We began planning in ernest for this series in August. The first step was to call in some friends from the black and white communities to test the waters, if you will.
Read other stories in this series and view the multimedia presentations by clicking here.
We asked them to help us outline a series of stories that would address topics of importance, topics that might be sensitive, others that might just be informative.
Aiming for truthful portrayal
We wanted both positive and negative information. No sugar-coating.
It took two meetings, actually, to give everyone we contacted an opportunity to have input. From those meetings we got story ideas, contact information and advice. Then began the research.
Our reporters at first had difficulty getting some sources to return their calls. We even heard about one leader in the black community warning others against speaking to us about this subject. We expected some of that. We are a totally white news staff trying to report accurately the perspective of the black community. That's a challenging task, but not impossible. There are issues of trust.
People would, and did, understandably fear that we sought only to stir up trouble.
Some admitted to being afraid that a series on this subject might make things worse. "Things are going along just fine, thank you very much. Don't upset the apple cart."
One person applauded the series, but warned, "Things will get worse before they get better."
Public housing issue not touched
Let me first say that we did not accomplish everything we sought out to accomplish. There were areas of concern in which we were never able to get interviews from either the black or white community. Public housing, for one. Private industry, for another.
But there is much in this series to contemplate.
Today we begin by posting online the results of a roundtable discussion, along with a story in print from another interview. Both discussions were with people we consider to be leaders in the black community, people who have been around for a while, who remember how things were long ago and who gladly remind us of why we need to have these conversations.
Throughout the week we will examine other important issues like housing, employment, education and racial profiling.
We know we cannot do the topic of race relations justice in five days of stories about these subjects alone. We know there is much more.
What we hope is that we can begin a civil conversation between the races, raising the level of awareness among the majority of what the minority faces and how our actions are received.
From these kinds of conversations, we think unity grows. We hope you think so, too.