The much-criticized October cover of Philadelphia magazine — which features a photo of seven city public schoolchildren, none of whom are African-American — was the jumping-off point Wednesday night for a wide-ranging political strategy roundtable on the lack of diversity in mainstream newsrooms and how best to pressure and influence news organizations so that they more accurately reflect the communities they cover.
Front and center was Philly Mag, and that October cover.
Roundtable moderator Marshall Paul Mitchell, pastor of the Salem Baptist Church of Jenkintown, opened the discussion in part by saying: “If you think there’s an educational problem for white students in Philadelphia, you should see what the problems look like for African-American and Latino and Asian students.”
Philadelphia magazine editor Tom McGrath apologized for the cover three weeks ago, shortly after it hit newsstands. McGrath’s apology read, in part, “To include not even one African-American child on the cover fails to reflect not just the diversity that exists at the Greenfield School (where the photo was taken), but also that within the city of Philadelphia.” Metro Corp, which owns Philadelphia magazine, has also released a new diversity policy.
Panelist Cherri Gregg, a KYW Newsradio reporter and president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ), recalled that Philly Mag made similar (though less detailed) public statements following the publication of the controversial article “Being White in Philly,” in the March 2013 issue of the magazine.
And yet, she and other panelists said, the magazine has failed in the time since to either diversify its newsroom or to devote meaningful coverage to people of color.
“Every cover they do is what it’s like to be white in Philadelphia,” said Barbara Grant, owner of Cardenas-Grant Communications.
Said Gregg: “I feel like we have to stand up and say, ‘You can’t ignore us. We are here and we do matter.'”
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