The Kansas City Star investigates it’s racist past
Great writing is enjoyable to read and covers important topics. I’m reflecting on an article from the Kansas city star. The Kansas City Star, a large newspaper in Kansas for 140 years, investigated itself for racism and reckoned with an ugly past in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The article debuted on the front page of the newspaper. In it, editor Mike Fannin apologizes for decades of coverage misrepresenting or failing to acknowledge the city’s black residents.
The story begins with a classic feature lead which serves as a brilliant hook. Fannin illustrates a picture of an influential local business which has done damage to the city by aiding systems of Jim Crow and segregation which demonized black residents. The description painted a damning picture and the omission of the business name left me wanting to read further. The Nut Graf quenched my curiosity with three words and the name of the business: “That business is the Kansas City Star.”
What struck me was the honesty of the piece. It is decisively direct in showing how it’s actions were racist and biased. Fannin discusses the newspaper’s past headlines which stoked ire towards black people and it’s white-male newsrooms which catered to white-only audiences. He discusses times in which news that affected the black population was ignored. For example, In the 70s, the local river overflowed into parts of Kansas city. Journalists covered the flooding of country club plaza, a white area, while neglecting to cover the deaths in the black neighborhoods downstream.
The investigation takes a systemic outlook, thinking further about how the actions of the Star actions promoted systems and policies which entrenched racial division and marginalization. Fannin notes that the newspaper promoted all-white developments by giving ad spots to local developers. And, the newspaper stayed on the ‘sidelines’ of the civil rights movement.
Emotional anecdotes are woven throughout the article, prompting readers to identify with those who lived in the city but could never have their voices heard. These stories angered me, and left me wanting something different from the past. Of course, we will never have the chance to go back and change it.
The story progressively pivots to discuss how the newspaper has changed, how that road has been rocky and the work that still has to be done to improve . A story like this is a P.R piece backed by investigative journalism. And it performs well at this. The Star had to balance talking about its racist past with a story of how it has transformed. When discussing how it has become better, it still takes an honest tone rather than one which is self aggrandizing. Still, I imagine that many people, especially those marginalized or underrepresented by the star, will not accept the apology as genuine.