Here’s the unsigned statement the Xpress printed in response to the open letter criticizing its story looking at some of the big ideas that have shaped Asheville:
Thank you all for pointing out our bias and holding us to a higher standard. We knew we’d taken a daunting challenge in attempting to provide highlights of the area’s big ideas. In our zeal and facing a deadline, our limited perspectives showed through as an unintended bias. But thanks to the push-back from a great community, we have an opportunity for ongoing dialogue. With input from you, dear readers, we propose to revise our Big Ideas timeline to better reflect the breadth and diversity of contributors to the areas vibrancy.
I think that’s a pretty lame response. It sites a “deadline” as a reason for the shortcoming? The newspaper lives with deadlines, every week in print and every day online. It cites an “opportunity for ongoing dialogue.” If the newspaper wants dialogue, why hasn’t it posted the open letter and response to a prominent position online and actively encouraged said dialogue? (A reader actually posted the open letter link to the Xpress FB post about its cover story.) Will the revised Big Ideas timeline have the same cover display as the original story?
Last weekend, readers including Jodi Rhoden and Beth Trigg criticized the story, saying it emphasized the ideas of white men. In an open letter to Mountain Xpress published online, a growing list of signers said they wanted to bring attention to the “blatant bias” of the story package.
The most egregious example of this bias is the “Big Ideas” timeline, which mentions 10 individual men by name and only 1 woman, and 10 individual white people by name and only 1 person of color. So for example we see the names of Wally Bowen, Julian Price, and Monroe Gilmour, but not those of Wilma Dykeman, Karen Cragnolin, Issac Dickson, Marjorie Lockwood, Emoke B’racz, Viola Spells, Lillian Exum Clement, Newton Shepherd, Irene Hendrick, Oralene Simmons, James and Barbara Ferguson, Al Whitesides, Annette Coleman, Leni Sitnik, Etta Whitner Patterson, Elizabeth Blackwell, or Marvin Chambers.
The open letter went on to document the bias, then encourages people to share the big ideas, and the people behind them, that should have been considered or included.
Guess we’ll wait and see what Xpress ends up printing.