Residents in Lincoln County, West Virginia got quite a shock when they opened their recent editions of the Lincoln Journal. In an opinion column entitled Gripes and Gratitudes, the rantings of a racist, homophobic bigot, originally left on the paper’s voicemail, were printed. Warning: Harsh, Offensive Language. The rant says:
We were really glad to hear that School Board is getting rid of them queers. The next thing is we need to get rid of all the n****rs, the sp**s, the k***s and the w**s. You know even them Catholics, they are wrong as baby eaters. We need to clear them people out and have good, white, God -fearing Christians and everybody else needs to be put to death for their abominations. We’ll keep Lincoln County white and right. Thank you.
The paper’s Managing Editor, Sean O’Donoghue, says that, as a Roman Catholic, he is offended by the rant. Further, many residents were disgusted. However, the paper is defending the decision to print the rant, saying that it is in reference to a local story about a local gay teacher who was recently terminated, which has recently been the top story.
However, the question is, should a paper, regardless of reasoning, publish something like this? It is clearly hate speech, as Janet Dooley, who is the interim dean at the School of Journalism at Marshall University, says. Further, the speech is threatening, directly targeting specific groups of people.
Now, personally, I like to know who my enemies are. However, there is such a thing as going too far, and there is such a thing as keeping your readership and not printing something for the sake of printing it. We all know that there are bigots out there, and this anonymous rant hardly falls into the category of “news.” I’d have left it out, or, at the very least, printed a retraction. This isn’t about censorship, either. It is about not printing something that serves to do nothing but give a hateful bigot a platform from which to spew his bile.