Racist debate continues …

Well, reporter Cathy Salustri finally hit the front page of the St. Petersburg Times’ Floridian section. But not as a freelance writer.

The self-proclaimed “racist” and Gulfport Gabber reporter is the subject of a profile done by Rodney Thrash, a black journalist with the Times. Just as the debate seemed to be dying down, this article is already the firestorm up again, possibly fiercer than before.

I first revealed Salustri’s admitted biases in an April blog entry written after my CL cover story about gentrification in Bartlett Park. At that time, “I Had A Dream,” was just a buried post on Salustri’s personal blog. Then, after talks with her Gabber editor Ken Reichart, the blog post was turned into a front-page article for the 15,000-circulation Pinellas County weekly. My subsequent blog post on that prompted a fierce Internet debate and an invite to Salustri to attend the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists’ June meeting.

The one thing that has piqued my interest throughout this whole debate is not Salustri’s newfound racism. The introspective journey of a white woman’s move to a predominantly black neighborhood reeks of predictability and tired stereotypes.

What utterly confuses me is why a journalist would readily admit to being a racist, perhaps without even fully knowing what that word means, and then expect to break into an African-American beat.

As the Gabber tries to expand its Midtown coverage, I’m curious to see how the black residents, neighborhood association presidents and city officials will take to her snooping around their ‘hoods, no matter how good her intentions were in writing the piece.

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