In a year when widespread anti-racial protests prompted corporations to investigate their own prejudices and stories about systemic racism, newsrooms also began to investigate their coverage of non-white communities.
In September, the Los Angeles Times editors apologized for decades of biased reporting on the city’s non-white population due to a lack of Indigenous, Black, Latin American, Asian-American and other minority groups in the newsroom. For at least the first 80 years of the newspaper, it was an institution that was “deeply rooted in white supremacy”.
The efforts of The Star, founded in 1880, are among the most daring moves in terms of scope and ambition.
“I think it’s a visionary moment that hopefully other media outlets will follow suit,” said Stacy Shaw, a Kansas City lawyer and activist who is part of The Star’s newly formed advisory group. “Often times people don’t even acknowledge all the horror they wrought against the community. I think this is the first step in saying, “We got this wrong, how are we going to fix it now?”
Mr Fannin said in an interview that the depth of The Star’s racist coverage was appalling – coverage that helped cement inequalities that continue to plague the city. He pointed to the newspaper’s founder, William Rockhill Nelson, who mentored and supported JC Nichols, a developer who used racial restrictions to create neighborhoods that were all white and remain predominantly white to this day.
The Star not only gave Mr. Nichols favorable coverage of his developments and space to advertise his separate developments – “A place where discriminatory people buy,” read one of them – but also gave him a high eulogy, when he died in 1950.
“Nichols is considered to be one of the few Vision guides who go beyond his time,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial at the time.
While the ambition of Sunday’s series of articles earned The Star’s praise, it has also scrutinized the newsroom demographics: About 17 percent of reporters are black in a city where black residents make up roughly 28 percent of the population. By the time Mrs Williams’ son Trey Williams hired it that year to oversee race and stock coverage, the paper had been without a black editor for more than a decade.