Reaching for reconciliation Reader responses to seven newspapers’ apologies for histories of racist coverage

By Anna E. Lindner, Michael Fuhlhage, Keena Shante Neal, and Kirby Phillips | In the wake of the 2020 »racial reckoning,« many institutions issued apologies for complicity in systemic racism – and the news industry was no exception. This paper surveys the apologies issued by one news publication, the Montgomery Advertiser, that apologized two years before the 2020 reckoning, and six other newspapers that issued apologies between 2020 and the present day: the Los Angeles Times; Kansas City Star; Baltimore Sun; Philadelphia Inquirer; Seattle Times; and Oregonian. The present study investigates these publications’ apologies for racist and other problematic coverage through the lens of the Christian principles of sacramental reconciliation, which are designed to address past wrongs and repair relationships between transgressors and those who have been harmed. In addition, this paper assesses public responses to each of the new organizations’ expositions of and apologies for racist coverage, focusing on opinions published in public forums, particularly by people of color who belong to communities that have been harmed by these publications; journalists of color; editors and others involved in news making processes; and other prominent thought leaders in issues of race. Examining the wide range of responses to such apologies provides insight into public opinion about news institutions’ current standing with racialized communities and possible future steps toward more equitable and fair coverage of those who have historically been mistreated by news organizations.