One of the simple pleasures that I enjoy when I'm away from home is reading a variety of newspapers. Having been away from Wheeling for most of the week starting June 21, I saw a number of different perspectives on what was happening. In particular, I was most interested in the news surrounding the terrorist act committed at the Charleston church and the subsequent coverage of the controversy over the Confederate flag. I found that both were major news stories regardless of the newspaper's size and reach. I even managed to save a few of those stories/columns to compare with what Wheeling's "newspapers" were saying about the same events.
When I returned home at the end of the week I wasn't surprised to find that the locals had not spent much space covering the issues. I delayed writing about it because I hoped to see an editorial on what our "newspapers" thought South Carolina and other southern states should do about the confederate flag. Here are the highlights/lowlights of their coverage:
Monday morning, June 22:
As expected, an Associated Press report on the Sunday church service was the top story. What caught my eye, however, was the subheading under the story. Subheadings are not that common but here are two examples for this story from other papers for the same AP article:
"Worshippers at the scene of nine killings and, later, thousands of marchers show unity against evil" -- Portland Press Herald
"Church reopens after massacre" -- Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette
Here is the subheading from the Intelligencer:
"Outside, Confederate landmarks are vandalized"
Additionally, the Intelligencer cut about 280 words from the original AP story.
The afternoon News-Register cut one-third of a similar story. Here is one example (the bold print is what was edited out of the story):
The bridge is named after a former state lawmaker and vocal Confederate flag supporter. The slayings have renewed calls for the flag to be removed from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds, in part because photographs of Roof in a purported manifesto showed him holding Confederate flags. The 2,500-word manifesto also contained hate-filled writings.
On Tuesday morning, the Intelligencer cut the original AP story in half and the afternoon paper cut the last 40% of a different AP story.
Later in the week, President Obama gave his stirring eulogy for Reverend Pickney. The News-Register ignored the story while the Intelligencer printed the first half of the AP story on page 3.
Throughout the week, there was no editorial content on the shooting or the Confederate flag issue. Finally, last Monday (June 29) the Intelligencer published three syndicated columns about the flag controversy on its editorial page. (Actually it was only two columns since the Buchanan column was printed a second time under Michael Barone's byline. Didn't anybody proof this page?)
Erick Erickson's column used the Confederate flag controversy to attack liberals:
But the flag is not really the issue. Culturally, it is the American left's constant agitation against the traditional American life.
Which will cause this slippery slope:
What started with the Confederate flag is only going to feed on drummed up outrage to spread eventually to the American flag, and then to our culture itself.
The end of our civilization as we know it -- all caused by objection to the Confederate flag!
It may be hard to believe but Patrick Buchanan's "Love and Hate in Dixie" moved beyond Erickson column. For Buchanan, the flag is
not so much a symbol of hatred as it is an object of hatred, a target of hatred.
I didn't know that -- the Confederate flag lovers are the real victims here. As Matthew Pulver writes in Salon:
That’s because Buchanan is really, really into the whole white persecution thing. In his defense of the Confederate flag, he calls the national clamor for its removal in South Carolina a “cultural lynch mob.” White folks are the ones really being besieged, says Buchanan, subject to all that virulent “reverse racism” and losing our country to black and brown folks. (In that way, his rhetoric is sometimes scarcely distinguishable from that of Dylann Roof, who spoke from the same white-man-as-besieged lexicon and whose racist flag Buchanan leapt out to defend.)
My conclusion? Given the frequently edited articles, the questionable secondary headline, and the absence of an editorial, I think the inflammatory columns by Erickson and Buchanan stand in for the editors' opinion on the matter very well.
Update - July 6
Mike Myer finally weighed-in on the topic in his Saturday column. While trying to appear that he is taking some sensible middle-ground, he can't resist taking his usual cheap shots.
It is understandable that many black Americans view the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of racism.
It also is easy to see why many white Americans resist calls to burn the banner and never again allow it to be displayed in public.
If you can't agree with those two statements, you probably ought to stop reading right here. The dictators of political correctness already have taken over your mind.
This column is not about finding a compromise - it's about bashing those who think the flag should be removed. Look at Myer's first and third sentences - he's saying that if you don't agree that blacks see the flag as racist, political correctness has taken over your mind. That doesn't make any sense and that's because he doesn't want to talk about that group - this column is really about demonizing those who object to the Confederate flag (and whose mind has been taken over by political correctness).
The PC police say Americans are supposed to be tolerant toward those of the Muslim faith, not assuming all support terrorist activities.
I don't understand - so we're being tolerant only because the PC police are forcing us? Speak for yourself, Michael, some of us actually believe that most Muslims don't support terrorism.
On the other hand, we are supposed to assume that anyone who owns a Confederate battle flag is a dangerous bigot.
"A dangerous bigot?" Who said this? (I think that it's his usual "straw man" who gets to say whatever he needs to make his argument.)
Like the Erickson and Buchanan columns before him, Myer finds a way to blame liberals. I'll give him some credit, however -- he's at least willing to concede that some might see the flag as a symbol of racism.