Few subjects appear to provoke from readers as much debate, and anger, as race does. Since Philadelphia Magazine published its article “Being White in Philly: Whites, race, class, and the things that never get said” in late February, it has drawn a public rebuke by the city’s mayor, the threat of a boycott by the local African-American Chamber of Commerce and at least two forums where the magazine’s editor and the article’s writer answered angry questions.
“I absolutely stand by the journalism in the story,” Tom McGrath, the editor of Philadelphia Magazine, said.
Controversy clearly can be good for business. The magazine, whose circulation has declined nearly 10 percent in the last five years, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, had a minor boom in sales from the issue. Tom McGrath, the editor, said the article generated 1.4 million page views, a milestone for the site. The article has over 6,000 comments online, and Mr. McGrath said several vendors told the magazine that they sold out of the issue and wanted more copies.
But the issue’s notoriety may have a downside. The Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Karen Heller criticized the article’s author, Robert Huber, for providing anonymity to all of his interview subjects and painting a portrait of a city devoid of any voices other than white residents.
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