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Top Philadelphia Inquirer editor resigns after 'Buildings Matter, Too' headline

The top editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer has resigned after a "Buildings Matter, Too" headline spurred dozens of journalists of color inside the newsroom to skip work and demand the newspaper tackle diversity problems. 

The Inquirer's publisher, Lisa Hughes, announced in a memo to staff on Saturday that Executive Editor Stan Wischnowski would formally step down from his post on June 12, according to reports. 

Hughes thanked Wischnowski for his service leading the paper but noted that leadership would use the incident to "evaluate the organizational structure and processes of the newsroom, assess what we need, and look both internally and externally for a seasoned leader who embodies our values, embraces our shared strategy, and understands the diversity of the communities we serve," the Inquirer reported

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Wischnowski's exit comes just days after the headline accompanied a column from an architecture critic about the protests in response to the death of George Floyd and the destruction of property that had resulted in some pockets of Philadelphia. 

The headline, which served as a play on the phrase "Black Lives Matter," prompted accusations that the Inquirer was suggesting an equivalence between property damage and the police killings of African Americans. Ernest Owens, vice president of print for the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, said in a statement that it "antagonized an already intense national conversation on race." 

Three editors, including Wischnowski, signed a public apology published on the Inquirer's website Wednesday. The note acknowledged that the title "offensively riffed on the Black Lives Matter movement" and said it was "unacceptable."

The note also said that an editor had devised the headline and that another had reviewed it. The editors added that the incident showcased a need to change some editing and headline-writing processes. 

But for many employees at the Inquirer, the apology was not enough. Forty-four journalists of color signed an open letter to leadership arguing that their carelessness made it harder for them to do their jobs and "at worst, puts our lives at risk." They demanded the newspaper create a transparent plan to address diversity problems.

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"On June 4, we’re calling in sick and tired," the letter said. "Sick and tired of pretending things are OK. Sick and tired of not being heard."

The developments came as dozens of New York Times journalists rebuked the newspaper over its decision to publish an op-ed from Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonCotton mocks NY Times over claim of nonpartisanship, promises to submit op-eds as test Barrett fight puts focus on abortion in 2020 election COVID outbreak threatens GOP's Supreme Court plans MORE (R-Ark.) calling for military intervention to quell domestic protests. Staffers there also said that the decision to share the op-ed was putting African American employees in danger. 

Diane Mastrull, the president of the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia union, said in a letter posted on the union's site that Saturday's announcement of Wischnowski's resignation represented an important step.

"The Inquirer’s executive level needs more diversity if it is ever going to have credibility with the Philadelphia community, as well as with its own employees, that it really truly cares about reflecting ALL people," Mastrull, a journalist at the Inquirer, wrote. "To my colleagues of color, please take heart that you have been heard. But you must not grow silent. There is much within The Inquirer that still needs to change."