The Los Angeles Times was one of three inaugural recipients announced Tuesday of a special citation from the Society of Professional Journalists, honoring the paper for the apology it issued for the publication’s historical failures on issues of race.

The Kansas City Star will also receive an SPJ Special Citation for Excellence in Journalism for its own public acknowledgement of its history on race. The Times and The Star both issued “powerful apologies” in the wake of a national reckoning on racial injustice following the death of George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis police, according to SPJ.

“All media organizations can learn from the examples set by The Star and the Times and that is why they are so deserving of recognition,” SPJ National President Matthew T. Hall said.

Sewell Chan, editorial page editor for The Times, said the paper is “deeply honored” to receive the citation.

“This project came about in part because courageous journalists in our newsroom insisted that we scrutinize and accept responsibility for past failings,” Chan said. “The process was at times painful; it was also essential. The project was an important step — but just one step — on the journey to building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive newsroom, one that reflects and serves all of Southern California’s communities.”

In its public acknowledgement of past failures, The Times’ editorial board wrote, “Newspapers are described as a first rough draft of history. But in truth, the first rough draft written by this newspaper — and those across the country — has been woefully incomplete.”

Also named a recipient of an SPJ special citation was now-18-year-old Darnella Frazier, who filmed the famed video of Floyd’s death, showing him pinned to the ground with a police officer’s knee on his neck. SPJ officials said her actions “may have been the single-most impactful act of journalism in 2020.”

The citations will be formally presented during the SPJ President’s Awards Ceremony at the SPJ21 conference Sept. 4. The annual conference will be held online due to the pandemic.

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