Paper Apologizes for Civil Rights Coverage
Monday, July 5, 2004; Page C03
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Lexington Herald-Leader featured a prominent clarification on its front page yesterday, apologizing for the newspaper's failures in covering the 1960s civil rights movement.
The notice accompanied a series of stories titled "Front-page news, back-page coverage" and decades-old black-and-white pictures taken by an independent photographer.
"It has come to the editor's attention that the Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil rights movement," the clarification read. "We regret the omission."
The report comes as the nation observes the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Beneath the clarification were photographs of a Main Street march and a lunch counter sit-in taken by Calvert McCann, now 62.
Many of his pictures were undeveloped until last year, when University of Kentucky historian Gerald L. Smith was researching a book.
"If it had not been for Calvert, we wouldn't have a visual record of this moment in Lexington's history," Smith told the newspaper.
Lexington's newspapers at the time, the Herald and the Leader, occasionally published short stories about the local civil rights movement; photographs rarely appeared.
The papers merged in 1983 and the Herald-Leader is now owned by Knight Ridder.
"The people in charge of recording the 'first rough draft of history,' as journalism is sometimes called, ignored sit-ins and marches, or relegated them to small notices in the back pages," Herald-Leader reporters Linda B. Blackford and Linda Minch wrote.
McCann, who is black, became interested in the civil rights movement while working at Michael's Photography store, where he was a janitor and film processor.
"I just wanted to document it and tell the story for me and my friends," McCann told the newspaper.
"During the summer, they would hire white high school students to work on the counter, but they never let me up there," he said. "I always resented it because I knew more about the business than anyone else."
The Louisville Defender, a black newspaper, and the Courier-Journal of Louisville covered the civil rights movement in the state. The Herald and the Leader shelved most news about blacks in a column called "Colored Notes."
It was compiled by the newsroom's only black employee, Gertrude Morbley, until 1969.
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