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Kansas City Star Publishes Apology to Readers For Racist Past

'Their children grew up with little hope of ever being mentioned in the city’s largest and most influential newspapers, unless they got in trouble...'

The Kansas City Star published an apology to readers for the way the paper has covered black Americans.

The editor of the newspaper, Mike Fannin, claimed that it needed to “hold up the mirror to ourselves to see the historic role we have played, through both action and inaction, in shaping and misshaping Kansas City’s landscape.”

That includes dozens of articles written near the paper’s founding in 1880 that depicted “black Kansas Citians as criminals living in a crime-lade world.”

The newspaper, like many newspapers in the mid-20th century, was “a white newspaper produced by white reporters and editors for white readers and advertisers,” Fannin continued.

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Many families in the area had subscribed to the Kansas City Star for decades, “but not in black families,” Fannin said.

“Their children grew up with little hope of ever being mentioned in the city’s largest and most influential newspapers, unless they got in trouble,” he said. “Negative portrayals of Black Kansas Citians buttressed stereotypes and played a role in keeping the city divided.”

The paper apologized for the “toxic narrative” it created that portrayed black citizens as perpetrators of crimes.

This narrative didn’t begin to progress until the 1960s, during the Civil Rights movement, Fannin said.

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“The good news is, solutions are not impossible,” he said.

“Our gradual improvements need to accelerate,” he continued. “We need a more diverse staff. We need deeper community conversations to better focus our coverage. We need a spectrum of voices to represent our entire community. And we occasionally just need good advice,” he explained.

Fannin ended the apology by announcing the formation of the Kansas City Star Advisory Board that will meet with newsroom leaders monthly to discuss current issues, specifically, race-based issues.

He also said the newsroom hired an editor “to focus on race and equity issues,” and highlighted several stories focused on “diversity” that the paper published over the past year.

“It’s been an education for us, and yet it’s impossible to acknowledge every failure or bad decision or mangled assignment,” he said.

We think these stories are representative,” Fannin continued. “It still pains me personally to know that in The Star’s monopolistic heyday—when it had the biggest media platform in the region—the paper did little to unify the city or recognize the inherent rights of all Kansas Citians.”

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