Election 2017

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette could endorse Donald Trump, and its newsroom is worried

Its editorial page editor won’t comment, but a reporter says the “distressing” rumor is making the rounds inside Pennsylvania’s largest daily newspaper.

Donald Trump holds up his cover of Time Magazine in Council Bluffs, IA.

Donald Trump holds up his cover of Time Magazine in Council Bluffs, IA.

Photo via Matt AJ on Flickr

Some journalists in the newsroom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are worried: A rumor is making the rounds that the paper and its sister publication, The Toledo Blade, are considering an endorsement of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump — which would make the publications the first major newspapers to throw their weight behind the controversial insurgent candidate.

Some Post-Gazette reporters are worried about their paper’s credibility should it support the billionaire candidate who’s campaigned on a platform that includes deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, building a wall between the United States and Mexico and banning Muslims from entering the country.

“I did hear a rumor to that effect, which is very distressing,” said Michael Fuoco, a Post-Gazette reporter who’s also President of the Pittsburgh Newspaper Guild. “But we’re not privy to that (information).” However, other sources in the Post-Gazette‘s newsroom were caught off guard by the idea.

Tom Waseleski, the Post-Gazette’s editorial page editor and member of the editorial board, said, “We’re nowhere near any endorsement with regards to any candidate, with regards to any primaries.”

He said the editorial board doesn’t discuss any of their internal conversations about editorials, politics or otherwise.

“We let our editorials speak for themselves,” Waseleski said.

John Block, listed on the masthead as publisher and editor-in-chief, sits on the Post-Gazette editorial board but doesn’t appear to have a history of donating any large sums of money to Republican candidates. The paper itself has been more liberal in its editorial stances than that of its hometown competitor, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

However, John Block’s twin brother Allan Block has, according to FEC filings, donated tens of thousands to Republican political candidates across the country since the late nineties. He’s also the chairman of Block Communications, Inc., the Toledo-based parent company that publishes both papers and owns a number of TV stations in the Midwest.

Block Communications did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The P-G’s circulation is, on average, about 160,000 Monday through Friday, according to the Alliance for Audited Media’s most recent report. That makes it, by a hair, the state’s largest newspaper — the Inquirer’s most recent circulation is listed as 156,000 during weekdays.

In its earliest days, The Post-Gazette — then known as the The Gazette was considered a conservative paper. It has mostly skewed liberal in recent years. The paper endorsed President Barack Obama for the general election in both 2008 and 2012. However, that year, Allan Block publicly supported Romney for the general election.

Meanwhile, just today,The Blade called for the resignation of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, over his handling of the water crisis in Flint.

The concern in the newsroom in Pittsburgh comes amid an announcement that The Post-Gazette could be laying off a portion of its staff. The Pittsburgh Business Times reported today that the newsroom union, which represents 157 editorial employees, was notified of potential layoffs that could take place in late March after a final round of voluntary buyouts.

The Post-Gazette and The Blade would likely be the first newspapers in the country to endorse Trump, while plenty of others have editorialized he’s not fit for the presidency. The endorsements which could come prior to each state’s respective primary — Ohio on March 15 and Pennsylvania on April 26 — will come on top of growing congressional endorsements for Trump and the support of former presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Trump continues to lead the Republican field in national polls and picked up seven states this week during Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses.

Anna Orso and Mark Dent contributed to this report.

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Chris Krewson is the executive director of LION Publishers, a national nonprofit association that serves local journalism entrepreneurs build sustainable news organizations, and the founding editor of Billy Penn. He lives in Havertown.