The Kansas City Star published a story on Sunday apologizing for how it “disenfranchised, ignored and scorned generations” of the city’s Black community for much of the paper’s 140-year history.
“The Kansas City Star prides itself on holding power to account,” editor Mike Fannin wrote. “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.”
The paper conducted comprehensive research into its coverage of the Black community over the years, with Fannin writing that “reporters were frequently sickened by what they found – decades of coverage that depicted Black Kansas Citians as criminals living in a crime-laden world. They felt shame at what was missing: the achievements, aspirations and milestones of an entire population routinely overlooked, as if Black people were invisible.”
Fannin admitted that the Star, like many newspapers of the mid-20th century, was a “white newspaper produced by white reporters and editors for white readers and advertisers.”
He said the children of Black families “grew up with little hope of ever being mentioned in the city’s largest and most influential newspapers, unless they got in trouble. Negative portrayals of Black Kansas Citians buttressed stereotypes and played a role in keeping the city divided.”
Fannin said progress did not really start until the 1960s, when more Black reporters were hired, but admitted change was slow.
“Our gradual improvements need to accelerate. We need a more diverse staff … deeper community conversations to better focus our coverage … [and] a spectrum of voices to represent our entire community. And we occasionally just need good advice.”
To this end, he announced the formation of an advisory board that will meet with newsroom leaders monthly to discuss current issues.