NABJ Chicago asks Tribune for public apology

Letter sent to Bruce Dold and Kristen McQueary of the Chicago Tribune

August 14, 2015

To: Bruce Dold

Editor, Editorial Page

Kristen McQueary

Editorial Board member

 

Chicago Tribune Editorial Board member Kristen McQueary is certainly entitled to her opinion. But your readers are entitled to something far more important: respect and accurate journalism.

McQueary’s  “Chicago, New Orleans, and rebirth”   (originally titled “In Chicago, wishing for a Hurricane Katrina”) commentary missed the mark and was a slap in the face to New Orleans and Chicago residents, and to all who lost loved ones in the tragedy.

The Category 5 hurricane and its aftermath claimed the lives of 1,833 people, yet you thought it was acceptable to relate it to political corruption and fiscal woes?!

Although we are willing to give columnists and other opinion writers some leeway, the National Association of Black Journalists-Chicago Chapter believe that the standards of fairness and accuracy should apply to all journalists, regardless of our role in a news organization.

We would have hoped that someone in the newsroom — McQueary’s editor, the copy desk, the section editor, McQueary herself – would have raised questions before the publication of the commentary.

It’s evident by the change of the original headline that someone knew it wouldn’t fly with readers. You decided to give a tablespoon of sugar before a dose of cyanide.

But why did you stop there?

Oh, that’s right, another edit was made.

The original version near the end: “That’s why I find myself praying for a real storm. It’s why I can relate, metaphorically, to the residents of New Orleans climbing onto their rooftops and begging for help and waving their arms and lurching toward rescue helicopters.”

The edited version: “That’s why I find myself praying for a storm. OK, a figurative storm, something that will prompt a rebirth in Chicago. I can relate, metaphorically, to the residents of New Orleans climbing onto their rooftops and begging for help and waving their arms and lurching toward rescue helicopters.”

Kristen, you will never be able to relate, metaphorically or whatever word the desk chooses, because you haven’t experienced the devastation.

Adding “figurative” didn’t make it better.

The analogy was horrible. Own up to it instead of trying to explain yourself in a subsequent commentary. Your second commentary underscored the first. 

NABJ-CC asks for a public apology and acknowledgment that the piece was disrespectful and flawed. It speaks to the glaring lack of a strong African-American presence at the newspaper and on the editorial board. (Clarence Page is one person. You need more African Americans on the board.)

McQueary should be suspended from the Editorial Board for a minimum of two weeks and we’re requesting a face-to-face meeting with you Mr. Dold.

Sincerely,

Kathy Chaney

President, National Association of Black Journalists-Chicago Chapter

CC:           Sarah Glover, President – National Association of Black Journalists

                 Marlon Walker – Vice President, Print

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