African-American leaders accuse Enquirer of ‘rampant racism’
By Mark Curnutte, firstname.lastname@example.org, CinCinnati News
A half dozen leaders in the black community, including two former mayors, took aim Monday night at The Enquirer, accusing the city’s flagship media outlet of negatively targeting African-Americans, their leaders and community organizations.
They said The Enquirer is guilty of “rampant racism” and “smearing, whipping and oppressing black leaders.”
The news conference, attended by several dozen people at Zion Baptist Church in Avondale, came on the heels of an Oct. 23 Enquirer front-page story about some City Council candidates’ tax problems. Six African-Americans were depicted in mug-shot fashion on the front page. The photographs of two white candidates were published in a smaller size on an inside page, where the story continued.
That story, said former Cincinnati Mayor Dwight Tillery, is the latest example of The Enquirer’s “insidious culture of racial bias.”
Former Mayor Mark Mallory, who served from 2005 through 2013, said when he saw the page, he asked himself, “What were these people arrested for”? He also called the story a “political hit piece.”
Enquirer Interim Editor Michael Kilian attended the meeting with the newspaper’s editorial page editor, Kevin Aldridge, who is one of four African-Americans on The Enquirer’s editorial board.
Councilmen David Mann, Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld and several council candidates attended.
Kilian has apologized for the page layout three times, first in a page 1 note Oct. 24, then in a longer statement on Cincinnati.com and lastly in a column.
“We appreciate the concerns raised at tonight’s press conference about last Tuesday’s front page,” Kilian said. “We created the perception that we were singling out people because of their race, and this proved hurtful to African-Americans who have coped throughout their lives with stereotypical depictions in the news media that have reinforced historical discrimination.
“The Enquirer must continue its mission of providing aggressive coverage of political candidates and public issues that can help make Cincinnati an even better place. In the wake of this incident, however, we will engage in more effective community outreach so that we handle such coverage with the utmost sensitivity and understanding.”
Also speaking at the news conference were Councilman Charlie Winburn; Robert Richardson Sr., president of Cincinnati’s NAACP branch; Bishop Bobby Hilton, president of the Cincinnati chapter of the National Action Network; Cincinnati Public school board candidate Kathy Young, wife of hospitalized Councilman Wendell Young; and Patricia Milton, president of the Avondale Community Council.
Tillery is president and founder of the Center for Closing the Health Gap, a nonprofit that Tillery, Hilton and other community leaders say has been unfairly targeted in negative coverage by the newspaper.
“You can’t cut a person and leave them bleeding,” Hilton said.
Hilton, Tillery, Winburn and Young were among African-American leaders who met twice earlier this year with The Enquirer’s editorial board to discuss how the newspaper covers African-Americans, especially those in high-profile political positions.
“They said they would improve,” Winburn said of editors’ response to concerns. “They told us to trust them. We gave them the opportunity and did so quietly. A few months later, we are back here again.”
Organizers distributed packets of Enquirer stories that they say reveal a pattern of institutional racism, among them coverage of the Center for Closing the Health Gap, the Metropolitan Sewer District and the mayoral campaign of Yvette Simpson.
Meeting attendees were encouraged to monitor the media and vote on Nov. 7.