Pittsburgh City Paper decides against reposting story tainted by racist symbol
Pittsburgh City Paper further distanced itself Thursday from a cover story that spurred controversy for inadvertently promoting a white power band whose lyrics call for the killing of non-whites.
Editor Charlie Deitch announced he is fully retracting the story, “Women Ink,” because he now has no confidence in the factual reporting of the piece published Wednesday in the alt-weekly newspaper's first issue after a redesign. His decision marked a pivot from plans to re-post an edited version of the story to City Paper's website that would omit the retracted portion.
Longtime City Paper reader Edward King-Smith, 37, of Pittsburgh's Stanton Heights neighborhood was among those who alerted Deitch that his publication included a photo of a woman tattoo artist wearing a T-shirt for Aggravated Assault — a white-power band he's observed “trying to infiltrate the punk scene in Philadelphia and in Pittsburgh.”
“I'm a very tolerant person, and I'm not a huge believer in censorship,” King-Smith said. “My concern is the normalizing of neo-Nazi hate groups coming into the mainstream and just sort of being accepted as if their ideas are just like everyone else's in the marketplaces of ideas.
“That's really dangerous because these aren't normal politics,” King-Smith said. “These aren't normal ideas. These are the political ideas which led to the murders of millions of people.”
Tattoo artist Lettia Suchevich (Meikle) told City Paper she was not ashamed that she was “taught by skinheads.” She said she suspected she would anger people by wearing the shirt promoting the band, which she said was run by her husband, Warren.
His band's song lyrics explicitly celebrate the killing of black people and Jews and infamous Nazi leaders such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels.
Once learning of the connection, Deitch immediately pulled the story.
Kat Rutt, the freelance writer and photographer who produced “Women Ink,” stood by her story, telling City Paper that she had not talked to any of the 16 women she profiled “about their politics.” She also admitted to airbrushing a photo to remove what appeared to be a small swastika on Suchevich's arm.
Deitch emphasized that Rutt does not speak for City Paper. He issued a public apology on Facebook and wrote a response stating that “ignoring someone's racial ideologies to celebrate their achievement as a female small-business owner is not a trade-off that should have been made.”
Shortly after 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Deitch shared with readers an updated statement to announce he would not republish the story after he was “given some time to think about the piece and do further research on reader complaints.”
Initially, Deitch said he and his staff thought retracting the story in full “was not fair to the other women profiled in the piece.”
“However, given that we know that a photo was intentionally altered to remove a swastika, I don't have enough confidence in the factual reporting of the piece, even though it may all be accurate,” Deitch said.
The altering was done without editorial permission and against City Paper policy, Deitch said.
Several tattoo artists profiled also asked City Paper not to republish the story, Deitch said.
He added that he and his staff found possible social media evidence that a second person profiled in the piece has ties to white supremacists.
King-Smith said he will continue to read City Paper and appreciated the way Deitch handled the situation.
“I think he really did a good job of taking responsibility,” King-Smith said.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.