USA Today editor apologizes for yearbook blackface photo

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PHOENIX (AP) — The editor of USA Today apologized Thursday for an image portraying blackface that was published in the Arizona State University yearbook on her watch.

Nicole Carroll said in an editorial published in the newspaper that it was recently brought to her attention “that I was involved in publishing such a photo when I was in college.”

Carroll says she edited the 1988-89 ASU yearbook that included a photograph of two people, at a fraternity’s Halloween party, wearing black makeup as boxer Mike Tyson and actress Robin Givens.

“It is horrible, and of course the photo should not have been published,” she wrote. “I am sorry for the hurt I caused back then and the hurt it will cause today.”

Carroll said the image was discovered during a review of yearbooks from that time by Gannett Co.’s USA Today and its newspaper network. She says she was shocked and had no memory of the photo.

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The yearbook survey was launched after the recent disclosure that a photograph of one unidentified person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood was published on the 1984 medical school yearbook page of Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. The scandal involving Northam’s page has sparked calls for the governor’s resignation and has led to widespread reflection over the past use of blackface and other racist images in the United States.

USA Today reported that its extensive search of hundreds of yearbooks from the 1970s and 1980s around the country turned up photographs of students dressed in Klan robes and blackface, mock lynchings and other displays of blatant racism. Other photos show students saluting in Nazi uniforms or wearing Native American costumes.

Arizona State University said in a statement that the blackface photograph in its own college yearbook “is a sad reminder that this kind of insensitivity was all too common in past decades.”

“Things are changing for the better, for which we at ASU are grateful, but that doesn’t take away the possibility that the picture caused or will cause pain. For that we are sorry,” the statement added.

Carroll wrote: “Clearly the 21-year-old me who oversaw the book and that page didn’t understand how offensive the photo was. I wish I had. Today’s 51-year-old me of course understands and is crushed by this mistake.”

Carroll wrote that when she was editor of The Arizona Republic from 2015-2018, “our newsroom held frequent meetings with diverse communities, asking them to critique our work and help us do better.”

She said she continues to champion diversity and inclusion in the USA Today newsroom and the paper’s news coverage.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

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