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Philadelphia Inquirer apologizes after facing online wrath over ‘Buildings Matter, Too’ headline amid Black Lives Matter protests

Philadelphia Inquirer apologizes after facing online wrath over ‘Buildings Matter, Too’ headline amid Black Lives Matter protests
A punchy headline has landed one of Philadelphia's largest newspapers in hot water, after the paper’s bid to highlight damage inflicted by vandals during ongoing protests was spun to equate the loss of life with that of buildings.

The Philadelphia Inquirer issued a lengthy apology on Wednesday for a story that ran the day prior, headlined Buildings Matter, Too,” an apparent reference to the anti-police brutality movement, Black Lives Matter, which has spearheaded nationwide protests over the last week following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. 

“The Philadelphia Inquirer published a headline in Tuesday’s edition that was deeply offensive. We should not have printed it,” the paper wrote in its apology, signed by three senior editors. “We’re sorry, and regret that we did. We also know that an apology on its own is not sufficient.”

In addition to the mea culpa, the editors vowed to review the publishing process to ensure a similar error didn’t happen again, while also noting that staff would continue to be trained on “cultural sensitivity.”

The headline in question was altered several times before arriving at its longer, current iteration – “Damaging buildings disproportionately hurts the people protesters are trying to uplift” – with its second version – “Black Lives Matter. Do Buildings?” – savaged by critics no less.

An earlier stab at an apology also did little to assuage the criticism, with one detractor dubbing it “lame” and the result of an “unforced error.”

While the headline was slammed for comparing African-Americans slain by law enforcement to buildings that suffered damage in acts of vandalism and rioting sparked by the same police brutality, the Inquirer insisted it was not equating the two, explaining that “an editor’s attempt to capture a columnist’s nuanced argument in a few words went horribly wrong, and the resulting hurt and anger are plain.”

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The text of the story itself – penned by architecture critic Inga Saffron – argues that the destruction of buildings and other city infrastructure would “ultimately end up hurting the very people the protests are meant to uplift,” while acknowledging that black Americans “have been the victims of systemic oppression” for centuries in the US.

Regardless, the original headline has largely eclipsed whatever point Saffron had tried to make, with countless critics shredding the Inquirer and the editors responsible for the title without addressing the issues raised in the article itself.

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