'Newspaper apologizes to those offended'

The Portland, Maine, Press Herald ran a feature story on the front page on Saturday, 9/11 , regarding the end of Ramadan . There was a big community event and the paper did the expected coverage.

They didn't have expected coverage, however, of the ninth anniversary of the terror attacks, and at least some readers were outraged. That led to this full-retreat apology on the front page from the editor/publisher:

We made a news decision on Friday that offended many readers and we sincerely apologize for it.

Many saw Saturday's front-page story and photo regarding the local observance of the end of Ramadan as offensive, particularly on the day, Sept. 11, when our nation and the world were paying tribute to those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks nine years ago.

We have acknowledged that we erred by at least not offering balance to the story and its prominent position on the front page.


What you are reading today was the planned coverage of the 9/11 events. We believed that the day after the anniversary would be the appropriate occasion to provide extensive news coverage of the events and observances conducted locally and elsewhere.

In hindsight, it is clear that we should have handled this differently and with greater sensitivity toward the painful memories stirred by the anniversary of 9/11.

The apology was picked up by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof , who wrote in a column about how Muslims "are one of the last minorities in the United States that it is still possible to demean openly":

So the newspaper published a groveling front-page apology for being too respectful of Muslims. "We sincerely apologize," wrote the editor and publisher, Richard Connor, and he added: "We erred by at least not offering balance to the story and its prominent position on the front page." As a blog by James Poniewozik of Time paraphrased it: "Sorry for Portraying Muslims as Human."

The reader comments on both the Portland apology and the Kristof column are worth reading, by the way. If you need evidence of why online reader comment has value, despite the despicable anonymous comments that are frequently made, take a look.

As I noted last week , at least one reader thought it was a mistake for us to have a front page story about the Eid celebration two days AFTER 9/11, though her point had more to do with the contretemps regarding the Islamic community center and mosque proposed in lower Manhattan.

For the record, on Friday 9/10, editors and I talked about how to play our end-of-Ramadan coverage for the next day and we chose not to put that feature story on the front page. We focused instead on the ninth anniversary of the terror attacks and how the World Trade Center site is being redeveloped, and referred to the Eid coverage inside.

That was a good news judgment, based on what we had for that day's paper, but I'll be the first to acknowledge that it also reflected the sensitivity that we all have to 9/11, even though it's "nine years out."


That autumn day in 2001 will remain a nightmare for many of us as long as we live. People expect the newspaper to reflect that.



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