the state

– of DNR editors. plural. by vastate
Friday, 22 May 2009, 16:47
Filed under: -of civil rights, -of harrisonburg, -of jhumphrey

so – i’ve been pondering a more deeply disturbing question today:

who let this editorial go to print?

it seems that many are rightly convinced that cort kirkwood is an inappropriate extremist.  but what about the guys who let “Primate Obama” slide by?  i’m thinking about:

peter yates, editor and general manager:


write or call and ask him what happened:

ask him if he was asleep at the wheel or joining in the fun.

i called yates today.

he “wasn’t answering his phone”.  so i left a message asking:

1.) for a comment on the public response to kirkwood’s editorial and

2.) if he backs kirkwood and his writing.

i’ll post a response if i get one.  i’m thinking newspaper bigshots aren’t used to being the subject of news stories…

i’m also wondering about the man.  the owner man.  publisher guy.   thomas t. byrd.

would “Primate Obama” make daddy proud?

these guys must be held accountable for unacceptable behavior.  it’s not just kirkwood.  a group of people – our neighbors  – let that title slide.  it is not okay. they  – yates, byrd, etc. – are the ones who should have taken kirkwood aside, asked him if he’s gone a bit nutty, informed him of the alternate title to his piece, and counted this as strike one.

but they didn’t.

we’ve forwarded this story to contacts at Democracy Now! and i’m also alerting local chapters of the NAACP.


we also spent some time downtown, talking with small business owners, asking them where they want to advertise their wares…  others in the community have forwarded this editorial to all major news outlets, and posted statements on national sites such as the columbia journalism review.

columbia journalism review

our mayor, kai degner, has even felt the need to comment on this situation:

Why Editorials Matter

So, what does a editorial’s title have to do with being mayor – and why would I comment on it?  After all, someone wise said, “Never pick a fight with a man who buys his ink by the barrel.”  In normal circumstances, I’d heed that advice.  But the Primate Obama headline in the Daily News-Record (our only local newspaper of record) is such an inexcusable and offensive example of being out of touch with the values and sensibilities of the constituents I serve that I feel compelled to comment.  It’s outrageous and hurtful for many in our community, including myself.  Any explanation about the double-meaning not being intended must be dismissed as too hard to believe or highlighted as shocking incompetence given the author and editor is a professional wordsmith.

As mayor and council member, I’m working with my fellow council members, the city staff, and our residents to create and maintain a constructive environment in which we can convene our community’s conversation about how we move forward.  Racism is perhaps the most deeply rooted, least discussed, least understood, and most potent issue facing us (yes, we’ve made progress; no, we haven’t finished the conversation).  To wantonly fan this flame as an editor in the only paper of record is beyond inexcusable.

so.  we at the state will continue to fan the flame of accountability.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thanks for the commentary. This is an interesting issue for sure. I am not sure it’s obvious to me that the headline/editorial intentionally meant the the term “primate” to be used as a code word for Obama’s race. It seems possible, given that the editorial writer, who apparently is an extremely right wing Catholic understood “primate” simply in the Catholic sense.

However, one of the responders on the DNR page links to an overtly racist website that does use the exact term “primate Obama” in an overtly racist way. And your link above with the Howard Philips interview shows Kirkwood consorting with the extreme right (beyond the pale even of the mainstream Republican Party, extreme as it is). So, we have good reason to be suspicious of editorial writer’s intentions.

More problematic to me than the headline is the content of the editorial, though. The editor is obviously trying to encourage hostility toward Obama, not thoughtfully address complicated and important issues. That approach itself utterly disqualifies this person for the role he is playing in the community.

The editorial is highly misleading in its portrayal of Obama’s speech, Catholicism, and the issues of abortion and social ethics. In my journalism program at the University of Oregon, we were constantly drilled on the importance of accuracy and objective descriptions even when we right opinion pieces and try to persuade.

Our community is being poorly served by its one “newspaper of record.” And when that happens, the well-being of the community suffers.

Comment by Boss

Glad you are taking action. I left a comment on the DNR website for people who are upset to not stand for it. By the way, nice website!

Comment by Josh Y

[…] – of restaurant review, -of deals, -of eats, -of harrisonburg, -of jhumphrey a quick breather from the action to ponder and celebrate a townie […]

Pingback by – of colleen’s tacos. « the state

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: