Memphis Newspaper Apologizes for Accurate Headline After BLM Protests

Chris Menahan
Jul. 14, 2016

A Memphis newspaper has come out and apologized for an entirely accurate headline after Black Lives Matter supporters protested its use.

The Commercial Appeal ran the headline "Gunman Targeted Whites" on the front page of their paper after the Dallas shooting where the gunman himself declared he "wanted to kill white people" and "especially white officers."

Four out of five cops killed that day were white. Pointing out the shooter targeted whites is a statement of fact.

Nonetheless, The Commercial Appeal's editor Louis Graham felt the need to write a gigantic, groveling apology.

Graham writes under the headline, "CA Editor: We got it wrong.":
Simply put, we got it wrong.

Those three big words in headline type stretched across Saturday's front page Gunman Targeted Whites were true according to police accounts in Dallas at the time but they badly oversimplified a very complex, rapidly evolving story, and angered many of our readers and many more in the broader community.

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.
Actually, you didn't get it wrong, you got it right, and it doesn't matter what the protesters said.

The people going crazy over the shooting of child raping career criminal Alton Sterling got it wrong.

The people still saying "hands up don't shoot" after Eric Holder's DOJ admitted it never happened got it wrong.

An accurate, short news headline of the Dallas gunman's own stated intent is not wrong.
The checks and balances in place to avoid just this type of disconnect didn't work that night for a variety of reasons. Too few people looked at the front page before it rolled off our presses. We've taken steps to correct that. But the larger challenge is recruiting a diverse enough staff to better reflect the city we cover. We continue to work on that and will be more introspective about how we do our jobs.

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.
Again, the headline was entirely accurate, every news organization worth its salt ran with the same angle.

Did this news report from CBS "get it wrong"?

A simple Google search shows ABC News, CBS, BBC, and pretty much every news organization the world over ran similar headlines.

Nonetheless, his apology continues:
During this, our 175th year in business, I have been unflinching in our efforts the tell The Commercial Appeal's incredible story to this community. The whole story. Several months ago we published a wrenching account of our failures during that long history, particularly on the coverage of civil rights.

Of all the criticism I've read, and it is considerable, this stuck with me most from an angry reader:

"CA has really good reporters who try to include equity of voice + this cover doesn't portray that "

The reader is right on both accounts and I had a face-to-face conversation with her today. I will be meeting with other readers who were angered as well.

There was a very similar reaction inside the newsroom. I was particularly disturbed by a comment I received from an African American editor who said she was disgusted by the page and threw the newspaper in the trash without reading it.

This newspaper, just like this city, has work to do. This column will raise the ire of some readers who believe the headline spoke the truth; that I'm kow-towing. I've already gotten an earful from readers angry over columnist David Waters' piece last week suggesting white churches had greater responsibility to solve the problem. We've also heard from readers who objected to our 'Bridge Shut Down' headline; they believed it should have read 'Peaceful Protest.'
You get the idea, it goes on and on.

These apologies are great and all, but what about apologizing for slavery?

What about apologizing for slavery the world over, including as practiced by Africans enslaving fellow Africans?

Also, where's the apology for the crusades?

Most importantly, where's the apology for your very existence as an evil white male?

If you ask me, Mr. Graham's mere apologizing with words is not enough.

Seeing as how I've been informed "white people" owe African-Americans some $20 trillion in reparations for slavery, why doesn't Mr. Graham demand the newspaper be put up for sale -- as well as own home -- so the proceeds can be given to these brutally oppressed "peaceful protesters"?

Put your money where your mouth is Mr. Graham, we the people will tolerate nothing less!

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