St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor defends controversial dry asparagus story

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a front-page story Wednesday about a public official noticing that Schnucks, a grocery chain, put its asparagus in water in wealthy neighborhoods, while it was left dry in poor areas.
The story and criticism of it went viral, which prompted metro editor Alan Achkar to explain it on the paper’s Facebook wall.

Many of you have wondered why we wrote this story, theorizing that our motives were to “race bait,” or were part of some undefined liberal conspiracy, or that we simply lost our minds. Let me assure you that we were not attempting to take sides or fan the flames of racial divisiveness. In fact, please note that the story does not take sides. It presents a fair, even-handed, unbiased telling of the details.

Post-Dispatch editor Gilbert Bailon wrote in his weekend column: “I’ve been in newspapers for 30 years, and the public indignation and moral umbrage [over the story] surprised many of us veterans. …Symbolic outrage rooted in a vitamin-rich vegetable came from left field.”

Some reader reaction was visceral and venomous. Other comments were humorous and mocking. Several readers called or emailed to cancel their subscriptions because the mere premise of the story offended their sensibilities. Many had not read the full story but relied on a pithy description that condensed the topic into one loaded sentence, which then was spun in various directions.

He adds that the asparagus story “is straightforward. But it is odd. Please keep some perspective.”

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