When 50,000 people read your newspaper every day, someone, somewhere is going to find something to criticize. If a news organization reacts to every critic, eventually it loses sight of its job, which is telling the truth.
— Jim Sachetti, editor of the Bloomsburg, Pa. Press Enterprise
A Romenesko reader who works at the Press Enterprise in Bloomsburg, Pa. sent a link to a TV report about her paper using “nigger” in a story about a school board member’s resignation. (The paper reported that the phrase “It’s Black … Like a Nigger” was listed on the man’s Facebook wall as one of his “favorite quotations.”)
A WBRE-TV reporter tried to get people on the street to say that the Press Enterprise “crossed the line” when it used word. (“Does it startle you that they printed that word at all?” the reporter asked one person. “Would you expect to see something like in a newspaper?”)
He wasn’t successful though. One black girl told him, “I mean, if he [the school board member] used it, what’s the problem? They’re not saying it.” An older white woman said: “They’re just quoting what the man said, so that’s not a fault of the newspaper.”
Michael Lester, who wrote the story, tells Romenesko readers he hasn’t heard much about the story. “My take is that our readers are smart enough to know we don’t condone use of the word.” (I couldn’t get a comment from editor Jim Sachetti because he’s out sick today. His quote on top of this post is what he told WBRE-TV.)
Lester says there wasn’t any newsroom debate over printing the word because “the word was the story.”
He watched the TV reporter fish for criticism of his story and “just laughed out loud. …I got a kick out of it.”
The story is behind a pay wall, so Lester emailed it to me for posting here.
Read Lester’s story after the jump.
BENTON — Calvin Musser stepped down from the Benton school board only four days after he was appointed because the word “nigger” was discovered under the heading “favorite quotations” on his Facebook page.
Board members were unaware of the comment before they voted 6-0 to appoint him Feb. 27.
After being told about a tip the Press Enterprise had received about the Facebook page, board President Eric LeFevre spoke with other directors and confronted Musser on Sunday night.
Musser, 22, was not forced off the board. Musser decided to step down on his own, Musser and LeFevre said.
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” said Musser. “It happened like six years ago. A friend of mine said it, and I thought it was funny at the time. I never looked at it and never changed it.
“I’m in no way racist. Honestly, it’s been there for six years. Nobody has ever said anything about it.”
Up until Sunday, the phrase “It’s Black … Like a Nigger” had been listed under Musser’s “favorite quotations” on his Facebook wall.
Musser removed it Sunday.
LeFevre described Musser as “apologetic” about the comment.
LeFevre added the school board will make it a point to navigate Facebook pages of candidates for future appointments.
Musser, a 2008 Benton graduate, was the lone candidate to replace departed Director Kelly Gavin for an unpaid position representing Benton Borough and Jackson Township.
Musser, who is engaged with a 5-year-old daughter, said he applied “to help further the education of the young people. I know money’s getting tight right now because of taxes and budget cuts, and I wanted to make sure the upcoming generations had the best education.”
Musser’s Facebook privacy settings are set to “public,” so anyone with a computer can look up his information.
“You realize everyone has a right to free speech,” said LeFevre. “I don’t know, for whatever reason he put it on there. When you’re working for a public school district, we have very clear-cut (policies against discrimination).
“You have to realize you’re putting yourself out there (on Facebook). Obviously, it’s a good learning experience.”
Musser said he reluctantly resigned before ever attending a single meeting, acknowledging that comments perceived to be racist and attributed to the district could hurt its reputation.
“I’m a little upset I did have to step down — I did it voluntarily. It was my own doing,” Musser said.
“The district has a strict policy against that.”