Employees of The Philadelphia Inquirer skipped work on Thursday in protest of a column headlined “Buildings Matter, Too” in Wednesday’s newspaper.
As of 9 a.m. Thursday, 44 members of the newspaper’s staff had called into work “sick and tired” in response to an article written by Inga Saffron, the paper’s architecture critic, decrying the destruction of buildings and property around Philadelphia.
The original headline was “Buildings Matter, Too,” an apparent reference to “Black Lives Matter,” which has been the rallying cry of activists since the 2013 shooting of Trayvon Martin.
Protests have taken place in cities across the country for several days in response to the death of George Floyd. Floyd died May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for roughly nine minutes. Some of the protests have become violent riots.
The Inquirer staff wrote an open letter to the newspaper’s leadership on Thursday demanding change.
“We’re tired of shouldering the burden of dragging this 200-year-old institution kicking and screaming into a more equitable age,” the letter said.
Features reporter Brandon Bell was one of dozens of Inquirer employees to join in the protest, tweeting his support for the move.
“Things need to change. We call on The Inquirer to do better. To be better,” he tweeted.
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.
— Brandon Bell (@brandontrevion) June 4, 2020
The Inquirer, which is the largest paper in Philadelphia, changed the headline of the controversial story and added an editor’s note saying the story was “inappropriate and we should not have printed it.”
“We need to do better,” the note added.
The editors of the paper went further, publishing a separate story apologizing for the headline on Wednesday night.
The incident mimics a similar situation at The New York Times, which published an Op-Ed written by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas on Wednesday. Journalists at The Times denounced the decision to publish Cotton’s piece.
A senior staff editor went as far as to tweet that the piece puts black staff at The Times “in danger.”
— Ashley Calloway-Blatch (@acallowayblatch) June 3, 2020
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