We made a mistake.
We published an editorial cartoon in Wednesday’s Missourian that was racially insensitive. Some called it “unconscionable.” We don’t disagree.
The cartoon showed a black man wearing a mask grabbing a purse from a white woman who shouts for help. The masked man says “Good luck with that lady … We defunded the police.”
The cartoon ran alongside two editorials that argued against defunding police departments. They mentioned the brutal killing of George Floyd which has provoked protests here and across the country and prompted calls for defunding police.
One of the editorials stated brutality by police must never be tolerated and officers who cross the cruelty line must be held accountable. If found guilty, they should be given appropriate punishment.
It also argued racism should never be tolerated in police departments and in the handling of suspects.
William L. Miller, Sr., the former publisher of this newspaper, wrote the editorials. He said those words. He believes this.
Regrettably, Miller also selected the cartoon. It stands to reason that if racism shouldn’t be tolerated in police departments, it also shouldn’t be tolerated in editorial cartoons.
Miller publicly apologized for his error in selecting the cartoon. He called it racist. He resigned as the editor and publisher of the newspaper — a position he held for over 24 years.
Two other owners of the newspaper resigned in protest over the use of the cartoon. Collectively, the three owners of the newspaper have dedicated over 100 years of their lives to covering the people and events in Franklin County.
Some mistakes are costlier than others. Some have a high price. Some have consequences that leave deep scars. This is one of them.
This is a sad and difficult chapter in this newspaper’s history — a newspaper that has been an inextricable part of the communities it serves for decades.
We know we are not the only ones who bear the scars. Many of our readers were offended by the cartoon. They should be. It shouldn’t have been published. It was patently racist.
So the question is, where do we go from here?
For us, it starts with new leadership.
Patricia Miller was named interim publisher/editor Wednesday. She was born and raised in Washington and brings 33 years of experience in the newspaper industry, the majority of that working as an editor or publisher at the St. Louis Business Journal.
She becomes the first female publisher in the newspaper’s history. When it comes to diversity, this is a positive start.
We are forming a community engagement board whose membership will be drawn from diverse walks of life, viewpoints and race. We will use this board to better engage our readers, better understand them and ultimately, better serve them.
We are also making a commitment to do a better job of listening — to our readers, our employees and the protesters we have been covering the past few weeks and whom we will continue to cover.
We have work to do.
We know we have hurt people and we need to foster healing — the healing of our readers, the communities we serve, and our staff.
We need to be part of the solution.
If we are successful, we will make our newspaper better. And we will meet our goal of publishing a newspaper that upholds our organization’s standards of compassion, respect, diversity and inclusion. That’s our goal.
We made a mistake. We are sorry!
We will get it right.