Philadelphia Magazine story discussed with Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists

From left, moderator Nia Meeks; Tom McGrath, Philadelphia Magazine editor; and Robert Huber, "Being White in Philly" author.
From left, moderator Nia Meeks; Tom McGrath, Philadelphia Magazine editor; and Robert Huber, "Being White in Philly" author. (JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 21, 2013

For the second night in a row, the editor of Philadelphia Magazine and the author of its "Being White in Philly" cover story willingly endured a barrage of criticism and some harsh accusations about the controversial piece.

Round Two delivered more punishment for editor Tom McGrath and writer Robert Huber as they faced the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists at a meeting Tuesday at the offices of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and philly.com.

A vice president of the association accused both men of being racists. They were subjected to mockery from some of the questioners and threatened with a boycott of the magazine's advertisers.

As they did Monday at the National Constitution Center, McGrath and Huber responded politely to questions and criticisms. Their answers often did not satisfy the audience.

Some speakers accused the magazine of long-standing racial insensitivity while others demanded that it hire more minorities.

McGrath said more diversity on the editorial staff, which is all-white, "would bring a richer experience to the magazine."

He was asked about a commentary piece published Sunday in The Inquirer written by Adrienne Simpson, an event planner who is the only full-time black employee at the magazine. In the article, she called the cover story a "lopsided, conflagrant editorial - that teetered on the brink of fear mongering."

McGrath surprised the audience by acknowledging her presence in the audience. A tearful Simpson received enthusiastic applause.

McGrath said Simpson's piece, headlined "The only black person in the room," was courageous and well written. So much so, he said, that he had raised the possibility of her writing blog posts for the magazine.

After the meeting, Simpson said she could not comment about her work situation but did say, "So far, so good."

Huber said he pitched his story around September and did some interviews with white people around the city before realizing he wanted to focus on the Fairmount neighborhood.

He said he visited Fairmount about 15 to 18 times during six weeks and interviewed 50 to 60 people.

McGrath said there was no game plan for how to react after the story was published in the March issue.

"I didn't expect to be sitting on CNN yesterday talking about this story," McGrath said.


Contact Robert Moran at 215-854-5983, at bmoran@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @RobertMoran215.

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