Staffer has trouble breathing then collapses in a busy newsroom

This disturbing scene is documented at

Are the deadline pressures more important than attending to stricken employee? Apparently so at one of the bottom-line Gannett papers.

Mpozi Tolbert was only 34 years old when he collapsed and died in the newsroom of the Indianapolis Star on July 3.
Now there’s some quaint, old-school, hackneyed journalese for you — “collapsed and died.”
What utter bullshit. Mpozi did not just fall down with his heart at a standstill, victim of a massive stroke or aneurysm.
That would be tragic but at least within the realm of reason — stuff happens. People die, even young, seemingly healthy adults.
But the truth is far worse, and it will never be printed in the Gannett-owned Star.
Mpozi — a vibrant young black male, a bicyclist-about-town, a guy who never met a stranger, the sweet soul of tolerance and curiosity — was a victim of an inept, profit-driven, cheap, small-minded company.
Gannett is the most financially fat corporation in the now largely souless newspaper industry. But it can’t afford the time or money to teach its employees CPR or employ a security team with a first responder or have on hand a pair of defib paddles to revive a man down. (Something Wal-Mart, Target and McDonald’s have all managed, as they should).
Gannett, with all its goody-two-shoes emphasis on ethics right down to its practice of hassling employees to ensure that everyone’s driver’s license is up to date, car insurance in place, etc., has, or had, a setup in the newsroom which DOES NOT ALLOW REPORTERS OR EDITORS TO CALL OUT ON 911.
Note to outraged readers: I am told that little oversight has been corrected. Can anybody say litigation? — Ruth

This is a snapshot of what the inside of a Gannett newsroom looks like. I wonder if the paper was a little late going to press?

10 thoughts on “Staffer has trouble breathing then collapses in a busy newsroom

  1. Your comments are disgusting and sicken me, “Are the deadline pressures more important than attending to stricken employee? Apparently so at one of the bottom-line Gannett papers.” I work for The Indianapolis Star. Mpozi was my good friend and co-worker. You have no idea how much we have grieved his passing, and what concern everyone had for his wellbeing on the night of July 3rd. Yes, in fact we were late for press, if our deadline pressures were so important, we would have made deadlines you idiot.

    Obviously you never met Mpozi, I feel sorry for you.

  2. Did a good reporter get the flavor of Ben&Jerry’s ice cream Mpozi was eating? Why didn’t one of the concerned staffers just pick him up and take him to the emergency room? Instead you follow Gannett corporate orders and let a confused security guard make the call to 911 about 15 minutes too late. This has the smell of Gannett’s risk management department all over it.
    Don’t you know how sickening it is to outsiders who cold and bottom line you sad bastards appear to be?

  3. Mr Greg,

    Ok, since you’re asking: Mpozi was eating Cherry Garcia B&J ice cream that night. Besides, anybody who knew him (did you?) knew it was his favorite flavor. He wasn’t picked up and taken to the ER because the ER is 10 minutes away, door to door with no traffic.

    Add to this fact that it would have taken five minutes to get him in a car (he was a big guy remember, pushing 3 bills). This is fifteen minutes, optimistically from newsroom floor to ER at Wishard or IU. Can your brain go 15 minutes without oxygen? I don’t think so. So, the employees there did what they should have done, correctly started CPR, and there were in fact people calling 911 on their cell phones concurrently with the internal phone SNAFU that may or may not have happened. There was nobody giving corporate orders that night to silently go back to work like you’re imagining, shame on you.

    Look, I work at the Star (which is why I’m anonymous on this), but you don’t know what you’re talking about regarding the folks there that night that did everything they could. Save your Gannett bashing for somewhere else, as it simply isn’t relevant here.

  4. Look, anon, I’m not second guessing the editor-bots who were under deadline pressure, but anyone can see that Mpozi would have had a better chance at getting attention in a Wal-Mart (a company that your coworkers love to bash) than he did in a Gannett newsroom at deadline. You know I’m not exagerating about the “get out of my way MoFu!” attitude at deadline in a Gannett sweatshop.

  5. M Greg,

    Have you ever worked at a newspaper? On deadline? I’m going to assume you have, so you know that putting out a paper under deadline is the same whether you work at Gannett, or Knight Ridder, or Don Rey, or the NYTimes. You work fast, check your facts, and get the news out to the readers. When you keep insulting the people who were there that night, insinuating that they weren’t doing their damndest in trying to save the life of a member of the newsroom family, you just keep getting farther from your goals, which is to bash the company it seems.

    If you’ve got a philosophical problem with Gannett’s news sense, fine, there’s not a person alive who doesn’t find some issues with the company they work for, me included. My take on it is that if I don’t enjoy my job, I’m free to leave and find a new one.

    Do you know that it was a heart attack that killed Mpozi? I don’t, neither do you. In fact, most of the preliminary wisdom is pointing toward a blood clot, which all the Wal-Mart defib machines in the world wouldn’t have helped with.

    But, I do have to agree with you (and Ruth) that many workplaces can do more to provide employees with training and apparatus, to save lives. I look forward to The Star providing training in the future about how to save a future life.

  6. I have to say that Gannett really knows how to screen for and hire editors and managers who are workaholic, mofos. At the end of the day, when you look back at the cold, shallow results of your “profession,” ask yourself was it all worth it? The deadline pressure to rush out a paper, even walking past a dying man, (leave it up to security) trying to breath… a man you worked with for years. All this to produce a dead-tree product that by the time it hits the driveway, is already 10-hours old. That is an illustration of a sad bastard.

  7. Michael Greg,

    Wow, you win, you sure did show me with your witty commentary. I must be a mofo (the 80s want their lingo back by the way), and have had a cold and bitter career. Have a great time with that cool little blog of yours, I know when I’ve been beat, besides I’d better get in line and finish my work so I can punch the clock at 5pm.


  8. Anon, Come on. Is that all you’ve got? We will never know why poor Mpozi died. There will be no investigation. I was trying to help his family with a few possible factors shuch as the Ben & Jerry’s icecream may have been tainted with peanuts; there is a clear lack of safety training at your Gannett bare-bones editorial offices and not much reason to establish anything close to Wal-Mart’s superior safety training plans. And there are a few mofos like you defending the heavy-handed suits. Do you think you will score some points with them? They really don’t give a GD, and will turn on you next.

    You might start practicing “would you like to supresize that order, sir?”

  9. Michael, you should cut anon some slack. He’s one of the many in newsrooms today without initiative or clue. He likely complains non-stop about his surroundings, yet offers no solutions and strikes down any that are offered.

    This is the mentality newsrooms foment these days. They don’t want anyone to realize how messed up things have gotten. That’s why they hire bots like anon, who click into work, click into their desks, click away some subpar work, then click on home like good bots.

  10. Wenalway, you have a great way of expressing the beaten down personality of many in the news biz. Keep on adding your thoughts whenever you can. The people need to know what is going on behind the brick and granite facade of newspaper journalisim in 2006. They really don’t want anyone to realize who sad things have gotten. They really are a group of sad bastards.

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