Despite an apology from the editor-in-chief, about 70 people protested The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal on Wednesday over a headline that ran in Saturday’s edition of the newspaper.
The headline – “GUNMAN TARGETED WHITES” – spread across Saturday’s paper upset both residents and some of the newspaper’s own employees. Editor Louis Graham published an apology Tuesday, but protesters called that too little, too late. They also complained about how The Commercial Appeal covers Memphis’ black community in general.
“I feel like black people have been represented in an unfavorable light by The Commercial Appeal,” Kim Hill told reporters for The Commercial Appeal, who covered the protest rally. Hill said she canceled her subscription because of the way the newspaper reports on Memphis’ black communities.
While the more immediate cause of the rally was Saturday’s headline, tensions have been brewing over The Commercial Appeals lack of diversity in coverage and staffing for months. In December, leaders of the local chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, convened a community meeting to discuss the misrepresentation of minorities in local media. And in April, The Commercial Appeal published a damning indictment of its own, acknowledging “inadequate” coverage of civil rights issues during its 175 year history.
In his apology, Graham called coverage his newspaper provided of last week’s shooting rampage in Dallas, including the controversial headline, “tone deaf.”
Meadiaverse, a Memphis-based online media watchdog website, posted on Wednesday that the copy editor responsible for green-lighting Saturday’s headline resigned Tuesday before Graham published his apology. The copy editor, according to Mediaverse, had worked at The Commercial Appeal for 20 years. Meadiaverse did not identify the copy editor by name.
Breaking News: According to sources, The Commercial Appeal copy editor, who wrote the “Gunman Targeted Whites” headline resigned yesterday.
— Mediaverse® (@Mediaverse) July 13, 2016
Based on tweets and its own news report, some Commercial Appeal staffers handed out water to protesters during the rally outside of the building that houses the newspaper. After the rally ended, a handful of protesters met privately with Graham, and other editors, for about 45 minutes, according to Richard Thompson, the founder of Mediaverse.
The Rev. Earle Fisher, who organized Wednesday’s rally and has been a vocal Black Lives Matter supporter. told news crews:”We are here because we deserve better from every mainstream media outlet,” The Commercial Appeal reporter. “We are going to make our demands, we are going to be fair and reasonable and hold people accountable.”