Racial Reckoning at The Star: ‘The Truth in Black and White’

Mike Fannin, Mará Rose Williams, Michele Watley, Nicole Sussner Rodgers, Toriano Porter
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Program: 
6:30 pm

Days before Christmas, on its website and across more 10 pages of its Sunday print edition, The Kansas City Star laid out a remarkable examination of its coverage of race and the city’s Black community over its 140-year history. And in an accompanying letter from President and Editor Mike Fannin, headlined “The truth in Black and white,” it apologized.  

The newspaper – both The Star and its now-defunct sister publication, The Times – had “disenfranchised, ignored and scorned generations of Black Kansas Citians,” it said. Making special note of its fawning treatment of discriminatory developer J.C. Nichols, it said it had reinforced Jim Crow laws and redlining and, over the decades, “robbed an entire community of opportunity, dignity, justice and recognition.” The Star has since stripped its masthead and website of all references to its founder and first publisher, William Rockhill Nelson, who supported Nichols and his segregationist policies. 

A month after that self-investigation and censure, Fannin and other members of The Star’s staff join community and industry observers in discussing the newspaper’s actions, their impact, and how they should guide The Star into the future. As a reader recently admonished in a letter to the editor, “Apologies are a good first step. However, truth and atonement will not be judged by words, but actions.” 

Fannin has been with The Star since 1997 and served as its top editor since 2008. With him on the panel are: 

  • Education reporter Mará Rose Williams, whose concerns initiated the project. She contributed to the series’ research and writing. 
  • Michele Watley, the founder of Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet, a political advocacy nonprofit focusing on issues of importance to Black women and families in Kansas City. 
  • Nicole Sussner Rodgers, the founder and executive director of Family Story, a New York City-based think tank working to broaden perspective on family arrangements and models. 

 

Moderating the discussion is Toriano Porter, a member of The Star’s editorial board who writes about writes race and racism. 

The event is co-presented by The Kansas City Star and PNC Bank. Watch it live online at YouTube.com/kclibrary