The Philadelphia Inquirer’s top editor is resigning after a staff uproar over a “Buildings Matter, Too” headline that ran on an article lamenting damage to businesses amid turbulent protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody, according to reports.
Stan Wischnowski, 58, stepped down Saturday as executive editor at the Inquirer – one of the country’s most prominent newspapers – which has struggled as journalism has tried to adapt to the digital age.
The day after the headline ran Wischnowski and senior editors posted an apology on the paper’s website, calling it “offensive” and saying it never should have run.
"The headline accompanied a story on the future of Philadelphia’s buildings and civic infrastructure in the aftermath of this week’s protests,” the apology said. “The headline offensively riffed on the Black Lives Matter movement and suggested an equivalence between the loss of buildings and the lives of black Americans. That is unacceptable.”
About 30 members of the Inquirer’s 210-member editorial staff called in sick earlier this week, and black staff members angrily condemned the headline.
It appeared over an article by architecture critic Inga Saffron, who worried that buildings damaged in violence over the past week could “leave a gaping hole in the heart of Philadelphia.”
The Inquirer drew fresh scorn after the headline was replaced online with one that read, “Black Lives Matter. Do Buildings?” Eventually, the newspaper settled on “Damaging buildings disproportionately hurt the people protesters are trying to uplift.”
The backlash came as The New York Times was widely criticized for publishing an opinion piece by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., advocating the use of federal troops to quell the protests.
More than 800 Times employees signed a letter protesting the publication of the op-ed.
Times leaders, including the publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, and the editorial page editor, James Bennet, apologized for publishing the article in a videoconference meeting with staff members Friday, the paper reported. Later that day, The Times appended an editor’s note to the op-ed.
Wischnowski was with the Inquirer for 20 years and oversaw the publication of stories on violence in Philadelphia public schools that won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2012.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.