Suicide Fuels Paper Feud

By Strupp, Joe | Editor & Publisher, March 27, 1999 | Go to article overview

Suicide Fuels Paper Feud


Strupp, Joe, Editor & Publisher


Dueling papers duke it out in mysterious suicide

The mysterious suicide of a left-wing conspiracy theorist outside the offices of a conservative Pittsburgh newspaper publisher -- and the resulting coverage by a rival paper -- has heightened an ongoing feud between the two dailies, culminating in two published attacks by the publisher against the rival's lead writer.

Editors at the 245,000-circulation Pittsburgh Post-Gazette say they covered the Feb. 8 suicide of 37-year-old Steven Kangas like any other news story. Kangas, a former Las Vegas computer consultant who had often criticized Greensburg Tribune-Review publisher Richard Scaife in free-lance Internet commentaries, was found shot to death in a room on the same floor as one of Scaife's offices.

Officials at the 82,000-circulation Tribune-Review have accused the Post-Gazette, owned by Blade Communications of Toledo, Ohio, of blowing the story out of proportion to harm Scaife.

During a stinging editorial published March 21, the Tribune-Review blasted Post-Gazette editors and staff writer Dennis Roddy, calling them "Scaife-haters" and their coverage "phony journalism." In addition, the editorial alleged that the Post-Gazette wrote its stories because "they are haters and it is in their nature."

Scaife's attorney says the editorial and a previous statement attacking the Post-Gazette coverage were proper responses. "The Post-Gazette has had a thing of going after Dick Scaife because of who he is," says H. Yale Gutnick, who represents Scaife.

Post-Gazette managing editor Madelyn Ross disagrees, saying that such an unusual death occurring near a prominent publisher's office is news.

"This is a news story" Ross says.

The dispute followed the death of Kangas, whose body was found in a men's room on the same floor as an office used by one of Scaife's foundations in a downtown Pittsburgh building. A building engineer reportedly discovered Kangas lying on the ground, apparently drunk, during a routine electrical circuit breaker check.

The engineer went for help and returned to find Kangas dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. …

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