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Amid turmoil, Post-Gazette appoints Keith Burris to top editor position

Written by Lucy Perkins/WESA | Feb 19, 2019 4:06 AM
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People walk past the building where the offices of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

(Pittsburgh) -- Keith Burris will lead the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as executive editor, "effective immediately," according to a notice posted in the newsroom on Monday evening.

Burris has led the editorial page as editorial director for both the Post-Gazette and its sister paper, The Toledo Blade, since March of 2018. According to a tweet of the announcement by Jonathan Silver, unit chair of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, Burris will continue to direct both editorial pages in addition to assuming the role of top editor at the Pittsburgh paper.

Just a year ago, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day,  the paper published a widely-criticized editorial called "Reason as Racism," which defended President Trump from racist remarks. Publisher John Robinson Block later revealed it was penned by Burris. Block has said he believes East-coast media is "shamefully biased against the President."

During Burris' tenure as editorial director, political cartoonist Rob Rogers was firedover a string of cartoons critical of President Trump, and the paper's editorial section has shifted politically to the right.

Burris will replace David Shribman, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who was the newspaper's top editor for 16 years, before retiring unexpectedly in December. It was widely known among newsroom staff that Shribman was planning to retire in the late summer of 2019.

Publisher J.R. Block made national headlines last week when he shocked his staff for a newsroom "tantrum" over a union poster that condemned the Block family's behavior amidst stalled contract negotiations.

"[Block] talked about - almost bragging - how he fired David Shribman and how he wanted to get every trace of David Shribman out of there," said Post-Gazette reporter Andrew Goldstein, describing the episode to WESA last week.

According to the Guild, Burris accompanied Block when he returned to the newsroom after the Saturday night episode.

Michael Fuoco, a reporter and president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, said, "[The Guild has] no comment on Burris' appointment, however you have our previous reaction to his racist editorial and the firing of Rob Rogers."

The Guild called that editorial "a blight on the 231 years of service the Post-Gazette has provided its readers."

When it came to Rogers, the Guild wrote: "It appears Rob's only transgression was doing his job--providing satirical comment based on his political views of the world. There never was a problem before but with the new order of the Post-Gazette editorial pages, it seems that those who do not follow the pro-Trump, pro-conservative orthodoxy of the publisher and editorial director are of no use."

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