Putting profits over people–or at least putting smaller losses over people–The McClatchy Company announced on Tuesday that it will cut some 140 employees nationwide, roughly 3.5 percent of its total staff.
“While these actions are necessary to protect and further our future, they are painful and difficult decisions. Talented and passionate people who have dedicated their energy to our mission, colleagues we call friends and rely on everyday, will leave the company” wrote CEO Craig Forman in a memo to his staff. “We thank you all for your commitment to McClatchy and to local journalism and wish you nothing but the best in your future endeavors.”
McClatchy, parent company of both the Kansas City Star and the Wichita Eagle, still struggles with its racist past. Brothers Charles and Valentine launched the imperial phase of the McClatchy ascendancy by buying out their partners and purchasing other newspapers. Valentine was the older of the two brothers, and he served as publisher nearly forty years until retiring in 1920.
As early as 1915, Valentine began writing about what he would indelicately call in a 1921 book, “Our New Racial Problem: Japanese Immigration and Its Menace.” This is one of several books and pamphlets that Valentine wrote on the subject while he was still affiliated with the newspapers.
According to Roger Daniels, author of the 1977 book The Politics of Prejudice, Valentine was the “real power” behind the founding in 1920 of the Japanese Exclusion League. Reportedly, Valentine “devoted full time to what he felt was a holy cause.” If his editor brother Charles objected, there is no evident record of the same. As Daniels notes, “Their differences of opinion did not include the Japanese question, for the Bee continued to be a vehicle for V.S. McClatchy’s anti-Japanese propaganda.”
In 1924, Valentine testified in a U.S. Senate hearing. He acknowledged that the Japanese had “greater energy, greater determination, and greater ambition” than other “yellow and brown races,” but he challenged them on progressive grounds, specifically their “hours of labor” and their “use of women and child labor.”
Like Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, whose cause the McClatchy papers now champion, Valentine feared that the Japanese would outbreed European Americans and “drive the white race to the wall.” Valentine and his allies succeeded in convincing Congress that Japanese exclusion was essential, and exclusion became the law of the land for the next 28 years.
This background, of course, has nothing to do with current McClatchy problems save to serve as a reminder of how easy it is to inject racism into a story. This is a practice that the McClatchy papers engage in much too frequently. It does not help circulation.