Poor Taste? Photo of Black Homeless Man Illustrates Story on Black Businessmen


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Sources tell Daily RFT that a few folks in the Post-Dispatch newsroom were aghast yesterday over the layout of the paper's front page.

For those of you who missed it, the newspaper ran a photo of Stan Davis, a homeless African-American, as he awoke in his bed in front of a building owned by the city's most prominent African-American businessmen, brothers Mike and Steve Roberts.

The corresponding article, titled "Roberts brothers suffering setbacks" told how the brothers had entered an economic tailspin of late, with their real-estate and broadcasting businesses stalled or under the attack of lawsuits over non-payment.

From the looks of the layout, though, one might think that the brothers, who've been estimated to be worth hundreds of millions, have truly fallen on hard times -- sleeping on a bedroll outside one of their vacant properties.

Daily RFT heard that several reporters, photographers and low-level editors at the daily thought the placement of the photo to be questionable. Front-page editor Steven Parker, however, tells Daily RFT that he's heard no such scuttlebutt.

At least, not before we called.

"I honestly don't know of any buzz in the newsroom over this," says Parker. "I asked the photographer (Laurie Skrivan). She mentioned that a few fellow photographers thought it a bit curious, but there was no real conversation about it."

Parker adds that the image of the Davis was a good fit in showing the irony of the story. Further, he doesn't know how anyone who read the article could have possible been confused about the subject of the picture.

"Here you have a building that was supposed to be a luxury hotel and you have a person who's been sleeping outside its doors for six months," says Parker. "He's part of the story and appears in the lede paragraph. What is different about this article is that the cutline appears before the photo. But that was a conscious decision. It's part of the storytelling. We wanted to get to the point."

Of the dozens of people who commented on yesterday's story, just a few seemed to take issue with the picture. One person admitted thinking it could have been one of the Roberts brothers at first glance. Another reader thought the paper had taken advantage of the homeless man to make a point.

But that's not true, says Parker. "Our photographer visited the building several times. She talked to the man, got his name. He told her about playing baseball as a boy." 

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