Philadelphia Editor Resigns Over ‘Buildings Matter’ Headline

June 7, 2020 Updated: June 7, 2020

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s top editor is resigning after backlash over a headline lamenting damage to businesses by rioters amid protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, the paper announced Saturday.

The newspaper said Stan Wischnowski, 58, was stepping down as senior vice president and executive editor.

The Inquirer had apologized for a “horribly wrong” decision to use the headline, “Buildings Matter, Too,” on a column Tuesday about looting and vandalism during protests in Minneapolis over Floyd’s death in police custody.

The backlash came as The New York Times was widely criticized for publishing an opinion piece by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton advocating the use of federal troops to quell the protests.

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 it replaced that headline 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.”

Firefighters work on an apartment building
Firefighters work on an apartment building under construction on May 28, 2020, tentatively known as Midtown Corner, left, after it was burned to the ground in Minneapolis, Minn. during protests. (Brian Peterson/Star Tribune via AP)

The Inquirer published an apology from senior editors. Publisher and CEO Lisa Hughes said in a memo to staff that the headline was “offensive and inappropriate” and said the newspaper needed a more diverse workforce.

The 59-year-old became the paper’s first female publisher in February, taking over from Terrance C.Z. Egger. She has been on The Inquirer’s board of directors since 2018, and served last year briefly as a paid consultant with the organization on events strategy. She has not previously worked in local news or at a daily newspaper.

Wischnowski had worked at the Inquirer for 20 years and was editor when the paper won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for an in-depth investigation into violence within Philadelphia schools.

He will formally leave the newspaper June 12. Hughes did not immediately name a successor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.