John Block ’77 — the publisher of the Toledo Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the family namesake of a popular Yale journalism internship — has been accused of storming into the Post-Gazette’s building with his daughter while allegedly intoxicated and berating his employees and daughter, according to a post on the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh’s website.
Block used “threatening posturing” and a “verbally abusive tone,” according to Post-Gazette web editor Marianne Mizera’s account of the Feb. 9 incident released on the Guild’s website. His daughter, who is a minor, was shaken to the point of “sobbing.” At one point, Block allegedly “forcefully grabbed” his daughter’s arm and pulled her while she tried to “pull away from him.”
The event, which occurred around 10 p.m., “rattled” staff and involved shouting “out rude comments about various current and former managers, mocking them [and] the newsroom staff (what he called ‘the working class’),” according to Mizera’s testimony. Three other eye witnesses released statements on the Guild’s website corroborating her account.
The Newspaper Guild said that they released the testimony in order to refute the “false narrative” made by Allan Block — John Block’s twin brother and the chairman of Block Communications Inc., which owns the two newspapers. In a statement, Allan Block blamed the incident on “frustration over financial and other challenges in the newspaper industry.” In the statement, Allan Block apologized if anyone present “misconstrued what occurred as anything other than an indication of strong concern and support for the legacy and future of the Post-Gazette.”
“There was no ‘unfortunate exchange.’ Nothing was ‘misconstrued,’” said the Guild’s Feb. 13 post. “To blame John Block’s erratic, menacing and disturbing conduct on [financial and other challenges in the newspaper industry] is cowardly, despicable and a blatant lie.”
John Block’s office and the editors of the Post-Gazette did not respond to request for comment.
Several students who had already been accepted to the internship at either the Blade or the Post-Gazette received an email from Derek Webster ’99, associate director for the arts at the Yale Office of Career Strategy, after the news of John Block’s exchange with staffers broke. The email states that the students would not be held to their original commitment to work at either of the papers over the summer, as the report of John Block’s actions brings “into question the quality and stability of the summer experience we might expect from that paper.”
While he said that students would be given the option to remain at the Block family papers, the Yale Journalism Initiative was searching for other papers where the students could work over the summer.
The five students who had already been accepted into the internship declined to comment for the story. Webster could not be reached for a comment.
“While I obviously don’t have first-hand knowledge of what transpired in the newsroom, I’m extremely troubled by these reports, and in the short-term I’m looking for other newspapers to take on our students this summer,” said Mark Oppenheimer, the coordinator of the Yale Journalism Initiative.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade were founded in 1786 and 1835, respectively.
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