IN THE HERALD | ‘It’s a d*#^ shame!’
The voice mail message (click on the “play” button to hear it – be forewarned that it contains cursing) above came in on our after-hours voice mailbox from a caller who didn’t identify herself. She was upset with our front page Wednesday – mad that we pictured presidential loser John McCain along with our new President-elect, Barack Obama. She says that because of The Herald’s racism – we’re racist because we pictured McCain – she’s going to call on subscribers in Lee County and all over central North Carolina to cancel their subscriptions.
You can read Editor Billy Liggett’s take on the message here.
From my listening of the message, she seemed to be upset mostly because she thought the big “story” on the front page was tied to the McCain photo. She saw the “cutline” or caption under the Obama photo and must have thought that little bit was all we had to say about our new president…and because the story (actually about Obama’s win) was wrapped around a McCain photo, she associated that with a story about McCain. The two photos (and the captions) and the story are all part of one package; the dominant photo (of Obama) goes hand-in-hand with the headline and the story. Maybe she later read the story and changed her mind, but if so, she didn’t call us to let us know…
Judge for yourself. I had a hard time with this one. I don’t see us including a picture of the “other” presidential candidate on the front page as racist or “backwoods.” (By the way, it was Jerry Lewis, the comic actor, not Jerry Lee Lewis, the cousin-marrying musician and entertainer, who talked about Sanford being backwoods a few years ago…)
Billy, on his blog, explained that we had an early deadline for Wednesday’s. With just a short AP story available to us, and the page already designed, he had limited time and options for finishing it up. I thought the page looked great and that our election coverage in general was very good. (For a look at how other North Carolina papers displayed this historic news, go here. Most papers had Obama on the front; just a few had both Obama and McCain.)
Tuesday was historic, and people all over the country were buying up copies of Wednesday’s newspapers as collectors’ items. We sold out of our single copies even though we had a larger-than-usual press run.
Any election will stir emotions. But as I told a good friend of mine today – who, incidentally, dislikes McCain so much she’s going to frame our front page with his picture snipped out – a chief component of racism is stereotyping. Racism is simply discrimination based on conventional notions (stereotypes) that are wrong. In this case, I think the caller was also wrong. She saw the McCain photo on the front page and made a judgment without asking all the pertinent questions.
Maybe she’ll call back before calling the rest of our readers…