GOLDRICK: Hearst Omits the Inconvenient Truth

Submitted by Sean Goldrick, Greenwich

I submitted the following to Hearst Connecticut Media on Monday, April 25, for publication as an op-ed.  However, Hearst has refused to publish this essay, unless it was slashed by more than half.  I feel that the full essay deserves to be published.

The complete essay is printed below:

The New York Times pulled no punches.  Its news article about the indictment of a police officer in Connecticut was titled: “White Connecticut Trooper Charged in Killing of Black Man During Stolen Car Chase.” Yet Hearst Connecticut Media, which operates a newspaper monopoly over southwestern Connecticut, the region in which that Black teenager, Mubarak Soulemane, was killed, decided not to tell its readers that inconvenient truth. Nowhere in the news article published in Hearst newspapers reporting the indictment, nor in Hearst’s subsequent editorial about the indictment and the killing of Mr Soulemane, did Hearst make clear that this killing, yet again, involved a White officer killing a young Black man.  In short, Hearst Connecticut Media decided to whitewash that truth.

Mubarak Soulemane was killed by State Trooper North in January 2020, just four months before George Floyd, an African-American man, was killed by a White police officer, Derek Chauvin, in Minneapolis.  That killing, caught on video, led to an eruption of outrage across America against the chronic violence inflicted by mostly White police officers against people of color, and constituted the largest mass demonstrations in American history.  In Connecticut, demonstrations against police violence toward communities of color took place in scores of towns and cities, from one end of the state to the other.  Connecticut has been no stranger to either the killings of African-Americans by police, nor the near total lack of legal accountability for those killings.  Since 2001, as Hearst pointed out, 76 people had been killed by police officers in Connecticut, yet only one officer was ever charged.  And that charge was dismissed.  When Mubarak Soulemane was killed, he became the 21st person killed by police in Connecticut since 2015.  Yet his case is the first of those cases to result in a prosecution.

Though Hearst Connecticut newspapers chose to keep the fact of race from its readers,  Scot X. Esdaile, president of the NAACP of Connecticut, made clear at the time of Mr. Soulemane’s death that, “Police violence against Black and Latinx people is a pandemic in Connecticut, and it must end.”

Upon the announcement of the indictment of Trooper North, The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut issued a statement that, while welcoming the indictment, nonetheless made clear that, “…far too many families, especially Black families, have been left to grieve loved ones killed by police and never seen the individual police or system-wide actors held responsible. The Inspector General’s report is a thorough indictment of the system that makes it possible for police to kill a young Black man experiencing a mental health crisis and of previous prosecutors’ excuses for that system.”

The passage of the Police Accountability Act in 2020 served as an acknowledgement of the systemic violence suffered by communities of color at the hands of police, and the failure of the Office of State’s Attorney to hold violent police officers accountable. Indeed, the state’s attorney assigned to investigate Mr Soulemane’s killing took no action for nearly two years. Yet within five months of his being appointed to the position, the new independent Inspector General, whose position was created by the accountability act specifically to handle incidents of violence by police officers, issued an indictment of first degree manslaughter supported by a 133-page report.

Hearst publishes the newspapers of record in the Connecticut communities in which Mr. Soulemane grew up, in which he went to college, and in which he was killed.  Hearst therefore has a moral obligation and journalistic responsibility to its readers and to the communities it purports to serve to tell the truth, the whole truth, no matter how uncomfortable that truth makes Hearst’s reporters and editors feel in telling it.  Our communities and Hearst’s readers deserve no less.

Addendum:  (Thursday) morning, Hearst Connecticut Media publicly stated in an editorial that the State Trooper who shot Mubarak Suleimane was White, and that his victim, Mr. Suleimane, was Black:  
“…The difference appears to be that in the time between the two votes, the newly created Office of Inspector General came into public view for the first time since its creation following the passage of a police accountability law in 2020, which itself arose from widespread protests in Connecticut and beyond against police brutality.  The Inspector General filed charges against a White state trooper who killed a Black teenager in 2020.”

While it represents a step forward, Hearst did not acknowledge that this statement in its pages came four days after its editors received my essay for publication chastising the Connecticut newspaper conglomerate for its failure to acknowledge the role of race in the killing, and the reality of race in police killings of Black residents of our state.  Hearst Connecticut Media need to engage in serious self reflection regarding their corporate practices.