After bereavement leave, and a long week of work once I returned home, I thought I was due for some degree of normalcy this week.
No municipal elections. No demonstrations to cover. No sports to cover (which is killing me right now).
However, there's no such thing as normalcy, especially in 2020 - and apparently - even my own media brethren somehow managed to cross a line that should never be crossed.
Roughly 36 miles from Troy is Washington - and "The Missourian," a family-owned newspaper which represents Franklin County.
On Wednesday, its editor and publisher, Bill Miller Sr., chose to publish an editorial cartoon that has stirred up more than its fair share of controversy and disgust.
The cartoon, drawn by Tom Stiglich of Creators Syndicate, depicts a white woman screaming, “Help!! Somebody call 911!” A darker-skinned man who is attempting to snatch her purse says: “Good luck with that, lady. … We defunded the police,” a reference to a proposal that some activists have put forward to reform law enforcement since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers last month.
The backlash from that cartoon has been swift and harsh - especially from Miller's daughters, Susan Miller Warden and Jeanne Miller Wood. In a joint statement made on the newspaper's website prior to their resignations in protest, they wrote, "We believe it was racist and in no circumstance should have been published. We apologize to our readers and our staff for the obvious pain and offense it caused.”
Before his own resignation later in the day, Miller Sr. attempted to explain his decision to publish the cartoon.
“The cartoon was intended to support our editorial position that defunding police departments in the aftermath of George Floyd’s senseless killing is not the answer to resolving the racial inequities and injustices that have occurred in policing in this country," the 90-year-old said.
Personally, I'm not sure what to think about defunding police departments at this point. It's become a popular subject among a significant part of the population, but I am reserving judgment at this point.
However, as a reporter, this is embarrassing for my profession. Whether you disagree on a subject or not, there is a right and a wrong way to do things. If you have reservations about what to print - and what not to print - don't print it.
I understand completely if you want to share your opinion against defunding police departments. However, printing a cartoon promoting one of the most classically racist stereotypes of African-Americans at a time when emotions are already running at a fever pitch sounds more like misjudging your audience than making an "honest mistake."
How did Miller Sr. not think Stiglich's cartoon was not intended to be evoke a visceral response? Did he not think it was it was incendiary and race-baiting by painting all African-American men as criminals who rob white women? Or did he think his rural readers would tacitly approve of the cartoon?
Either way, he swung and missed on all counts.
Like it or not, opinions have shifted on law enforcement and race since the death of George Floyd. It is our duty as the media to be responsible with our coverage of this subject - as with any other.
Hopefully, we can use this as another teachable moment - but I doubt it. This will happen again, and again and again. Someone will forget its 2020, and not 1920, by printing or saying something intolerant - and begging for forgiveness afterward - whether they truly mean it or not.
Unfortunately, it has become the new normal in America.