displeased with Post-Gazette ownership and management right now, or at almost any point in recent memory.
From the sidelining of Black reporters Alexis Johnson and Michael Santiago, to the “Reason as Racism” editorial published on MLK Day(!!), to the promotion of that editorial’s author, to the publisher’s newsroom meltdown, to the firing of Rob Rogers, and on. *Panting*
But cancelling your subscription may do more harm than good.
Here are a few reasons why:
- The owners of the Post-Gazette will still be very wealthy regardless of what happens to the paper. But the PG’s Pulitzer Prize-winning newsroom staff — with buyouts already being offered — has more at stake. (Update: Since the publication of this article, Michael Santiago announced his decision to take one of those buyouts.)
- Communities — often those of color — lose when there’s less news. (We explain why here.)
- Fewer subscribers doesn’t make the paper a better proposition for anyone who might be willing to buy it (Hi, Mark), assuming the Post-Gazette’s owners would even sell, and assuming new ownership is the goal. (New owners could be a negative if they choose more aggressive cuts to lower overhead and grow profits.)
But maybe the final word belongs to the reporters themselves, and perhaps that’s who we should be listening to here.
In a virtual panel hosted by the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation yesterday, Johnson and Santiago said this on the subject:
- Santiago: “We don’t want people to unsubscribe. We don’t want ads to be taken out. We just want people to be able to do their jobs.”
- Johnson: “ … at the end of the day, if we don’t sell our product, that puts our jobs in jeopardy. Somebody asked me: ‘How can I support you? I’m going to unsubscribe.’ And I don’t know if that’s the answer. I don’t have the answer. Because if this paper goes under, that’s 140 Guild members that are out of a job and these billionaires are going to pack it up and go on about their business.”
Asked the same question by The Incline, newsroom Guild president and PG reporter Michael Fuoco shared a link to this letter, which readers can sign demanding the paper make amends.
So write, make noise, share your thoughts, but maybe think twice before hitting that “cancel” button.
- The Voices Behind the Clash at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (CityLab)
- International Newsguild president calling on Keith Burris and Karen Kane to resign from Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh City Paper)
- Inside the Revolts Erupting in America’s Big Newsrooms (The New York Times)
- Racism wears down Pittsburgh’s reporters of color (Columbia Journalism Review)