[UPDATED] Philadelphia magazine blasted for ‘Being White in Philly’ cover story


City Paper’s Daniel Denvir on Philadelphia magazine’s controversial “Being White in Philly” story:

I’ve heard that people close to the publication are not happy about this particular trolling expedition. Philadelphia Magazine can sometimes not help but to brazenly stroke the fragile if well-resourced egos of its elite readership — and, and on its worst days, stoke their pathetic prejudices and insecurities too.

Longtime Philadelphia magazine writer Jason Fagone’s problems with the piece:

Sources are anonymous, names are changed. I don’t like this. I don’t see how you’re going launch a frank discussion of race—the stated goal of the piece, and a worthy one—under a cloak of anonymity.

Another thing I don’t like: The thrust of the piece seems to be that white people are afraid to talk about race because black people have made them feel uncomfortable talking about race. Therefore we can’t solve problems in the city, because a conversation is impossible. The implication is that this is black people’s fault.

UPDATE — Philadelphia magazine editor Tom McGrath tells Romenesko readers that he “absolutely” expected the criticism.

“As Bob Huber writes in the piece, any time you bring up the subject of race, you risk being called a racist,” he says in an email. “And we knew that was particularly true in this case — where we very deliberately only wrote it from a white point of view.

Tom McGrath

Tom McGrath

“We did it that way for two reasons. First, race is a subject many white people would simply prefer to ignore — despite the fact that blacks outnumber whites in Philadelphia and that a third of blacks live below the poverty line. White people’s unwillingness to engage on the issue is, I think, one of the reasons Philadelphia remains a largely segregated city. Second, we were curious to hear what white people really do think about race, since it’s not something that’s expressed publicly very often. We thought there was something to learn here that might help spark a conversation.

McGrath says City Paper’s Denvir is right about the staff’s negative reaction to the story.

“Dan is correct that, overwhelmingly, our edit staff wasn’t happy about the piece. This week, on our news and opinion site, the Philly Post, some of them will be publishing their reactions to the story and to the topic. As to whether our story stroked the prejudices of our readers [as Denvir contends]: I don’t actually know what their prejudices are. And I don’t think Dan does, either. That’s one of the reasons we wrote the story: To let people say what they actually think.” || McGrath is answering questions about the piece this afternoon.

* Daniel Denvir: Philly mag says whites must criticize blacks more (citypaper.net)
* Tom McGrath: Why we wrote about race | The story (phillymag.com)
* Jason Fagone: “‘Being White in Philly’ doesn’t make sense as journalism” (phillymag.com)