Over the past week, journalists at publications across the country have publicly expressed their discontent with the way that newsrooms have been covering recent protests. Fed up with majority-white newsrooms where their work is often sidelined and underpaid, journalists of color are banding together and taking action.
On June 4, at least 34 journalists of color at the Philadelphia Inquirer called in “sick and tired,” in protest of larger systemic racism they had experienced in the newsroom. The reporters also cited a recent controversial headline from June 2 as a reason for the sick-out.
The article, written by architecture critic Inga Saffron, was initially published under the headline “Buildings Matter, Too” and equated the damage inflicted on buildings by looting during protests to the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police.
In an open letter to the paper, the journalists wrote, “We’re calling in sick and tired. Sick and tired of pretending things are OK. Sick and tired of not being heard.”
Following the strike, the Inquirer’s top editor Stan Wischnowski has stepped down.
The Inquirer isn’t the only publication facing backlash over headlines and historic racism in recent weeks. Following the publication of an editorial by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on June 3 that called upon President Trump to deploy the national guard against protestors, journalists of color at The New York Times publicly denounced the editorial’s publication.
The outcry prompted the resignation of James Bennet, editorial page editor of the Times.
The U.S. is an increasingly risky country for journalists, as indicated by its addition to the list of most dangerous countries for journalists in 2018, compiled by Reporters Without Borders. And the past few weeks of protests have seen skyrocketing rates of both literal and metaphorical attacks on the press.
It is clear that this breaking point is long overdue for newsrooms everywhere. And journalists have proven that through collective action, immediate institutional change is possible. In a moment of reckoning for the industry, and for the U.S. as a whole, we can only hope that this leads to lasting systemic change.