"OK, so Valentine's Day is past, but Black History Month continues,"John McClelland, editor of The Masthead, publication of the Association of Opinion Journalists, wrote last week. "And it has enduring lessons for all of us about the persistence of bigotry, and the fact that civil rights apply to all — or should.
"Masthead has a multi-part package: this piece, and others on editorial pages' tepid attention to the persistence of Confederate memorials in public places in the era of '12 Years a Slave,' and a review of past editors' blinkers about civil rights.
"After several years in academia, I marvel at how today's working editors, columnists and bloggers cope with the onslaught of bile that anonymous digital comment allows the trolls to spew. It's been a topic in Masthead, at NCEW and AOJ conventions, and in the members-only online discussion list, several times in recent years," he continued, referring to the National Conference of Editorial Writers, the former name of the organization.
"Many of us who have had bylines, columns or hot-seat jobs in journalism have had 'secret admirers,' in Mark E. McCormick’s words about one particularly crude and persistent middle-of-the-night caller.
"McCormick's 2003 column in the Wichita Eagle, forwarded by Richard Prince, reminded me of a turd-bucket full of 1970s hate mail to my office. That was paper; McCormick's was voicemail; now it is largely email or online comment. The hatefulness endures, and now it has more vituperative political, as well as racial, twists.
"The prolific McCormick wrote, 'I have a secret admirer. Every so often, she leaves me voice mail so overflowing with passion that it would be unsuitable for me to share.'
"He said he imagined her features, dreams — and clothes: 'From the content of her messages, I'd guess a flowing white sheet and a matching pointed dunce hat.'
"He discussed details of her racist rants, then stated that yes, bigots like this still live among us. He said, 'We rarely encourage them by writing about them, because they don't represent the vast majority of Americans.'
"That recalled some NCEW-AOJ discussion list debates of whether to print bigots' letters or allow their online comments, and whether to respond. One faction said vitriol erodes credibility and drives away legitimate potential reader-contributors; the other side said we have a responsibility to let the public see what kinds of creatures slither about under the rocks and toadstools of society. The topic of screening or editing never goes away.
"Already seeing the makings of the digital cesspool 11 years ago, McCormick added: 'They operate without names … firing fearful missives from anonymity's grassy knoll … the unfriendly fire that journalists encounter in our efforts to connect with readers.'
"My hat is off to the working pros who get the **** while they do difficult, expanding, valuable jobs."
Javier E. David, the Grio: Is it time for African-Americans to surrender on the Confederate flag issue?
Bruce Drake, Pew Research Center: More hate crimes motivated by victims’ ethnicity
Steve Matrazzo, Dundalk (Md.) Eagle: 'Lost Cause' myth endures
John McClelland, the Masthead: Do Reb symbols invite editorial attack? Mixed views of perceived media inertia on Confederate monuments
- Media Matters for America: CNN's Brian Stelter Hits Media Failure To Call Out Hate Speech: Why Not Show "Some Backbone"?
- NewsOne staff: '12 Years A Slave' To Be Incorporated Into Public High School Curriculum
Craig Schneider, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: New Confederate license plate stirs controversy in Georgia
"Memorial services were being planned this week for Thomas Maurice Sengstacke Picou, a longtime businessman and black media executive who died here last week of a heart attack following a medical procedure," a news release datelined Los Angeles announced on Monday. "He was 76.
"Picou was former president and chairman of Real Times, Inc., corporate owners of the Chicago Defender, the iconic newspaper whose attacks on racism and promotion of opportunities for blacks almost single-handedly fueled the Great Migration of southern blacks to northern cities from 1910 through the 1930s.
"Picou also was the nephew of longtime Defender publisher John H. Sengstacke, who assumed the helm of the historic newspaper at age 28 and made his mark by establishing the Negro Newspaper Publisher's Association — a federation of black newspapers – and converting the Defender from a weekly newspaper to a daily.
"Sengstacke and his wife, Myrtle, raised Picou as their own son after Picou's mother died in the 1950s. From that point on, Picou was a vital part of the Sengstacke and Chicago Defender families, longtime associates said.
"During his long tenure at the Defender, Picou evolved into a hard-working, community-minded executive who had his foot planted firmly in the past but his eye focused sharply on the future, said longtime friend and associate David M. Milliner. . . ."