Two years ago we made a pledge to become an anti-racist organization. An important part of that work requires an unflinching examination of ourselves and our approach to journalism, past and present. This work had a marked beginning but has no fixed end. It is in many ways a daily duty, for all of us.
This endeavor requires honesty. In that light, we must recognize that The Philadelphia Inquirer has historically failed in its coverage of the Black community — in a city where Black people have been integral since before the founding of the republic. We must also recognize that as an institution, we have failed Black journalists who for decades have fought, often in vain, for us to be more representative and inclusive.
The journalistic examination of The Inquirer by Wesley Lowery published this week puts our failings in brutal relief. The reporting shows not only that we have not done right — it reveals, starkly, that we have done wrong. Black voices in the story — inside and outside the newsroom — articulate forcefully the harm we have inflicted over decades.
It is worth noting that the story focuses primarily on the modern Inquirer — taking specific note of the racist headline published in 2020 and an offensive editorial published in 1990 — but it does not delve deeply into its long past. First printed just three months after Andrew Jackson was inaugurated president, The Inquirer has been a chronicler of life in the city for almost two centuries, and any historic assessment would doubtless find many more faults.
An acknowledgment of our failings is not sufficient. We also apologize — to the Black residents and communities of Philadelphia, to the Black journalists of The Inquirer past and present, and to other communities and people whom we have also neglected or harmed.
We recommit ourselves to the anti-racist mission we set in the summer of 2020, which has already yielded important changes. If there is skepticism of what we have done, or what we can or will do, we have earned that as well. We recognize that the judgment of our efforts will not be based on the promises we make, but on the actions we take, and the policies and practices we put in place to improve our journalism.