Community Responds to Metro Racism

The NAACP, citizens' groups and the <i>American Journalism Review</i> weigh in on the <i>Boston Metro</i> controversy; will <i>The New York Times</i> be forced to pull out?
This is the third in a series of stories on the revelation of racism at the Boston Metro. The other two are here and here. More will be posted as the story unfolds.

Outrage over the racist corporate culture at the Metro newspaper group – and at the lack of adequate response by either Metro or its new partners at The New York Times Company – continues to build, as leaders and members of minority communities in both Boston and New York are now offering their own responses to the shocking revelations from earlier this week.

The Times-owned Boston Globe, meant to be the local partner with Boston Metro, yesterday quoted Leonard Alkins, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP, as saying the MediaChannel reports are "very troublesome, and clearly [The Times Company] is buying into a newspaper whose management seems to have some questionable character problems."

The Times Company, he said, "needs to deal with the culture of the Metro first and then sit down with the community."

Massachusetts State Rep. Byron Rushing said The Times Company must have the "ability to work on changing the culture of the company. It has to be part of the deal." Otherwise, he added, "you're only profiting from a culture that allows this kind of thing to happen." And two Boston-area African-American pastors demanded a meeting with Times Company and Globe executives, saying "The Metro needs to connect with some group doing cultural and racial sensitivity training."

Meanwhile journalists' associations and academic institutes also began to weigh in. The Boston Association of Black Journalists issued a statement saying, "The crude and racist comments reportedly made by Metro executives are inexcusable and should give The New York Times a huge red flag about the insensitive culture within its new business partner. By not condemning these alleged remarks, The New York Times and its subsidiary, the Boston Globe, give the appearance that they have surrendered their once liberal values to making a quick easy buck." Boston Herald columnist Howard Manly is president of the association, which also recommended a boycott of the Metro. Manly said the statement was written as a collaborative effort by members of the association.

Rem Rieder, editor of the American Journalism Review, said, "It's very embarrassing, particularly for a company like [The Times] ... It's hard to imagine worse publicity ... I think I'd be thinking seriously about walking away."

Callie Crossley, program manager at Harvard's prestigious Nieman Foundation, told Globe reporter Mark Jurkowitz that "It is incumbent" on The Times Company "not just to say something but to do something ... . They need to take this very seriously. This is a publication aimed at young people. What's the message here?"

Meanwhile the controversy continued to spread, and has now reached the backyard of The Times Company. As reported today in the New York Post, "Black leaders in New York yesterday said they wanted to stop the presses at the free daily Metro after top executives at the newspaper made headlines for telling crude racist jokes."

Speaking of Metro executive Steve R. Nylund, City Councilman Charles Barron said, "He should be fired." Barron also said he would discuss the issue with the council's black and Latino caucus, whose members may call for a boycott, noting "It's a free paper, but if their readership goes down, it doesn't help their advertisers."

MediaChannel also received outraged responses from its readers. "Thank you for breaking the silence on this subject. In doing so I have taken action by forwarding your article along to others," Tonia Shakespeare wrote. "It also points out the need for me as an African American to participate in blogging ... something I feel not enough of us are doing. And as your site demonstrates, the need for American media to have a watchdog and an alternate viewpoint."

Another reader, Mary Ann Mills, expressed her shock and offered to join a boycott. "I just read about the racist comments made by executives of and their pathetic excuse for an apology by one of them. I am at first shocked, then dismayed, and now outraged at these executives and their company, and The New York Times, that is actively working to buy this company. I am MORE than fed up with any people, people in the public eye, and most especially people who hold public trust, be it media or government, behaving as if comments such as these do not matter and do not carry weight. It is inexcusable any way you look at it."

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald reported further evidence of racist remarks and attitudes at the free newspaper chain, amid growing signs that the entire proposed deal between The Times Company and Metro may be falling apart. Although a spokeswoman for The Times Company yesterday declined to comment on whether the organization was reconsidering its transaction with Boston Metro, the Boston Globe reported that several analysts are reflecting on the potential of the negative headlines to stall or even kill the partnership.

George Ticknor, a partner at Palmer & Dodge who heads up the firm's media and communications finance group, told the Globe bad publicity may not kill the deal, but it could give Times Co. executives pause.

"Newspaper operators like The Times [Co.] have to have their ear to the ground," he said. "The impact of negative publicity on newspapers is very significant ... Credibility with the readership and newspaper public is important."
This and other articles by Rory O'Connor are available on his blog.
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