JOURNALIST DANIEL J. THOMPSON, DIGITAL EDITOR AT THE KENOSHA NEWS QUITS OVER ARTICLE HEADLINE. (PHOTO: DANIEL J. THOMPSON).
By: Richard Prince, "Journal-isms"
“A journalist resigned on Saturday from his job at The Kenosha News after objecting to the headline of an article that chronicled a rally in support of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot seven times in the back by a white Kenosha police officer,” Marc Tracy recently wrote for The New York Times.
“The journalist, Daniel J. Thompson, (pictured), a digital editor who said he was the only full-time Black staff member at the paper, which covers southeastern Wisconsin, said the headline did not accurately sum up the article and gave a false impression of the rally itself, which he attended.
The rally for Mr. Blake, who was left paralyzed by the shooting on Aug. 23, included calls for unity from his father, Jacob Blake Sr., and Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, the article said.
“The headline, which appeared on the Kenosha News website, highlighted a remark from one rally participant: ‘Kenosha speaker: “If you kill one of us, it’s time for us to kill one of yours.” ‘ The online version of the article included a 59-second video showing the person who spoke those words, a Black man who was not identified by name.
“Mr. Thompson, who joined the paper’s newsroom three years ago, said he found the headline off-base. ‘The story is about the entire reaction of all the speakers and people in attendance, and that quote is one outlier falling within a flood of positive ones,’ he said in an interview.
“He added that the speech made by Mr. Blake’s father would have been more worthy of the headline. ‘The things that frustrated me most is Mr. Blake, Jacob Blake’s father, himself personally, called for a night of peace, of no destruction, no riots,’ Mr. Thompson said.
“That quote is one outlier falling within a flood of positive ones,” Daniel Thompson said. “The rally, billed as “Justice for Jacob,” came days after Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois, was charged with homicide in the killings of two protesters during earlier demonstrations in Kenosha. President Trump recently visited Wisconsin.
“Mr. Thompson, 30, said he attended the rally but did not cover it. Shortly after 7 p.m, he sent a text that included a screenshot of the headline to Bob Heisse, the executive editor of The Kenosha News.
“ ‘I don’t even know if I can associate with the company after that, Mr. Thompson said in the text exchange. ‘I need to calm down, but I wanted you to know immediately.’ . . .”
Tracy also wrote, “He has set up a GoFundMe campaign and said he was contemplating ‘a framework for how I would run a media company in Kenosha and if that is a viable option for me.’
“By noon Sunday, the headline had been changed on the Kenosha News site. It now reads: ‘Kenosha speaker strays from message at rally.’ . . .” The GoFundMe page had raised more than $18,000 of a $5,000 goal.
The episode recalls the concept of maintaining “go to hell money.” Nelson Poynter, owner of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) and namesake of the Poynter Institute, was one practitioner.
As Colleen Eddy reported for the Times in 2008, “ln a 1977 interview at the St. Petersburg Times, Nelson said: “I always kept about $1,000 in the savings account, which I called my ‘go to hell money.’ I felt I was a better staffer on any newspaper if I didn’t have to work for that newspaper. I think the most unbearable [job] would be to work for a newspaper that you hated, that you had no respect for.”
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