Kansas City Star Newspaper Mea Culpa Its Racist Past

This is the story of a “Powerful local company that has done wrong”. A company that has, for much of its history, “Ignored and despised by generations of black Kansas City residents”, participating in consolidating the “Jim Crow Laws”, these laws which imposed a racial segregation in the United States during the first half of the XXe century. “This company is the Kansas City Star.»

By a poignant editorial entitled The truth in black and white: the apologies of Kansas City Star, Massively shared on social media, the president and editor of the local Kansas City (Missouri) newspaper, Mike Fannin, looked back on the history of the daily since its inception in 1880. 140 years of a past that he recognizes inglorious, marked by a quasi-institutionalized racism until the end of the 1970s: “The Star was a white newspaper, produced by white journalists, for white readers. “

Thousands of articles scrutinized

This introspection, Mike Fannin did not do it by chance, as he explains on CNN. Following the death of George Floyd, suffocated under the knee of a white police officer in May, the Black Lives Matter movement has grown worldwide, prompting many institutions to put their past under the microscope. Journalists from Kansas City Star so delved into the newspaper’s archives, reviewing thousands of articles that they compared with “The black press” of the time. They also interviewed people affected by the events discussed, as well as former journalists and editors.

“Journalists were often sickened by what they found”, details Mike Fannin in his editorial. Their investigation showed that black citizens of the Kansas City area were particularly invisible, only being entitled to their names in the newspaper columns when they had legal problems. The reporters did not fail to describe them as criminals, “Raw”, or even “Dangerous negroes”, relying most of the time on detective versions that they didn’t bother to check. And when racial segregation began to be denounced, in the early mid-twentiethe century, the Star once again missed the mark. “We don’t need the stories of these people”, its editor, Roy Roberts, is said to have said.

While noting steady progress since the late 1970s, Mike Fannin acknowledges that his journal still has some way to go. He nevertheless assures that the editorial line is evolving, seeking to learn from past mistakes, and that an editor in charge of “Issues of race and equity” was recruited this fall so that the voice of all communities could be heard more. In addition, to make the information accessible to a wider world, some are available free of charge on the website of the Star. This is the case for the six episodes of the investigation retracing the newspaper’s racist past.

Julien Lecot


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