Accepting Culpability for R Kelly

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I joined other black music journalists in a conversation with Columbia Journalism Review’s Alexandria Neason about how the media – even and especially Black media – was complicit in R. Kelly’s behavior for so long, and why.

As journalists, we often deceive ourselves into believing that it is not our place to make moral judgments, that we merely let the public decide how to feel. This tends to be particularly true of critics, who have historically seen their role as offering critiques of the art, not appraisals of the human beings behind it. But our editorial decisions—whose album gets attention, whose face appears on the cover—not only reflect but also form public opinion. 
To understand how Kelly’s story was handled by journalists at the time, and the particular challenges it posed for the Black press, I spoke with Dart Adams, a longtime music writer, podcast host, and author of the now defunct hip-hop blog Poisonous Paragraphs; Naima Cochrane, a music writer and former marketing and management executive at Bad Boy, Arista, Columbia, and Epic (Columbia and Epic fall under Sony Music Entertainment, as does Jive, Kelly’s longtime label; he was recently dropped); and David Dennis Jr., a music writer and adjunct professor of journalism at Morehouse College. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity…

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