Why we must confront the racism and neglect of our own news pages


To coincide with the 80th anniversary of the removal of Japanese Americans from Bainbridge Island during World War II, The Seattle Times published its first “A1 Revisited” project in late March. This project began what will be a series of examinations of past coverage and the harm caused by that reporting.

As part of the package, Seattle Times Executive Editor Michele Matassa Flores wrote a column to apologize for the paper's inaccurate and incomplete coverage of the Japanese American incarceration. An excerpt of the column is below.

Good journalists believe deeply in the power of transparency and truth-telling to bring about positive change. People and institutions are made better if they must explain their decisions, face their critics, confront their mistakes and learn from them. 

While we usually shine our spotlight on others in power, today we turn it on ourselves.  

We look back 80 years and examine our newspaper’s coverage of the forced removal of Japanese Americans from their homes during World War II, including hundreds of Bainbridge Island residents who were the first targets of Executive Order 9066. This week marks the anniversary of that shameful moment in our national and local history. 

A team from our newsroom pored over the March 30, 1942, edition of The Seattle Daily Times (as we were called then), critiquing A1 (the front page) through a present-day lens of accuracy and fairness. The group included writers, editors, artists, designers, photographers, videographers, a news researcher and a digital producer.  

They examined pages from that critical time and consulted experts from Densho, a Japanese American history group. They also researched the work of other nearby publications and interviewed our contrite publisher, Frank Blethen, whose ancestors owned the paper then (and back to the late 1800s). …

We are deeply sorry for our harmful coverage of the incarceration of Japanese Americans and for the pain we caused in the past that still reverberates today. We are still learning hard lessons. We acknowledge the power we have, and the need to wield it responsibly.  

Looking back as we are today makes for a very painful reflection. And one that is absolutely necessary.

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A1 Revisited project:

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