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