An apology from The Kansas City Star: “Our history doesn’t have to own us.”

From a post on by editor Mike Fannin headlined “The truth in Black and white: An apology from The Kansas City Star”:

Today we are telling the story of a powerful local business that has done wrong.

For 140 years, it has been one of the most influential forces in shaping Kansas City and the region. And yet for much of its early history — through sins of both commission and omission — it disenfranchised, ignored and scorned generations of Black Kansas Citians. It reinforced Jim Crow laws and redlining. Decade after early decade it robbed an entire community of opportunity, dignity, justice and recognition.

That business is The Kansas City Star. . . .

The Kansas City Star prides itself on holding power to account. Today we 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.

It is time that we own our history.

It is well past time for an apology, acknowledging, as we do so, that the sins of our past still reverberate today.

This spring, the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in Minneapolis beneath the knee of a white police officer ignited protests worldwide over racial injustice. In doing so, it has forced institutions to look inward.

Inside The Star, reporters and editors discussed how an honest examination of our own past might help us move forward. What started as a suggestion from reporter Mará Rose Williams quickly turned into a full-blown examination of The Star’s coverage of race and the Black community dating to our founding in 1880.

Today The Star presents a six-part package. It is the result of a team of reporters who dug deeply into the archives of The Star and what was once its sister paper, The Kansas City Times. They pored over thousands of pages of digitized and microfilmed stories, comparing the coverage to how those same events were covered in the Black press — most notably by The Kansas City Call and The Kansas City Sun, each of which chronicled critical stories the white dailies ignored or gave short shrift.

Our reporters searched court documents, archival collections, congressional testimony, minutes of meetings and digital databases. Periodically, as they researched, editors and reporters convened panels of scholars and community leaders to discuss the significant milestones of Black life in Kansas City that were overlooked or underplayed by The Star and The Times. . . .

Progress is still being made — and still necessary. For some Black leaders, there is still an inherent fear in dealing with the mainstream (white) media.

The good news is, solutions are not impossible. Our gradual improvements need to accelerate. 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.

I would say that that work begins now, but it already has.

This fall, we hired an editor to focus on race and equity issues, and we’ll continue to make diverse hires a priority. . . .

Finally, we are announcing the formation of The Kansas City Star Advisory Board, a group that will meet monthly with our top newsroom leaders to advise on key issues of the day.

And we encourage other Kansas City businesses to come forward and own their history as well, tell their stories, get the poison out — for the sake of the community and their employees. Please email me or one of the reporters on our team.

It’s been an education for us, and yet it’s impossible to acknowledge every failure or bad decision or mangled assignment. We think these stories are representative.

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.

But our history doesn’t have to own us.

We are grateful for how far we’ve come. We are humbled by how far we still have to go.

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