A regional daily editor has apologised for a front page published almost 22 years ago which featured headshots of black men looking like “slaves in cages.”
The Bristol Post splashed today on an apology for the offending front page, published on 17 April 1996, which featured pictures of 16 black men jailed for drugs offences under the headline ‘Faces of evil’.
Explaining the reasons for the apology, current Post editor Mike Norton said the splash had “essentially destroyed what little credibility and trust the Post had within Bristol’s African and Afro-Caribbean community”.
In an editorial, Mike said the effect of the page was “so powerful that it offended and ostracised a large section of the city’s community”, but admitted he would have also published it had he edited the Post then.
Wrote Mike: “I don’t blame the journalists who conceived it. I wasn’t the editor then but – if I had been – I’m sure I would have published the page, too.
“But it was a huge mistake. That one image essentially destroyed what little credibility and trust the Post had within Bristol’s African and Afro-Caribbean community.
“So, today, I want to apologise for that page. I want to say sorry for the hurt it caused – and continues to cause – to an entire community of my city. Moreover, I want to try to make amends for it.
“I’m sure there are many people reading this who will be wondering why I’m saying sorry. Weren’t these men crack dealers? Pedlars of evil? Yes, they were. But the problem was one of context.
“The Evening Post – as it was called then – was already disconnected from the city’s black communities. It was another Bristol institution that the people in those communities didn’t feel was for them. They were already wary of telling the Post about their news or their successes. They already had a suspicion that the paper wrote about black people only when they committed crime.
“The Faces of Evil front page, with its black faces arranged in rows like slaves held in cages, cemented that view.”
Mike admitted in a column last year that the Post has “too few” ethnic minority journalists, adding the paper has contributed to a “cultural divide” on his patch.
The newspaper is currently supporting a campaign aimed at tackling the under-representation of ethnic minorities in Bristol.
In today’s apology, Mike said that when he became editor 12 years ago, he was told the ‘Faces of Evil’ page was a reason why “some people didn’t interact with us or read the paper”.
He added: “Of course, I am only too well aware of how this will go down with some of some of the more vociferous contributors to the bristolpost.co.uk comments section. I await their inevitable hate. They will probably call me a snowflake – the word adopted by right-wingers when they want to belittle millennial entitlement. Or a bleeding-heart liberal who’s been got at by the politically correct brigade.
“I am neither. If only I was a millennial – I’d be at least 20 years younger. And I am certainly not a liberal. Dealing with politics for 30 years has made me cynical of any political stance. In fact, I’m actually like many of the people who read the Post in print and online. I’m a mongrel, working-class Bristolian, born in Easton and bred on the wrong side of the tracks in south Bristol.
“I want my city’s institutions to represent everyone in the city because there is still a perception that they don’t. As I’m lucky enough to run one of them, I can at least start with this one.
“Of course, the other thing the commenters will tell me to do is to move on, to stop dwelling on the past. And that is exactly what I want to do. Only not in the way they would prefer, which is by not talking about it.”
The Post will now host a series of what it is calling ‘city conversations’ aimed at finding an appropriate way to commemorate Bristol’s role in the transatlantic slave trade – with the first public debate being held on the 22nd anniversary of the ‘Faces of Evil’ page’s publication.