By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia Magazine editor Tom McGrath and writer Robert Huber faced more fire at a public forum last night over the publication’s controversial article “Being White in Philly.” The three-week old article has incited strong emotion from black and white people alike and has become national news.
Audience members at the forum hosted by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists gave Philly Mag editor Tom McGrath and writer Bob Huber an ear full.
“You’re a racist! You both are racist,” said freelance journalist Monica Peters.
“I’m so pissed off listening to this,” E. Steven Collins, talk show host at Radio One, said.
Huber says he spent six weeks visiting Fairmount section of Philadelphia and spoke to 60 white people about their views about Blacks people.
“I wanted to see how white people engage in an inner city, largely African American neighborhood,” says Huber. “I wanted to do that for two reasons- I feel that they are intimidated to be a central part of the conversation on this. And I also wanted to put their feet to the fire on this.”
McGrath says they expected strong reaction, but not the level of contention that resulted.
“We regret that people felt wounded by it,” says McGrath. “It was not our intention, it was not our intention at all.”
Attendees heavily criticized the magazine for its lack of diversity. McGrath says the publication has no one of color on its editorial staff.
“We don’t tend to get a lot of African-Americans who raise their hand and say we want to write for you,” he says.
But both McGrath and Huber agrees that the public outcry is a teachable moment.
“It definitely made me think much more deeply about the type of sensitivity required when you talk about race,” he says. “Obviously, we did not employ enough. And it certainly made me think about the make up of our own staff.”
McGrath says they hope to hire more diverse writers, but did not give a specific timeline on when this would happen.
Last week, Mayor Michael Nutter wrote a scathing letter to the Human Relations Commission, calling the article “disgusting” and asking the agency to investigate some the sensitive issues raised by the article.