Louis Graham, editor of The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, apologized Tuesday for the front page of Saturday’s newspaper.
“Simply put, we got it wrong,” Graham wrote to readers. “In my view the headline was so lacking in context as to be tone deaf, particularly in a city with a 65 percent African American population. That front page minimized the broader refrain of what’s happening in our country with anguish over the deaths of young black men at the hands of police. It has been viewed as suggesting that this newspaper values the lives of white police officers more than young black men who have died in incident after incident.”
“Gunman Targeted Whites” in big letters stretched across Saturday’s newspaper, angering readers and some of the newspaper’s own employees.
Graham said a system of checks-and-balances in place to avoid such a “disconnect” failed over the weekend, which led to too few people reviewing the front-page before it rolled off the presses. He also blamed a lack of diversity in his newsroom.
Graham issued the apology after angry readers complained, and one of his own editors – an African American woman – said she was so disgusted by the cover that she threw the newspaper in the trash without reading it. Readers had even planned to lead a protest march at the newspaper today.
“In an environment so fraught with anger and anxiety we added unnecessary fuel. That’s not our role. Ours is to explore and explain. The headline required restraint and we didn’t provide it,” wrote Graham, adding that he’d met personally with one angry reader already and planned to meet with others.
Some readers called editors’ attention to the headline The Commercial Appeal published last year after Dylan Roof killed several members of Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, SC.
“Did it say ‘Gunman targets blacks,’ I’ve been asked over and over. No, it simply said ‘Suspect Caught,'” Graham wrote.
The apology comes three months after The Commercial Appeal published a “wrenching” account of how the newspaper has continuously failed readers in its 175-year history,how it has reported on race and civil rights, and a promise to do better.
Graham ended Tuesday’s apology this way: “Like I said, we have work to do.”