Philly Inquirer Staffers Stage Walkout Over ‘Buildings Matter, Too’ Headline

PHILADELPHIA - FEBRUARY 23:  The Philadelphia Inquirer Building is seen February 23, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday in an attempt to restructure the company's debt, estimated at $390 million. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - FEBRUARY 23: The Philadelphia Inquirer Building is seen February 23, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and P... PHILADELPHIA - FEBRUARY 23: The Philadelphia Inquirer Building is seen February 23, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday in an attempt to restructure the company's debt, estimated at $390 million. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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June 4, 2020 12:30 p.m.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has apologized to readers and staffers after publishing the headline “Buildings Matter, Too” — an ill-conceived and racist riff on the Black Lives Matter movement for a column that ran Monday.

While intending to address the city’s plans for repairing damages to buildings and infrastructure following anti-racism protests, the news outlet later acknowledged that the headline was insensitive — suggesting an equivalence between the value of property and the value of black lives. In a letter of apology published two days after the incident, executive and managing editors at the Inquirer said that while “no such comparison was intended,” the poor judgment exercised in the decision was “unacceptable.”

Rocked by protests against racial injustice that have swept across the nation this week and dismayed by the poor judgment exercised by their colleagues, some Inquirer staffers penned an open letter that surfaced on Twitter Thursday addressing the “systemic racism” that unfolded in their own newsroom. 

“We’re tired of seeing our words and photos twisted to fit a narrative that does not reflect our reality,” Brandon Bell, a features reporter, and other staffers wrote. “We’re tired of being told to show both sides of issues there are no two sides of.”

Forty-four people had signed the letter as of 8 a.m. ET on Thursday, some adding that the walk-out reflected a rebuke not just of a single headline but a culture that needs changing.

The move to “walkout” echoes decisions by some staff at The New York Times who called out of work Thursday after sharply criticizing the publication of a controversial opinion essay by Sen. Tom Cotton that promoted the activation of military forces against racial equality demonstrations that had, in his view, been co-opted by “anarchists.”

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