The City Paper made a mistake, but they handled it with dignity


Written By Carley Bonk, Editor-Elect

Many within the Pittsburgh media community have probably heard of the Pittsburgh City Paper’s retraction of a cover story. “Women Ink,” was pulled from the City Paper’s website last Wednesday because it featured a local female tattoo artist and a photo of her in an Aggravated Assault T-shirt – a band that promotes ideas of white supremacy.

The article and photo were submitted by freelance writer/photographer Kat Rutt.

The photo in question also shows a small swastika tattoo on Lettia Suchevich’s arm, the artist with the Aggravated Assault T-shirt. The City Paper discovered that Rutt had also submitted a doctored version of the photo with her story, where the tattoo was airbrushed away. Altering photos without editorial permission is against the City Paper’s policy, especially with news photos.

The City Paper did not run the doctored photo in print, but was not aware of the origin of the T-shirt’s message until they began receiving messages from readers that did.

Aggravated Assault features lyrics in their music that encourages racist hate crimes and celebrates the malicious acts of infamous Nazi leaders. It was revealed upon investigation that the band includes Suchevich’s husband.

As a former intern of the City Paper, I can’t help but feel saddened by the situation that unravelled last week. Any instance where the journalism community is tarnished by neglectful reporting of one can affect us as a whole.

Despite the disaster, I believe Deitch’s response was swift, sincere and appropriate. He published an editorial note on the City Paper’s website, as well as on Facebook.

“We are not in the business of censoring anybody,” Deitch said on the City Paper’s website. “But this paper decided long ago that there are certain ‘opinions’ that we will refuse to give validation to, and white supremacy and racism are obviously at the top of the list.”

I admire Deitch and his fellow editors in taking responsibility for any shortcomings in the newsroom. I admire that they vow to learn from this lapse. Journalists are humans too, and mistakes can slip through the cracks.

Instead of berating the publication for an unintentional mistake, damning them into non-existence,  I think we should look at the response and sincere apology issued from editors who really care about the paper they work for and applaud them for their efforts to come out of this storm journalistically stronger.