“We gave a false narrative about who Black Kansas City really is and, as a result of that, white Kansas City had a false narrative about who Black Kansas City was and that perpetuated a divide, it perpetuated racism in Kansas City.”Mará Rose Williams
Turning Investigation Inward
As Black Lives Matter protests gripped the country in early 2020, a team of reporters from The Kansas City Star launched a retrospective investigation into the 140-year history of the paper, revealing a history of disregarding and disenfranchising the city’s Black citizens.
The team spend hundreds of hours gathering and analyzing microfilmed archives of The Star, The Kansas City Times and the local historically Black newspapers The Call and The Sun. Congressional testimonies, oral histories from longtime local leaders and scholars, and interviews with surviving citizens impacted by the flawed journalism were leveraged for a more complete understanding of the paper’s history.
In a series of stories resulting from the investigation, The Star transparently acknowledged and denounced the paper’s racist past, including its founding by prominent segregationist William Rockhill. Instances of journalistic malpractice were also highlighted, such as coverage of the historic 1977 flood which depicted the event as a disaster for the affluent commercial district while completely ignoring the devastation to Black communities.
Kansas City reporters who worked on this story are available for virtual class visits. Contact Center administrator Krista Eastman (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
KC Star Staff on Reporting “The Truth in Black and White”
Q1: Do journalists have the same obligation to investigate themselves and their own institutions as they do with others? Why or why not?
Q2: Can a journalist be objective and honest when analyzing their own past work?
Q3: What is the purpose of retroactively addressing past journalistic injustices? What problems does it solve, if any?