Newspaper Regrets Racism Over Decades of Reporting
The Kansas City Star recently issued an apology for having “disenfranchised, ignored and scorned” generations of Black people in Kansas City, Missouri, through much of its early history, saying the apology was long overdue.
In an essay titled “The Truth in Black and White,” Mike Fannin, editor of The Star, said that an investigation of thousands of pages of articles had shown that the paper, over decades, had denied the Black community dignity, justice and recognition.
“Before I say more, I feel it to be my moral obligation to express what is in the hearts and minds of the leadership and staff of an organization that is nearly as old as the city it loves and covers: We are sorry,” Fannin wrote.
The newspaper’s investigation began after the killing of George Floyd in May, at the hands of the Minneapolis police, prompted many companies to examine their own biases and histories of systemic racism. Media companies, too, vowed to change their office cultures and pledged to take steps to create more diverse newsrooms.
Some went further. In September, the Los Angeles Times editorial board apologized for biased coverage of the city’s nonwhite population for much of the newspaper’s history, which it blamed on a shortage of Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian and other minority groups in the newsroom. For at least the paper’s first 80 years, it was an institution that was “deeply rooted in white supremacy.”
The Kansas City Star’s investigation came out of internal discussions about how the paper should address racism in its past coverage.The Star published the result of those discussions: a six-part investigation by reporters who dug into the paper’s archives, dating to its founding in 1880, to compare coverage by The Star and its sister paper, The Kansas City Times, to coverage of the same events in local Black newspapers, The Kansas City Call and The Kansas City Sun.
Fannin said reporters were “frequently sickened” by what they found. In its 1977 coverage of a deadly flood, the newspapers fixated on the property damage at the Country Club Plaza, rather than on the lives of the 25 people who died, including eight Black residents.
Often, achievements and milestones of Black residents of Kansas City were overlooked, the editorial said, “as if Black people were invisible.”
文／John Eligon and Jenny Gross 譯／李京倫 核稿／樂慧生