Cathy Hughes, the leader of a three-month protest over the coverage of blacks in The Washington Post's Sunday magazine and the daily newspaper, announced yesterday that the protest has ended and that Post Publisher Donald E. Graham and Executive Editor Benjamin C. Bradlee will appear on her radio talk show to discuss news coverage.
For 13 consecutive Sundays, the Washington Post Magazine Recall Committee, a coalition of community groups, held demonstrations during which it dumped magazines on the front steps of the newspaper's downtown building to protest the depiction of blacks in the premiere issue of The Post's Sunday magazine.
That Sept. 7 issue featured a cover story about a black New York rap singer accused of murder and a column sympathizing with Washington merchants who turn away young black men whom they view as robbers and shoplifters.
The protest, however, soon expanded to include longstanding objections to what some called negative coverage of blacks in the news pages. The recall committee had voted not to hold any formal talks with Post executives until the newspaper "signaled" that it would seriously consider a demand for balanced coverage of blacks by suspending publication of the magazine.
Yesterday, Hughes, the owner of WOL-AM radio, began her three-hour, call-in morning talk show by announcing that the protest would end and that she and Graham had "reached a resolution" of the controversy.
Hughes read a news release, issued by The Post, that said Graham would appear on Hughes' talk show next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 7:30 to 10 a.m.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Bradlee and other Post representatives would join Graham.
Although Hughes called the agreement a victory, members of the recall committee had mixed reactions.
While most characterized the agreement as "a step in the right direction," others were skeptical about whether there would be any substantial changes in the newspaper's coverage of blacks.
The Rev. William Reverly, pastor of Mount Gilead Baptist Church who organized church participation in the protest, said he was shocked to learn of the agreement yesterday morning. "It doesn't seem like much to me," said Reverly. "We could have gotten that much several weeks ago."
In the statement released by The Post, Graham said his appearance on the radio show would be to state the paper's position.
"My purpose is to listen, and to affirm that Washington Post policies include balanced, consistent coverage of the black community, not ignoring any problems, but placing appropriate emphasis on the achievers, the successful, the positive aspects of the community," Graham said. He declined to comment on how the agreement was reached.
Hughes said Graham made the offer to appear on the radio talk show and she accepted it Thursday after consulting with recall committee members. "The publisher of The Washington Post is giving not his word to an individual or a committee, but to a community," she said.
When asked why the committee dropped the request for a suspension of the magazine, Hughes said the committee's goal always had been "balanced and objective journalism" and that since the protest began the committee had noticed improvements in Post stories about blacks.
Although she refused to provide any details, Hughes said a monitoring system of sorts will be put in place to evaluate the coverage of blacks and that the type of system will be announced when Graham appears on the show next week. Bradlee said no monitoring system is called for in the agreement.
"The root causes of the difficulty will need a lot of care and attention," Bradlee said. "If the goal was to raise the sensitivity of The Post, I think she [Hughes] did that."