Three weeks after news broke that Pittsburgh City Paper was being bought by the company that owns the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the president of the NewsGuild-CWA labor union has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the consolidation of Pittsburgh’s local news market.
Jon Schleuss, the president of the NewsGuild — it represents thousands of journalists in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico — sent a letter requesting an investigation Wednesday to Jonathan Kanter, the assistant attorney general who heads the DOJ’s Antitrust Division.
In his letter, Schleuss describes the sale of City Paper to Cars Holding Inc. — a subsidiary of Post-Gazette owner Block Communications Inc. — as deeply concerning.
“It will harm the community by reducing points of view on key issues,” Schleuss writes. “It will also distort the local labor market for news workers by restricting the mobility of news employees.”
Schleuss points out that the Post-Gazette previously purchased the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph and The Pittsburgh Press in 1960 and 1992, respectively, and subsequently closed both. He adds that the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review stopped printing a Pittsburgh edition in 2016, and that the Post-Gazette has dropped to two print days a week.
Schleuss notes the existence of specialty newspapers, such as the Pittsburgh Business Times and the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, but says they lack the wider audience that the Post-Gazette and City Paper have. And other online-only publications, such as PublicSource, are unable to serve readers who lack reliable internet service.
He also rattles off examples of City Paper covering issues within the Post-Gazette, including a member of the Block family supporting the Jan. 6 insurrection, a newsroom tirade by PG publisher John Robinson Block, and PG management removing a Black reporter from coverage of racial justice protests over a tweet.
“As we know, a healthy news ecosystem is critical to sustaining democratic culture,” Schleuss writes.
An array of media organizations covering a variety of stories “gives readers the information they need to make decisions in their personal and professional lives,” Schleuss adds. “It also leads to a more informed citizenry.”
Meanwhile, workers at the Block-owned Post-Gazette have been on strike for more than 100 days over unfair labor practices.
Despite continued bad-faith bargaining by the company’s lawyers, striking workers have continued to picket, leaflet and produce work for the Pittsburgh Union Progress.
Additionally, fundraising efforts to help striking workers make ends meet had raised more than $230,000 as of Wednesday.