City's Longtime Newspaper Offers an Apology

Kansas City Star says Black people were long depicted as 'criminals living in a crime-laden world'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2020 12:32 PM CST
Kansas City Star Apologizes for Decades of Biased Reporting
The Star building in downtown Kansas City.   (Wikimedia Commons/Tony Webster)

The Kansas City Star has apologized for decades of coverage in which the city's Black residents were treated as "invisible"—unless they were involved in crimes. In an essay, "The Truth in Black and White," editor Mike Fannin acknowledges that for much of its 140-year history, the city's most influential newspaper "disenfranchised, ignored, and scorned generations of Black Kansas Citians." Fannin says reporters dug deep into the paper's archives and compared coverage of critical events with that in the Black press, the Hill reports. The Star was a "white newspaper produced by white reporters and editors for white readers and advertisers," and "negative portrayals of Black Kansas Citians buttressed stereotypes and played a role in keeping the city divided," he writes.

"Reporters were frequently sickened by what they found—decades of coverage that depicted Black Kansas Citians as criminals living in a crime-laden world," writes Fannin. "They felt shame at what was missing: the achievements, aspirations and milestones of an entire population routinely overlooked, as if Black people were invisible." He says the paper started to diversify in the civil rights era, but missteps continued, including in 1977, when the Star and sister paper the Kansas City Times focused on damage to a country club after a devastating flood, not the 25 city residents, including eight Black people, who died. Fannin says the star has accelerated changes already underway, including hiring a more diverse staff, the New York Times reports. "We need a spectrum of voices to represent our entire community," he writes. "And we occasionally just need good advice." (More Kansas City stories.)

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