What a bunch of nonsense.
After the massacre in Dallas last week – when a black gunman targeted and killed police officers – white police officers, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal ran a headline that read “Gunman targeted whites.”
Why did they run that headline? Because it was 100 percent accurate. Completely and totally true. Remember, Micah Johnson said he wanted to kill white people and white cops.
But now the paper’s editor is apologizing for the headline – not because it’s wrong or even misleading. Because some people think it’s racist.
The truth is racist, they believe.
Maybe they think the headline should read: “Awesome Black Dude Saves World From White Folk.”
Black people protested outside the newspaper’s offices. Editor Louis Graham – a pasty-looking white guy – said he was terribly sorry.
Simply put, we got it wrong.
Those three big words in headline type stretched across Saturday’s front page — Gunman Targeted Whites — were true according to police accounts in Dallas at the time but they badly oversimplified a very complex, rapidly evolving story, and angered many of our readers and many more in the broader community.
So how was the headline – this completely accurate headline – somehow wrong? Here’s how Graham put it:
In my view the headline was so lacking in context as to be tone deaf, particularly in a city with a 65 percent African American population. That front page minimized the broader refrain of what’s happening in our country with anguish over the deaths of young black men at the hands of police. It has been viewed as suggesting that this newspaper values the lives of white police officers more than young black men who have died in incident after incident.
Again and again, Graham apologizes for the headline.
The black editors who work for the paper were disgusted too. They clearly don’t think the job of newspapers is to report facts, either.
I was particularly disturbed by a comment I received from an African American editor who said she was disgusted by the page and threw the newspaper in the trash without reading it.
Then Graham decides to re-write the job description for journalists. Don’t report the facts. Nuance them. Show restraint. I guess restraint means not telling the truth?
In an environment so fraught with anger and anxiety we added unnecessary fuel. That’s not our role. Ours is to explore and explain. The headline required restraint and we didn’t provide it.
Boy, that’s the night journalism died in Memphis.