The Kansas City Star’s top editor apologized Monday for the newspaper having “disenfranchised, ignored and scorned generations of Black Kansas Citians.”
Mike Fannin, who has worked at The Star since 1997 and served as its top editor since 2008, wrote in a letter to readers titled “the truth in Black and white” that the Star had “robbed an entire community of opportunity, dignity, justice and recognition.”
Fannin said the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, the subsequent eruption of nationwide racial justice protests and a suggestion from reporter Mará Rose Williams sparked a investigation into the Star’s coverage of race and the Black community in particular that stretched all the way back to its founding in 1880.
Reporters reviewed thousands of pages of archived stories and compared the Star’s coverage to how events were reported in the Black press. Fannin said the team spoke to those who lived through the events, retired reporters and editors, and scholars and community leaders to produce a six-part package and “an honest examination of our own past.”
“Reporters were frequently sickened by what they found,” he wrote.
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Fannin described how Black people were written about as “criminals living in a crime-laden world,” and ignored stories about Black families whose homes were bombed. The paper failed to cover Black cultural icons such as influential jazz musician Charlie “Bird” Parker until his death, “and even then, his name was misspelled and his age was wrong.”
The Star failed to report on the growing civil rights movements and fight against desegregation and continued to do so even as the staff diversified in the 1960s.
Still, Fannin said progress is being made citing recent work on communities of color and the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent hiring of an editor to focus on race and equity issues. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas called the series a “positive step.”
“Now I hope my friends in the local TV news business do the same,” he said on Twitter.
A similar move was made by the Los Angeles Times in September when the editorial board apologized for the paper’s “history of racism.” In a letter to readers, publisher Patrick Soon-Shiong said the Times “has ignored large swaths of the city and its diverse population, or covered them in one-dimensional, sometimes racist ways.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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