PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Dozens of journalists didn’t show up to work Thursday at the Philadelphia Inquirer after a headline published this week was interpreted as insensitive remarks about the Black Lives Matter movement.
The headline tried to make a parallel between vandalized buildings and racism, but for some, the comparison missed the mark. Now, the newspaper’s union is calling for changes.
“I was surprised,” NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia President Diane Mastrull said.
“Buildings Matter, Too” was a headline that ran in the Inquirer on Tuesday, causing outrage both by readers and many of the Inquirer’s own employees.
“It’s not just three words. Those three words on top of years and years of complaints within the Philadelphia Inquirer that we were not devoted to diversity,” Mastrull said.
Today, I’m joining my colleagues of color at the @PhillyInquirer and calling in sick and tired.
Things need to change. We call on The Inquirer to do better. To be better.
— Jonathan Lai 🙊 賴柏羽 (@Elaijuh) June 4, 2020
Mastrull told Eyewitness News on Thursday that at least two staff members at the Inquirer read and edit headlines before the paper gets printed. But after backlash from social media, nearly 30 workers at the paper declined to work on Thursday, many calling in “sick and tired of not being heard.”
Editors also issued an apology for the headline.
An Inquirer headline suggested an equivalence between the loss of buildings and the lives of black Americans. That is unacceptable.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer (@PhillyInquirer) June 4, 2020
In a statement, Lisa Hughes, the newspaper’s publisher said, “As the first female publisher in the 190-year history of The Inquirer, I can tell you firsthand that we have been too slow to change to reflect the community we serve.”
Hughes also added that more changes will come.
The union says the aftermath shows employees’ concerns at the paper go much deeper than an offensive headline.
“We all have to learn from this. We all have to know people are suffering and they’ve been suffering for a long time,” Mastrull said.
Meanwhile, Di Bruno Bros. is also grappling with employees threatening to not show up to work on Friday because the market was offering on-duty officers free lunch.