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Black Reporter Sues Pittsburgh Paper, Alleging Unequal Treatment

June 16, 2020, 11:47 PM

The publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was hit with a lawsuit in Pennsylvania federal court Tuesday by a Black reporter who says she was unfairly barred from covering protests stemming from the death of George Floyd because of a tweet.

Alexis D. Johnson, who has worked for PG Publishing Co. since October 2018 in various editorial roles, tweeted comparing the damage caused by protesters to the damage at a concert by country-music star Kenny Chesney, who is White, as are most of his fans. She was then barred from covering stories related to the George Floyd protests, according to the complaint.

“Johnson intended to mock and ridicule, and thus to protest, the racial bias and discrimination in a society that condemns African Americans who oppose racial injustice by protests that result in some property damage, while tolerates similar property damage by predominately white crowds,” the complaint said.

Johnson said 80 colleagues joined in her protest and that they were similarly barred from covering the ongoing protests.

She also claims reporters who have commented similarly on issues involving White people haven’t been treated in a similar manner.

“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,” attorneys for the plaintiff write in the complaint.

Causes of Action: Retaliation, race discrimination.

Relief: Permanent enjoining of retaliation against Johnson; allowing Johnson to cover racial discrimination stories; compensation for diminishment of career, damages, costs of litigation.

Response: Representatives for the defendant didn’t immediately return Bloomberg Law’s request for comment Tuesday.

Attorneys: The plaintiff is represented by Rothman Gordon PC. Counsel for the defendant wasn’t immediately available Tuesday.

The case is Johnson v. P G Publ’g Co., W.D. Pa., No. 2:20-cv-885, complaint 6/16/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McAfee in Los Angeles at dmcAfee@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com

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