Pittsburgh NewsGuild Prez Resigns Following Payday Expose on Sexual Misconduct

The New York Times described Pittsburgh CWA NewsGuild President as the "Harvey Weinstein of Pittsburgh" (WTAE).

Earlier this morning, the New York Times’ Ben Smith reported that Michael Fuoco resigned as President of the Pittsburgh NewsGuild following Payday Report’s exposé that revealed Fuoco’s serial sexual misconduct. 

For the time being, transportation reporter Ed Blazina will take over as acting president as the union moves toward a strike at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 

Over the past two years, Payday Report has investigated Fuoco’s sexual misconduct, which was considered an “open secret” among Pittsburgh journalists for more than two decades. 

Our investigation revealed that 69-year-old Fuoco, former president of the Pittsburgh NewsGuild since 2010, used his on-and-off-again position as an adjunct journalism professor at both Pitt and Point Park University to regularly prey on his college students. According to multiple anonymous sources, Fuoco routinely used cocaine, alcohol, and his power as a teacher and mentor to lure students into long-term, regular sexual relationships. 

“I think that my obvious issues with drinking and drugs made me very easy prey for him,” one former Pitt student told Payday Report. “He was my teacher and responsible for my grade while this was ongoing. I thought, too, that I might professionally benefit from his success as a journalist.” 

On Tuesday Payday also reported that Fuoco had been accused of sexual misconduct against women journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, with multiple sources confirming allegations that several HR complaints for sexual misconduct were made against Fuoco during his 36-year-tenure at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and yet no action was taken. 

Moreover, National NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss knew of sexual misconduct allegations against Fuoco since December of 2019. But, Schleuss resisted opening a formal investigation into Fuoco and meanwhile continued to promote Fuoco publicly on Twitter, and this past month, he approved the usage of strike funds under Fuoco’s leadership. 

According to NewsGuild insiders, Schleuss allegedly was looking for legal excuses to not get a national union involved in a local union’s affairs. The National NewsGuild did not return requests for comment. 

Schleuss was also caught on tape watching as a local Pittsburgh NewsGuild union officer, Zach Tanner repeatedly punched and hit me, Payday Reporter Mike Elk, as I attempted to question Schleuss about his refusal to remove Fuoco. Schleuss did not intervene, nor did he denounce the clear violent attack on me, a labor reporter and a dues-paying member of his union.

(Read “As New Sexual Misconduct Allegations Emerge Against Fuoco, NewsGuild Stays Silent”)

Following Fuoco’s resignation, questions still remain as to why the Pittsburgh NewsGuild did not take action earlier to remove Fuoco. They did not immediately return a request for comment on what they plan to do next. A 3 p.m. emergency meeting is scheduled for the Guild today. 

This August, the union voted to authorize a strike, and a strike could happen any day now. It’s unclear what effect that the change in leadership will have on the union’s strike ability. 

Questions also remain about what the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the University of Pittsburgh, and Point Park University knew about Fuoco’s conduct. Sexual misconduct complaints were filed against him at all three institutions, but none have chosen to comment on the allegations. 

Lastly, many questions also remain about why many key media figures in Pittsburgh ignored Fuoco’s well known sexual misconduct for more than two decades. 

Perhaps many were afraid to report on Fuoco’s sexual misconduct, given Fuoco’s considerable influence among many of the leading names of Pittsburgh journalism. Now, some may be implicated as complicit because they knew about Fuoco’s sexual misconduct, but failed to take action. 

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]

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