Posted on Saturday, June 13, 2020 at 04:34 a.m. (EST) &  Saturday, June 13, 20 at 02:04 p.m. (IST),  JUNE 2020 Edition

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“Poisonously Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Gravely Gutted!”

Ramesh C. Reddy

For many years, I wrote for 'The Pitt News' because I wanted to bring change to the paper from the inside out. I was not happy with the views of the paper so I decided to be the change that I wanted to see. I was blessed to be able to become a staff writer, staff columnist, and staff photographer with them. I remember one year when a letter to the editor published said something to the effect that 'If Ramesh wanted to promote his Christian views, he should write for a Christian newspaper and not the Pitt News'.  I am so grateful for all the editors who allowed me to write for the Pitt News. I have found memories of my time at the Pitt News.

In 2001, I remember Sydney Bergman, the Opinions Editor wanting all columnists to fill out an application to select columnists for that year. What I loved about the application was that they had a specific question asking, 'What organizations are you part of and if there are any conflict of interests we should know?' 

I knew the question had to do with upholding journalistic integrity, ethics, and impartiality. They wanted to make sure their staff writers and staff photographers will be objective in their writings and not present a perception of bias in their reporting. That was a noble endeavor!

Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics hopes journalists would seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable.

When I was with the Pitt News, accountability was big. I was allowed freedom to cover news stories, take photographs, or write opinion columns with oversight. That meant sometimes my stories, pictures, or even opinion columns were not published. I did not rant and rave against the management.

For me one of the key SPJ points for journalists is to act independently. This means they need to avoid conflicts of interest, real, or perceived; they need to remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility; refuse political involvement, avoid bidding for news. However, exceptions should be made in rare circumstances when they are the only ones that are available to cover the event.

Journalists also need to  be accountable which means they need to expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.

It is a travesty to see how many media outlets have poisoned the Pittsburgh Post-Gazettte's reputation for not allowing Black journalist Alexis Johnson and Black photo-journalist Michael Santiago from covering the 'Black Lives Matter' protests!

As a former Pitt News staff writer, I have worked alongside former Pitt News columnist and current PG staff writer Rick Nowlin, journalist Jonathan Silver, and former photo-journalist Lake Fong as our paths crossed covering different stories such as the Johnny Gammage trials/protests to gas leaks, etc. None of them could be biased if they wanted to cover a story.

What the PG has done is absolutely right if their intention was to avoid conflicts of interest, real, or perceived because they need to remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility. The management of the PG cited bias reasons for not allowing Johnson and Santiago from covering the 'Black Lives Matter' protests. The journalists should have accepted their reasons and moved on.

Instead, those two employees poisoned the reputation of the PG by making it a racial issue when it is clearly a bias issue from my perspective too. The PG has been gravely gutted with defamation.

What saddens me is the stance that The Pitt News, that I worked for many years, took with their editorial blasting the PG's decision for not allowing Johnson and Santiago to cover the 'Black Lives Matter'. 

If the media outlets are truly about journalistic integrity and ethics, my hope is that they will come and stand by the decision of the PG instead of poisoning their reputation.

I never thought I would come to the aid of the PG because I have loathed it's political and liberal views in its writings but to see them poisoned like this is a travesty. So, I stand with them!

When I was not allowed anymore to write my Evangelical columns for the Pitt News, I did not set up a news conference to blast the Pitt News. I was okay to join a Christian newspaper at the time and write for them. Even when the Pitt News was publishing anti-Ramesh columns because other columnists were infuriated with my writings, I did not bash the Pitt News. Eventually, the Pitt News wrote on the board: 'Moratorium on Anti-Ramesh' columns. It was a joy for me to work at the Pitt News even though we did not see eye to eye on issues.

Yet, what I see nowadays is if you are opposed for any reason, the moto becomes let us poison those that oppose us with our words and actions, suspend them, or fire them! This should not be! Instead their should be civil dialogue and compromise. It would not have been the end of the world for Johnson and Santiago if they did not cover the protests. If anything, people's respect for them would have grown because they reclused themselves because of bias issues that were stated.

Papers do make decisions that we will not always agree with but poisoning them is not the way to go!

The Pitt News knew my views regarding homosexuality so they published my column with the title, 'With love, homosexuality can be cured!', even though that is not the title I gave. 

This article is the one that started all the anti-Ramesh columns and broke the record for the number of letters to the editor. I was even told that I was the most hated person on campus. I did not let that get to me because I knew I was writing from a perspective of love using the Bible as my source material and Christ as the Healer.

Eventually, a debate was scheduled entitled, 'Homosexuality and Christianity: Is there a compromise?' 'Ramesh C. Reddy, Pitt News Columnist against Homosexuality vs 'Michael Mazza, Pitt News Columnist for Homosexuality'.

It was a standing room only event attended by people from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Nowlin, and atleast 5 other columnists. There was no bashing of each other there but a civilized debate and discourse. We do not see that happening anymore.

What made it special to me was when the leaders of Rainbow Alliance, the LGBT support group at Pitt told the audience that they know I don't agree with them but I show them love. They even mentioned, 'He even hugs us'.  My duty is to show the love of Christ to everyone but it is also my duty to speak out against sin or injustice. 

The injustice is occurring to the PG right now! 

Who will be brave enough to stand with me to support journalistic integrity and ethics?

This entire column is predicated on the belief that the management believed there would be bias in allowing two Black journalists to cover the 'Black Lives Matter' protest. There has not been much coverage given to the management team to give their side of the story in comparison to the two Black journalists. That is utterly wrong!

May we do the right thing without fear of thinking what other people would think about us. The Pitt News used to have a slogan that read, "If we are making friends, we are not doing our job!"

It is not a journalists job first and foremost to make friends but to expose the truth in all aspects as much as possible. If frienships remain, that is great. If friendships are lost, that is sad. But, the journalist can sleep peacefully at night knowing they told the truth. Let us be those kind of journalists. There are always two sides to a story and the truth needs to come out from both sides! 

Let us not be defined by, "The selfish man quarrels against every sound principle of conduct by demanding his own way." (Proverbs 18:1, TLB)

Instead let us remember, "What a shame - yes, how stupid!--to decide before knowing the facts! Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight." (Proverbs 18:15, 17, TLB)

Reddy’s Right Rhetoric takes you into the world of  journalism defending media outlets that promote the code of ethics of journalism.

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President George W. Bush's remarks to the March for Life  (Feb 2003)

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