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Philadelphia paper apologizes for headline 'riffing' on Black Lives Matter

The Philadelphia Inquirer said in its apology the headline was offensive and suggested an equivalence between the loss of buildings and the lives of black Americans.

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Inquirer is apologizing after publishing a headline that read "Buildings matter, too." The story was about the future of the city's buildings and infrastructure following protests over the death of George Floyd. 

The full story headline currently on the website reads "Damaging buildings disproportionately hurts the people protesters are trying to uplift." But the printed, shorter headline Monday playing off Black Lives Matter drew outrage.

The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists called the headline "tone deaf" and demanded changes to the paper's editorial process and vetting.

“Sensitivity for Black communities and readers right now in the middle of protests against racial injustice should weigh more than ignorant editorial punchlines," Ernest Owens, Vice President of Print for PABJ, said in a statement.

The paper published a lengthy explanation Wednesday of how it happened.

"The headline offensively riffed on the Black Lives Matter movement, and suggested an equivalence between the loss of buildings and the lives of black Americans. That is unacceptable," read an explanation from the paper. "While no such comparison was intended, intent is ultimately irrelevant. 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."

The paper then explained the process of how a story is reviewed, approved, and a headline chosen. The Inquirer said two editors review headlines before publishing, and that those standards were followed.

"This incident makes clear that changes are needed, and we are committing to start immediately," the paper said.

Stan Wischnowski, an executive editor with the paper tweeted the "headline should not have been published."

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