According to the letter, Johnson was excluded from protest coverage because of a post she tweeted on May 31 joking about the notorious messes typically left by fans outside of Kenny Chesney concerts. The tweet compared the outrage over property damage during protests to the mountains of garbage typically left behind in local parking lots after the country musician’s performances. As of print, the tweet in question now has around 47,900 retweets and 161,100 likes on Twitter.
In response to the situation, members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, the union that represents P-G staff, are reposting Johnson’s tweet word for word with the hashtag #IStandWithAlexis. The Guild also posted header and profile images featuring the words “I Stand with Alexis,” and the images and text of the tweet for supporters to use.
Horrifying scenes and aftermath from selfish LOOTERS who don’t care about this city!!!!!— Alexis Johnson (@alexisjreports) May 31, 2020
.... oh wait sorry. No, these are pictures from a Kenny Chesney concert tailgate. Whoops. pic.twitter.com/lKRNrBsltU
P-G journalists and supporters have already reposted the tweet on Twitter with #IStandWithAlexis, some providing explanations or additional messages of support.
Horrifying scenes and aftermath from selfish LOOTERS who don’t care about this city!!!!!— Ashley Murray (@Ashley__Murray) June 5, 2020
.... oh wait sorry. No, these are pictures from a Kenny Chesney concert tailgate. Whoops.#IStandWithAlexis pic.twitter.com/IrvlG03z9a
Horrifying scenes and aftermath from selfish LOOTERS who don’t care about this city!!!!!.... oh wait sorry. No, these are pictures from a Kenny Chesney concert tailgate. Whoops.#IStandWithAlexis pic.twitter.com/uqJ6kcdGb6— Ed Blazina (@EdBlazina) June 5, 2020
The photographer of the original photos included with the tweet, Michael Santiago, also tweeted his support and thanked Johnson for making his tweet go viral.
Horrifying scenes and aftermath from selfish LOOTERS who don’t care about this city!!!!!....— Kate Giammarise (@KateGiammarise) June 5, 2020
oh wait sorry. No, these are pictures from a Kenny Chesney concert tailgate. Whoops.#IStandWithAlexis pic.twitter.com/RGa8kPFSPM
Pennsylvania Treasury twitter account, also tweeted with the hashtag. Other supporters tweeting the hashtag and copying the tweet include members of the Newspaper Guild of Toledo, the sister union of Pittsburgh's guild, and several prominent Pittsburgh media personalities, including radio host Michael Dougherty, aka Mikey from the Morning Freak Show on 96.1 FM.
“Today, we decided to show their support by retweeting the exact words and pictures of Alexis’ tweet. We are basically saying to the Post-Gazette management: take all of us off protest coverage, or ignore it and reinstate Alexis,” says Fuoco. ”This newsroom is proudly in support of Alexis and condemns the action of management."
The Pittsburgh Black Media Federation released a statement in support of Johnson.
“It is unfortunate that Ms. Johnson’s voice has been silenced at a time when diversity in the media is needed more than ever,” says Brian Cook, president of the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, in the letter. “To remove one of very few African American news reporters – in the entire city of Pittsburgh – from a beat where she could make a difference, is not only troubling, it is abhorrent.”
The letter calls the management’s justification for removing Johnson “baffling” in light of the fact that the tweet was posted on Johnson’s private Twitter account, and states that the Federation is in sharp disagreement with the decision made by the P-G’s managing editor, Karen Kane.
“There was no malicious bias and nothing to suggest her reporting would be compromised or slanted if she continued telling the story of the protests.”
Columnist and designer Tereneh Idia, who writes a column for CP, organized a Google Docs form where people can add their names to a letter defending Johnson.
The letter calls for the P-G to “center and amplify Black voices, perspectives, and coverage in Pittsburgh’s overwhelming white media landscape, not silence or censor them, as you have done to Ms. Johnson,” and demands the reinstatement of Johnson to Black Lives Matter coverage and an apology from Kane.
Posted at 11 a.m. on June 5, the form has already accumulated over 14 pages-worth of signatures from more than 500 signers.
This is a public open document. We are asking people to sign it and share. If it gets locked for any reason please let me know.— Tereneh 🙏🏾❤️🖖🏾Idia (@Tereneh152XX) June 5, 2020
Thank you. https://t.co/2jfnOZC3oD