USA Today landed in an awkward spot when an attempt at nailing conservative politicians as racists led to an apology from one of their own.
Reporters scoured through 900 yearbooks at 120 schools across the country to find any racist photos that included blackface, KKK hoods, and mock lynchings, similar to those found on the medical school yearbook page of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
“In one of the most extensive searches of college yearbooks ever, we found blackface and Ku Klux Klan photos like Ralph Northam’s far beyond Virginia,” Brett Murphy wrote in a piece published Thursday by USA Today.
“Reporters collected more than 200 examples of offensive or racist material at colleges in 25 states, from large public universities in the South, to Ivy League schools in the Northeast, liberal arts boutiques and Division I powerhouses,” Murphy wrote, noting that in the 1970s and 1980s, a “stunning number of colleges and university yearbooks published images of blatant racism on campus.”
But after the large-scale exercise, the quest for the political holy grail was unsuccessful.
“No politicians were identified by USA TODAY Network’s review,” the article declared, citing the lack of captions, context, and inability to identify faces behind hoods and in blackface.
Yet one unexpected outcome of the study turned the spotlight back on the publication itself:
In one yearbook, from Arizona State University, reporters discovered that USA TODAY Editor Nicole Carroll had designed a page that included a photo of two people, at a fraternity’s Halloween party, in black makeup as actress Robin Givens and boxer Mike Tyson. Carroll, who was editor of the yearbook in 1989 when the photo ran, expressed regret after learning of the photo.
“I was shocked when a colleague told me of my role in publishing a racist and hurtful photo in my college yearbook,” Carroll said in a statement. “I am truly sorry for the harm my ignorance caused then, and the hurt it will cause now, 30 years later.”
Oh my gosh this is hilarious.
You went on a witch hunt… and found… yourself.
— federalistlibertarian (@federalistlibe1) February 22, 2019
The editor explained that she did not even recall working on the page as she addressed the finding in an op-ed titled, “I became part of our story on racist images in college yearbooks. I’m here to apologize for publishing that photo.”
I’m sorry and I’m here to apologize. As journalists, we must hold ourselves accountable as we do others, and it is important to call myself out for this poor judgment. https://t.co/TUe690buFP via @usatoday
— nicole carroll (@nicole_carroll) February 20, 2019
It was recently brought to my attention that I was involved in publishing such a photo when I was in college.
The 1988-89 yearbook I edited at Arizona State University included a photo of two people at a Halloween party dressed as Mike Tyson and Robin Givens. It is horrible, and of course the photo should not have been published.
I am sorry for the hurt I caused back then and the hurt it will cause today.
The USA Today editor-in-chief admitted, “I was shocked as I had no memory of that photo,” and added that she is “crushed by this mistake.”
Carroll vowed to “continue to grow” from the experience but, in fitting response, many social media users turned the liberal media’s narrative back on itself.
You have to resign. These are the rules you set
— Laissez les bons temps rouler (@portdauphin) February 21, 2019
When should we expect your resignation?
— Dan Hauer (@realDanielHauer) February 21, 2019
So when @MeganKellyTV said that people used to do this back in 80s and at that time it was okay, she got fired for mentioning it. Maybe do a follow up piece with her about all of this. Because it seems like what she said was accurate. Maybe invite the VA gov to chime in as well.
— trhardy1972 (@trhardy1972) February 21, 2019
I don’t feel the need to apologize for things I did 30 years ago. Hopefully, We’ve evolved and matured. So let’s move on. The real crime is that you damn everyone else’s actions until you are faced with your own. Willing to forgive yourself but not others! Left has created a mess
— Lee Borden (@lee_borden) February 21, 2019
If you’re a liberal, you’ll get a pass.
If you’re conservative, you’ll be drummed or if work and / or society.
— Pablo Sanchez (@pizza_pablo) February 21, 2019
So does this mean you’re willing to step down ? Or are you going to give everyone who ‘makes mistakes’ a chance to apologize and change? Oh, unless they’re conservative, right?
— Dan (@buttonspony) February 21, 2019