UPDATE: Even more letters have flowed in from readers of the newspaper about its editorial decision (and has responded poorly in an editorial). See it below the fold.


Via The Dopest Ethiopienne’s Tumblr page, a nice example of free advertising journalism. The Stateville, N.C. Record & Landmark newspaper gave free publicity today to the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, printing its flyer for the upcoming white-unity rally in Harmony on the front page.

I suppose its fig leaf is that it said it didn’t print the contact information for LWK. Perhaps it’s a slow news day in Statesville (population 24,633 according to the 2010 census). The city is in the same county as Harmony.

“Join us, the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, for a rally and cross lighting, Saturday, May 26, Harmony, North Carolina. Free Admition [sic]-White People Only. No alcohol, drugs, fighting, glass bottles or weapons. Free on site camping-all major motels in area. Souvenirs. Vendors. Food and beverages for Sale. Cross lighting at dusk-a white unity event. Live country band. Security provided by LWK.”

One of the activists of All of Us NC, a grassroots offshoot of the social justice organization Southerners On New Ground (SONG), Jade Brooks, wrote this to the editor and publisher:

Tim Dearman and Dave Ibach,

I am writing to express my horror and disgust that you chose to publish an advertisement for the Ku Klux Klan on the front page of the Statesville Record and Landmark this morning. It is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE to provide what is basically free advertising to this hate group. Not only will I never purchase your newspaper again, I will be sure to spread the word about your inexplicable and utterly unacceptable editorial decision. I refuse to feel unsafe as a queer, Jewish North Carolinian and, as a white person, I refuse to allow this form of fear mongering to occur in the place where we fighting to end racism and white supremacy.

I demand that you retract the article, publish a full page apology, and refuse to print any other materials from any racist, hate groups.

Another All of Us NC member:

Dear Tim Dearman and Dave Ibach,

I grew up in Iredell County. My family still lives there. I frequently read your articles online. Just a month ago, you published my letter against the amendment, through which I reconnected with several people.  I started to feel prouder about my hometown.

But today, I can not say I feel those things.  I feel scared and worried and sick to my stomach because of your publication, that you made a conscious choice not to just write an article covering reactions to the KKK rally, but that you chose to publish an advertisement for the Ku Klux Klan on the front page of the Statesville Record and Landmark this morning. You essentially gave free advertising to a hate group, to a group that outwardly speaks against and has terrorized much of your readership through violence. I wonder what other people who are gay thought when they read your paper this morning in Iredell County? I wonder what went through the stomachs of your black readers, and of immigrants, as they sat at the breakfast table, and couldn’t avoid this advertisement of hate in their own paper?  I wonder if students felt safe in their school, as they read your paper as part of a journalism class or homeroom?

Media can not always be “neutral,” as there are not two sides in discrimination. Your choice to publish this piece, with the KKK flyer large and on front, is contributing to hate.

Today, I am calling and urging my parents and family friends to end their subscriptions and never purchase your newspaper again, due to your inexplicable and utterly unacceptable editorial decision to promote discrimination. I refuse to feel unsafe as a queer North Carolinian from Iredell County, and as a white person, I refuse to allow this form of hate to be placed on others, as we fight to end racism and white supremacy.

I demand that you: 1) retract the article, 2) publish a full page apology, and 3) refuse to print any other materials from any racist hate groups.

Sincerely,
Holly Hardin

Publisher Tim Dearman
• E-mail: tdearman@statesville.com
• Phone: (704) 761-2925

Editor Dave Ibach
• E-mail: dibach@statesville.com
• Phone: (704) 761-2926

The update and additional letters are below the fold.

Dear Editors:

Even in today’s times, in this purported “post-racial” age with racism abound yet denied by many, I was utterly shocked to see that a city newspaper would advertise hate speech. On the front page, no less! Not even just a news article or report- back on events, but rather the flyer for the event put out by the organizers! Really!?!?

In reading some of the reaction to this in various media (surely there will be much more to come on that front!), I noticed that the Raleigh News & Observer asks those commenting to avoid “hate speech.” That is what the Statesville Record & Landmark refused to do with the above-the-fold advertisement of white-supremacist activities planned in the area. An appeal to “Free speech” doesn’t cut it. Hate Speech is not protected under the 1st Amendment and should not be treated as if it does.

Open activity by a right-wing, racist, and historically violent group like the Ku Klux Klan should certainly cause for grave concern for all those who care about human rights, and, indeed, all those who claim a conscience. Those who doubt the racism that has and continues to define this country need to pay rapt attention.

Institutional racism and White Supremacy are just as American as Barack Obama is (sorry Birthers, you lose on that one!). It has been in the DNA of the land we refer to as North Carolina from the moment White people hostilely took over centuries ago. I see the result of this privilege every day walking around as a White man. It is all consuming and all corrupting.

The fact the KKK is emboldened enough to publically demonstrate (and burn, I mean “light,” a cross) is frightening enough, but it is even worse when newspapers in our communities add fuel to the fire of their vile hatred. The Statesville Record & Landmark should be ashamed, boycotted, and put out of business for this grievous and despicable error in judgment. North Carolina has a lot of work to do to repair that damage and discrimination that has come from the numerically small yet loud voice of bigotry and prejudice that so dominates our discourse and is so often accepted at face value.

Two weeks ago, the voters of North Carolina just branded discrimination into our own Constitution with the anti-family, anti-liberty Amendment 1. Now, local pastors are openly calling for the forcible segregation of the GLBTQ community (with the ridiculous idea that such a practice end homosexuality!), and the Klan is rallying (“If it ain’t white, it ain’t right”) with promotion by the local media.

This has the result of normalizing the discriminatory and dehumanizing treatment of anyone deemed “different” than the accepted White, Male, Christian, Heterosexual norm that has held North Carolina back for hundreds of years and continues to do so to this day. Through your actions on Wednesday, May 23, 2012, the Statesville Record & Landmark contributed to this injustice. Y’all should be deeply ashamed.

This provocation, however, also serves to further build the growing Movement organizing, agitating, and challenging for true equality for all of us who call North Carolina home. A true transformation. For that, at least, I thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Nick Wood
Durham, NC

***

Tim Dearman and Dave Ibach,

Your decision to print the KKK flyer on the front page of the paper today was inexcusable. And your editorial defending it was patronizing (at best) and reveals the limitations of your editorial/journalistic vision and leadership.

The fact that you can not/ will not differentiate between writing a story about the fact that “in our lifetimes, the Klan has spread terror and hate…” and giving the promotional flyer for this terror and hate the best publicity possible is shocking.

If you don’t want to “ignore ugly, terrible reality,” you could print a regular cover story about the ways that white supremacy and institutionalized racism are perpetuated — stories about police brutality, racial profiling, the school-to-prison pipeline, attempts to limit voting rights, redistricting, worksite discrimination, the scapegoating of immigrants, unequal access to education, racism in housing loans and the foreclosure crisis, inequities in hiring practices and unemployment, racism in the media, etc.

Various scholars have written about the journalistic ethics of covering hate speech– including Bonnie Brennen and Lee Wilkins (see http://www.proessay.com/argumentative-essay-topics-and-conroversial-essay/hate-speech/history-hate-and-hegemony-whats-a-journalist-to-do.html ).

Some key recommendations from their article:

“To begin then, ethicists would have journalists acknowledge the reality that, for many, hate speech is harmful. It is harmful to the person at whom hate is directed, and it is harmful to political society in general…. Remind readers of the harm such hate continues to cause–in the same story in which you report the hate speech itself. Allow the stakeholders who are most immediately and personally effected legitimacy in news accounts that report hate. Quote them and remind others of their claims….Provide readers with alternate sources of information, in their own community and in others, where they can deepen their understanding of history and political action. For many news organizations, such an attempt to empower readers to formulate their own, informed understandings may be accomplished, in part, by referring readers and viewers to books, web sites, broadcast coverage, etc., about the issue and the particular groups that are the targets of such attacks. In the spirit of truthfulness, it can also provide additional information about the groups and individuals that bring them.”

You did not:

- acknowledge that hate speech is harmful.
- remind readers of the harm such hate continues to cause.
- provide readers with alternate sources of information… where they can deepen their understanding of history and political action.

And while you quoted a few “stakeholders” (with the NAACP), you did not include information about what the NAACP is working on, how people can get involved with their organization and/or others. You also kept the article narrow in its scope– i.e. what does a NAACP leader think about the right to free speech– there was nothing about how NAACP leaders think about decisions, like yours, to fill the front page of your paper with hate speech, or what they think about the pervasiveness of racism in the area, and, most importantly, what they and other organizations are doing to resist and organize for change.

Today was People of Color Legislative Day in Raleigh (http://carolinajustice.typepad.com/hkonj/people_of_color_legislative_day/ ). It is not lost on all of us who are following your editorial decision that this legislative day– attended by over 300 people– some from Iredell County– was not your cover story.

We continue to demand that you: retract the decision to print the flyer, publish an apology that acknowledges that what you did was harmful, refuse to print any other materials from racist, hate groups and provide readers with alternate sources of information where they can deepen their understanding of history and political action.

- Deborah Rosenstein, Hillsborough, NC

***

Dear Editors,

I’m a life long white North Carolina resident currently living in Greensboro. I have family who live near your area and who used to work in Statesville.

I am appalled that you published a flier for a KKK rally on your front page. The issue for me is not that you published an article about the KKK’s plans – but HOW you wrote that article and the FACT that you published their own flier on your front page above the fold. You mentioned in the article that fliers were distributed for their event, but the graphic wasn’t a photo of someone holding a flier after finding it on their doorstep – it was a formatted version, and didn’t appear to be a scan. Did you get the flier from the KKK themselves to add to your lay-out?

Certainly people should be made aware, for their own safety, when the KKK is rallying and holding events. But these articles should NEVER promote those events by reproducing the KKK’s own material for free. And the coverage should give equal or greater time to those organizing against the KKK and for racial gender and immigrant justice, and should put hate groups’ actions in the context of rising hate activity nationally, and continued racial disparities, institutional racism, homophobia and attacks on immigrants.

The way you positioned the NAACP almost made it seem like the KKK is the legitimate group representing white people and the NAACP is the legitimate group representing Black folks, just two similar groups for different groups of people – which is ridiculous. The two are NOT equivalent. We have a long history of institutionalized and overt racism against people of color in this country – that continues to this day. The NAACP is a multi-racial and African American led organization that combats historical and continued mistreatment and is not a hate group. It is nothing like the KKK.

Please stop with the defensiveness, admit that you made an unwise and hurtful editorial decision, print an apology, and purposely seek out articles to write about upcoming efforts for unity, racial progress and efforts to combat institutional and overt racism, homophobia and attacks on immigrants.

Your neighbor,
Isabell Moore
Greensboro, NC

***

Tim Dearman and Dave Ibach,

I am writing to express my horror and disgust that you made the conscious choice to publish an advertisement for the Ku Klux Klan, a hate group that has terrorized and murdered African Americans and other people of color for hundreds of years, on the front page of The Statesville Record and Landmark this morning. Providing free advertising to a hate group, and one that says they are going to BURN A CROSS, is above and beyond unacceptable and irresponsible–it is dangerous and invites violence and hatred into your community with open arms.

Not only will I never buy our newspaper again, I am spreading the word about your inexplicable editorial decision. And as someone who loves North Carolina, as a woman, and as a white person, I refuse to allow this kind of racist fearmongering To happen in North Carolina, where we are fighting racism and white supremacy.

I demand that you:
1) Retract the article,
2) Publish a full-page apology on the front page,
3) Refuse to publish any other materials from racist hate groups, and
4) Attend ongoing anti-racism and anti-oppression training with your entire staff.

AND the response, comparing the front page story of the Ku Klux Klan rally to publishing articles about the prevalence of sexual violence (WTF?!):

From: TDearman@statesville.com
To: lynnewalter
Subject: RE: Your horrifying racist editorial decision
Date: Wed, 23 May 2012 23:47:49 +0000

Thanks for taking time to put your thoughts in writing. The decision to print the story followed discussion with several people. There have been times in the past when the newspaper completely ignored any mention of the KKK thinking that robbed them of the publicity they may be seeking. There are many who agree with that path. On the other hand, publicity creates opposition to these events and make these organizations less likely to come here. For example, law enforcement knows having a community with a reputation tough on drugs has fewer drug problems. Another example is sexual crimes like rape and child molestation. Some argue stories give others ideas and some argue stories create awareness and reduces such crimes.

When the newspaper ignored the planning of these events in the past the event happened. When the has newspaper publicized these events the local opposition became so strong the event never happened. We hope that will be the same outcome this week.

Again, thanks for taking time to share your thoughts with me. We review all comments and those help guide us in future decisions. Thanks for your support of the newspaper. I believe knowing about our community – the good and bad – helps us move in the right direction.

And the published butt-covering in the newspaper, missing the point that it didn’t have to republish the flyer to cover the story (and surely in better context as the letter-writers have noted):

EDITORIAL: Evil in our midst can’t be ignored

By: Editorial Board | Statesville Record & Landmark

If someone had asked you on Tuesday if the Ku Klux Klan was active in Iredell County, chances are, your answer would have been a resounding “No.”
That is why we made the difficult decision to publish an article in Wednesday’s paper about a KKK rally and cross burning planned in Harmony on Saturday.
Here is the reality.

The Ku Klux Klan is one of our nation’s oldest and most violent hate groups. Its members preach a message of ignorance and discrimination that targets so many people in our community.

We will not ignore it, and we will not shelter our readers from the discomfort of having to confront racism in their midst.

It was painful to see the words “KKK” and “White people only” and a drawing of men in white hoods on the front page of our newspaper.

Many of you have shared very emotional and heartfelt comments with us about why you wish we hadn’t written a story … published the flyer … put it on the front page.

It was a decision we made together as a newsroom — people of all ages and races and backgrounds — and it is one we are proud of.

You need to see what hate looks like in 2012. You need to have the same painful and emotional reaction we did when we saw that poster and its masked men carrying burning crosses.

In our lifetimes, the Klan has marched on downtown streets through Statesville. In our lifetimes, the Klan has spread terror and hate here and across our nation. In our lifetimes, the Klan has been responsible for murders and beatings and rapes.

That is the reality — the ugly, terrible reality.
We will not ignore it.