Baltimore Sun editorial board apologizes for paper’s past racism in its 185-year history

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The editorial board of the Baltimore Sun issued a stunning apology Friday for having “promoted policies that oppressed Black Marylanders.”

“Throughout its 185 years, The Baltimore Sun has served an important role in Maryland: uncovering corruption, influencing policy, informing businesses and enlightening communities. But legacies like ours are often complicated. We bore witness to many injustices across generations, and while we worked to reverse many of them, some we made worse,” the editorial board began in its address to readers. “Instead of using its platforms, which at times included both a morning and evening newspaper, to question and strike down racism, The Baltimore Sun frequently employed prejudice as a tool of the times. It fed the fear and anxiety of white readers with stereotypes and caricatures that reinforced their erroneous beliefs about Black Americans.”

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“Through its news coverage and editorial opinions, The Sun sharpened, preserved and furthered the structural racism that still subjugates Black Marylanders in our communities today. African Americans systematically have been denied equal opportunity and access in every sector of life — including health care, employment, education, housing, personal wealth, the justice system and civic participation. They have been refused the freedom to simply be, without the weight of oppression on their backs. For this, we are deeply ashamed and profoundly sorry,” the board continued. 

Baltimore Sun reporter Jean Marbella holds up the Baltimore Sun front page that headlined their potential take over by a nonprofit group during an interview in Baltimore, Maryland on March 11, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Baltimore Sun reporter Jean Marbella holds up the Baltimore Sun front page that headlined their potential take over by a nonprofit group during an interview in Baltimore, Maryland on March 11, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Sun went on to shine a light on a lengthy list of the paper’s “offenses,” beginning with classified ads printed in 1837 about the selling of enslaved people and rewards for those who escaped. 

The paper admitted it had not hired its first Black journalist until 1950 and “and too few Black journalists ever since.”

It also cited numerous editorials hostile towards Black people. 

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“The paper’s prejudice hurt people. It hurt families, it hurt communities, and it hurt the nation as a whole by prolonging and propagating the notion that the color of someone’s skin has anything to do with their potential or their worth to the wider world,” the editorial board wrote. 

The Sun also touted the “steps” it has taken to right wrongs, including the launch of a “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion reporting team,” “developing a cultural competency style guide” and “forming outreach committees” to improve representation of Balimore residents. 

The Baltimore Sun building is seen in Baltimore, Maryland on March 11, 2021. - After years of staff cuts, shrinking budgets and declining readership, the Baltimore Sun finally has some good news to report about itself: a deal for a new nonprofit group to take over, and potentially revive, the struggling newspaper.The plan unveiled in February, which remains tentative, comes in response to an extraordinary movement supported by civic and business leaders, sports figures, journalists and others to rescue the 184-year-old newspaper and bring it back to local ownership. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Baltimore Sun building is seen in Baltimore, Maryland on March 11, 2021. – After years of staff cuts, shrinking budgets and declining readership, the Baltimore Sun finally has some good news to report about itself: a deal for a new nonprofit group to take over, and potentially revive, the struggling newspaper.The plan unveiled in February, which remains tentative, comes in response to an extraordinary movement supported by civic and business leaders, sports figures, journalists and others to rescue the 184-year-old newspaper and bring it back to local ownership. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

“Our approach today, unlike that of the country’s ‘colorblind’ era of the 1980s and ‘90s, is to actively see the differences among us and work to understand: why they exist, what they mean to whom and why, whether they’re real or perceived, and whether they should be honored or struck down,” the board wrote. “Pretending we were all the same never worked, because it ignored the fact that we’re not all given the same opportunities to succeed or fail on our merits; some are privileged, others are oppressed. Refusing to recognize that only prolonged difficult conversations and much-needed soul-searching, dooming more generations to repeat the cycle.”

“As journalists, as the Fourth Estate, we at the paper have a public responsibility to confront and illuminate societal ills so that they can be addressed and eradicated. On race, The Sun’s history is one we’re not proud to share, and we should warn you that it’s offensive to read,” the board added. “But addressing one’s wrongs begins by acknowledging them. While we’ve taken great pains to highlight the paper’s righteous actions through the years, and there have been many, we have yet to shine a light on our dark corners — until today. This accounting is most certainly incomplete. Nevertheless, we hope that by revealing some of our institution’s past injustices, we will step closer to truly providing, as our masthead says, ‘Light for All.”

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Baltimore Sun publisher and editor-in-chief Trif Alatzas issued his own statement addressing the paper’s mea culpa. 

“In an editorial today, we chronicle The Baltimore Sun’s history in covering the Black community. We also apologize for The Sun’s failures in that coverage,” Alatzas told readers. “Too often, The Sun did not use its influence to better define, explain and root out systemic racism or prejudiced policies and laws. And, at times throughout its 185-year history, The Sun actively advocated for inequality.” 

“It is a disturbing piece to read, containing descriptions and examples of racist statements, scenarios and news coverage. It is a necessary introspection, and, along with the apology, is overdue. We know we need to do better and are committed to doing so,” the Sun boss wrote. 

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