The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, along with our parent union The NewsGuild-CWA, is launching an interview series to assess and evaluate the culture of our local’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette unit and identify areas of improvement inside the newsroom.
The assessment is in response to an investigation by the Communications Workers of America that was prompted by allegations last September that former local president Michael Fuoco violated an internal policy of respect. The CWA’s mutual respect policy, which every member is expected to adhere, prohibits harassment and discrimination.
The situation brought attention to areas of concern within the Guild at the local and national level, including concerns that people did not feel comfortable reporting harassment or misconduct, did not feel there were proper procedures in place to respond to and act on these types of reports and did not feel protected by the very body put in place to protect them.
The Guild does not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind and leadership at all levels is committed to making the necessary changes needed to address these concerns.
Guild leadership was stunned by the allegations against Fuoco that gave rise to the internal CWA investigation as well as those which spurred a Dec. 6, 2020, article in The New York Times. In light of the CWA investigation, Guild leaders at the local level felt it was imperative to assess the culture of our own local, especially since none of these allegations were brought to our executive committee.
National leaders and our local’s Human Rights Committee have spent the last several months setting up an assessment process that will help us create a path forward. It aims to both look back at what happened and look forward at what we can and should do differently to cultivate an atmosphere of safety.
Rebecca Feaster, a former journalist who has experience developing and delivering bias, cultural awareness and anti-sexual harassment training programs will conduct the assessment over the next several weeks.
She has more than 25 years of experience in executive coaching, curriculum development, facilitation and consulting services. Feaster has worked as a journalist covering issues of bias, inequality and sexual harassment and has delivered diversity and inclusion-based training and consulting with the Virgina State Police, the City of Rockville, Maryland and The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
TNG lawyer Barbara Camens recommended Feaster for this role.
Feaster will interview former and current members with a pre-set list of questions that will prompt interviewees to share their experiences and shed light on the types of processes they feel should be put in place.
All the interviews will be anonymous.
Following the interviews, Feaster will release a public report that details what she has learned while keeping the identities of all interviewees anonymous. Based on members’ feedback, she will make a set of suggestions for how the Guild should improve its culture and its procedures moving forward. Those suggestions will be tailored to the Pittsburgh local but can act as a framework for other parts of the Guild looking to update their own policies and procedures.
This has been a monthslong process and Guild leadership is happy to see it coming to fruition.
“I strongly urge all Guild members to participate in this assessment,” said Guild President Lacretia Wimbley. “This is such a necessary step, and with the help of TNG, your Guild leaders decided to hire a third-party consultant to hear your accounts and concerns regarding the culture of our Guild. The only way we gain clarity and begin to heal is by being open and honest in this process. I implore everyone to participate and share.”
“This has been a learning process for all of us and we still have a lot of work to do,” NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss said. “Every one of us must be dedicated to creating a safe union for all of our members. I encourage folks to participate so we can improve our culture and make sure our union is safe for every member.”
Schleuss first heard credible allegations against Fuoco last September when he received a call from a woman regarding misconduct by Fuoco. The next day, he contacted local Guild leadership and briefed members on the nature and gravity of the allegations. Fuoco resigned from the Guild that evening and later retired from the Post-Gazette.
This assessment will build off the initial investigation from CWA, which was opened in September and closed in December, and have a forward-looking approach that focuses on what the Guild can do differently to better protect members.
In the end, we hope it results in new policies, procedures and systems that will enable members to come forward with concerns about harassment and misconduct and enable the Guild to take action immediately. We hope it fosters a culture where members know how to identify and prevent harassment, where survivors feel protected and where leadership is held accountable.
The assessment should conclude sometime this summer. Armed with feedback and suggestions, the Pittsburgh local is committed to creating an environment where members feel safe and protected. We are the first line of defense for our members not only when it comes to management and contract negotiations; we are ready to make the necessary changes to act as a more effective line of defense for protection against harassment, discrimination and misconduct against any members.
We are eager to get started.
The executive committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh
Alyssa Brown, Lauren Rosenblatt, Lacretia Wimbley, Zack Tanner, Jonathan Silver, Ed Blazina, Melissa Tkach, Ashley Murray, Patti Sabatini, Tyler Dague and Dan Gigler
For questions or media requests, please email email@example.com with a subject line “Listening Series”.