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.”
I was glad to see @PhillyInquirer respond with this apology and explanation for the unfortunate headline that accompanied my column Tuesday. I am deeply sorry for the trauma it caused black people in Philly, and my black and brown newsroom colleagues. https://t.co/N5f5uusQhY
— Inga Saffron (@IngaSaffron) June 4, 2020
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.
Today, I’m joining my colleagues of color at the @PhillyInquirer and calling in sick and tired.
Things need to change. We call on The Inquirer to do better. To be better.
— Brandon Bell (@brandontrevion) June 4, 2020
“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.”
A lot of us have been working to change the Inquirer and today was just another reminder that so many people are traumatized and exhausted
— 𝙲𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚎 𝙾𝚠𝚎𝚗𝚜 (@cassieowens) June 3, 2020
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.
"this conversation has been started time and time again." I just want to reiterate that it is not just because of one headline. It is not just one mistake. It is something that continuously happens at the Inquirer and when journalists of color call it out, they are often silenced
— Lauren Schneiderman (@lschneiderman_) June 4, 2020
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.”