EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSLINCOLN JOURNAL COLUMN
from Eyewitness News Online
Published Rant Causes Controversy In Lincoln County
Reported by: Dave Benton
Web Producer: Heath Harrison
Reported: Mar. 20, 2013 6:54 PM EDT
Updated: Mar. 21, 2013 4:42 PM EDT
Hamlin , Lincoln County , West Virginia
When readers opened the latest edition of the Lincoln Journal, many of them said they were shocked and disgusted to see what was printed in an opinion column.
It wasn’t what you usually see when you pick up a local newspaper, but the Journal allowed a questionable opinion to be published in Wednesday's edition.
This comments were from the "Gripes and Gratitudes" column of the paper. An anonymous caller left a rant, making slurs against homosexuality, religion and race, on the newsroom's voicemail and the editor decided to publish it.
He continued, to say we need to “clear them people out and have good, white, God-fearing Christians” and “keep Lincoln County white and right.”
Some Lincoln County residents were offended by the piece.
“That's not nice. I support the gays, and I'm not racist at all,” Hamlin resident Melissa Rogers said.
One reader shared the column's sentiment.
“I don't have to read it all, I already agree with that,” Hamlin resident Leroy Ramey said. “Get rid of them.”
Sean O'Donoghue , the managing editor of the paper, said the rant is in reference to the top story the paper has been covering for the past three weeks, a story about a local gay teacher who was recently terminated.
"The comments are very, very hateful and, as a Roman Catholic, I'm very offended,” O'Donoghue said.
He said he felt it was the correct decison to print it, as part of the coverage of the fired teacher and said he doesn't regret publishing the piece.
“We felt it was the right call to publish it, given the ongoing story we covered over the past three weeks," O'Donoghue said.
Janet Dooley, interim dean at Marshall University's School of Journalism, said publishing the comments crosses a line because it's anonymous, not an editorial or even a guest column. He and the publisher stand by their decision to print the article.
“If you look at hate speech, it does hit several of the markers of hate speech, that it is directed at a particular group of people,” Dooley said. “It is not only offensive, but it goes beyond that to threaten certain groups of people.”
O'Donoghue said that, as of Wednesday afternoon, his newsroom had not received any complaints about the article.
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