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An apology and other thoughts on that story

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I’m not even sure where to begin about what happened yesterday.

First, I want to say that I am deeply sorry for jumping the gun and choosing to publish that story prematurely. The impact of my actions have proven to be far greater than anything I intended. I got caught up in the story. As I was working on it I thought I was doing the right thing. But now it’s obvious that I wasn’t. I messed up and my mistake hurt the people involved and it has caused a lot of concern and anger from many people in the community.

Yesterday, caught up in the storm of the situation, I defended my story and my actions against what I thought were unfair and uninformed criticisms. That defense only added to the storm. As an extremely confident person, especially when it comes to BikePortland (if I wasn’t, the site would not be what it is today), regular readers know that I often go to great lengths to defend my reporting and my editorial decisions. That’s what I did yesterday before I fully realized the consequences of my initial mistake.

Part of that realization came when I got a call from someone at the Portland Police Bureau whom I respect and whom I’ve worked with on several occasions over the years. That person, who now works alongside Chief Reese, was disappointed that I didn’t call him first and ask about the allegations. He also said that Capt. Chris Uehara, the person my story presented as the alleged cop, was hurt by what happened. After that call, I wrote to Capt. Uehara and expressed my sincere apologies.

Moving forward, there are two major pieces of the fallout from my actions that I want to specifically address: 1) How can you be confident in my work in the future and how can I assure you this will never happen? and 2) What is my response to the racial component of the story.

First, anyone who knows me (either personally or through this site or both), knows that I am constantly checking my gut, that I am open and accepting of criticism, and that I am constantly learning how to this job better. I can assure you that this experience has left an indelible impression on me. It’s a stinging reminder that I must never forget the immense responsibility I have.

As to the racial component of this story, that is something that never crossed my mind until others (rather immediately) pointed it out. Why would the racial component be so apparent to others when I myself, staring at it in the eye, didn’t think about it at all? Am I racist (as some people allege) because I wasn’t sensitive enough to handle the story differently based solely on the fact that the two men were of Asian descent?

I am still struggling with those questions. I think the answer to the first one is the concept white privilege. I acknowledge that is a factor. As a white male — and especially as a white male advocacy journalist with deep ties to the community — I need to do a better job being proactively aware and sensitive to race. That is difficult for someone like me who was raised to be color-blind (that was the central tenet of “multi-culturism,” a strong theme in the curriculum of my southern California primary and middles school). I have to re-train myself to see race and to understand its role in shaping our city and the issues I cover*. I know from my experience during the North Williams Avenue project that race is not an easy topic to engage in; but I am open to the challenge.

I know this post does not address every issue this story has brought to light; but I hope my thoughts are helpful.

As always, I’m open to your feedback…

P.S. You might be interested to read more thoughts on the story by Jess Hadden, who was on the Veloprovo ride.

*UPDATE: This line about “seeing race” has confused some people. I will not try to explain it further because my experience these last few days has shown that whatever I say will be misunderstood and taken out of context. I just want to let folks know that it’s not accurate to think that I am completely oblivious to a person’s race and what that means in a larger societal context. Thanks.