Bristol Post editor sorry for 'Faces of Evil' splash published 21 years ago that 'destroyed' trust with local black community

Bristol Post editor Mike Norton has apologised for a front page published 21 years ago that bore the headline “Faces of Evil” alongside 16 police photos of black men jailed for dealing crack cocaine.

Today’s Post splash was devoted to an apology for the story, published on 17 April 1996, which Norton has such a powerful effect it “offended and ostracised a large section of the city’s community” and continues to do so.

In a comment piece today, Norton, who has been editor of the Post since 2005, said he didn’t blame the journalist who conceived it and admitted he probably would have published it too had he been editor at the time.

But, he said had been a “huge mistake” that had “destroyed what little credibility and trust the Post had within Bristol’s African and Afro-Caribbean community”.

He added: “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.”

Norton said that when he joined the post he was told that the infamous splash was a reason why some people do not read or interact with the paper.

Explaining his decision to address the cover almost 22 years after its publication, Norton said he sensed a “significant shift” and “rising empathy” towards the city’s BAME communities.

He said: “Our elected mayor Marvin Rees is diverting funds to previously neglected areas and trying to ensure that BAME voices are heard in Bristol’s decision-making.

“The Colston Hall is facing up to the realisation that its name is offensive.

“There is a rising tide of change coming and I want the Post – which was part of the problem – to be at the forefront of the solution.”

Norton added that it was time to “make amends” for the front page, and said he is taking “positive action”.

He said: “I am arranging for more black writers to contribute to the Post. And I’m giving opportunities to BAME youngsters who want experience of journalism.

“I’m an editor who gives as many young people as I can the opportunity to spend time in the Post newsroom. Those who apply are almost always white.

“That’s no surprise in a city which, according to a recent Runnymede report, has been classified as the most segregated in the UK.”

The editorial received a mixed reaction on social media.

Spectator blogger Ed West tweeted: “How dare journalists report the news in a way that makes readers notice social patterns”.

British Future founder Sunder Katwala called the Post a “very interesting example of local media seeking to play proactive role dialogue on identity  and integration challenges”.

Norton said that he was “only too well aware” of the reaction he would receive from some of the “more vociferous contributors” on the website’s comments section.

He added: “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.”

Picture: Trinity Mirror


2 thoughts on “Bristol Post editor sorry for 'Faces of Evil' splash published 21 years ago that 'destroyed' trust with local black community”

  1. Well-meaning and sincere as Post editor Mike Norton’s apology for the paper’s 1996 “Faces of evil” front page seems – albeit, one suspects, declared with a cynical eye to boosting circulation and advertising revenue in multi-cultural districts – it is misguided and, by being ethnically predicated, itself construable as racist. And it may prove the latest instance of his habitual empty, promises-breaking rhetoric.

    Would he have apologised for an equivalent spread depicting all or partially white or oriental criminals, or even noted their ethnicities? Indeed, the Post archive probably contains many such pages of multiple white mugshots published over the years, documenting sport teams, election candidates, theatre casts, band line-ups, estate-agency appointments etc, as well as criminals. Are any of these genuinely redolent of caged slaves (caged with only their heads visible?), or is he contrivedly imposing such a kneejerk interpretation? Is it cos they is black?

    Drug culprits would presumably have been portrayed in such a manner regardless of skin(-up) colour. This particular batch of criminals happened to be ‘darkies’, but mugshots would surely have been given equal prominence if villains were white or of other extraction.

    The only (two-)faces of evil round here are Mike Norton and Bristol Post staff and proprietors. They still have many far higher-priority apologies to make, for:

    * Discontinuing the Post’s Saturday edition shortly after Norton pledged to keep producing a daily paper

    * Welshing on its front-page-flashed guarantee – also personally pledged by Norton in an editorial item – of 300 job advertisements every week (then 200, then gradually lower numbers, before quietly dropping the promise)

    * Slashing the letters section from three pages to one

    * Ending art, nightlife and general-events listings in the abysmal (with the exception of the food section) Weekend magazine

    * Printing what’s-on listings for events which took place the previous day; or at very short notice, giving readers little time to prepare

    * Adding insult to injury by charging 25p extra on Fridays

    * Seldom printing submitted corrections for the Post’s constant errors, despite a prominent page-2 policy statement vowing to do so

    * Luring subscribers with the Plus benefits scheme, which was nice while it lasted but seems to have been quietly shelved

  2. I worked for the BEP many yrs ago and can imagine the response from the then editor and news editor. Get lost would have been the polite version. It was a justifiable headline for those convicted of dealing in a potentially lethal drug.
    Fast forward to the pictures of Asian men convicted of white girl gr0oming and sexual assault. Will that lead to ‘alienation’ of the Asian community and a grovelling apology?
    Welcome to the era of ‘tippy toes’ journalism.

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