Today is my second day as publisher of the Washington Missourian, which has been owned by my family for 83 years. My first stint at The Missourian was as a newspaper inserter when I was 14 years old. In that 37-year interlude I spent four years at the University of Missouri, graduating with a degree in journalism and then joined the St. Louis Business Journal. Over my 33-year career there, I held every job from researcher to reporter to editor to publisher. I retired in 2018. During my tenure at the Business Journal, the paper won numerous awards from the Missouri Press Association and other organizations.
I love community newspapers. I love Washington, Missouri, and I love the Washington Missourian.
But this week The Missourian made a terrible mistake.
And here my story becomes very personal. Two of my sisters and my father, after decades-long careers at the paper, resigned Wednesday after my father, William L. Miller, Sr., published a racially insensitive syndicated editorial cartoon that was grossly inappropriate. My 90-year-old father took full responsibility for the mistake, made a public apology and resigned. That mistake exposed a breakdown in editorial procedures at the newspaper, which we are now addressing. Following his resignation, my father and my mother asked me to come out of retirement to become publisher and editor of The Missourian.
As I begin my post as interim publisher, my challenge is to repair the broken trust with our community and rebuild rapport with our readers, ensuring that racism has no place in this newspaper. I believe in the staff of The Missourian and will rely on them in this endeavor. I will also look to the community for help. My plan is to form a Community Engagement Board to make sure we are listening to the community and meeting our challenge to be better in all that we do. I intend to cast a wide net to create a diverse board.
Great community newspapers and The Missourian are at their best when they are telling stories about the people in their communities. Some of those stories are uplifting and some are distressing, but we are a stronger community when we address the truth together.
We are committed to doing better. We are committed to listening and learning. We want to hear from you. Below are letters we’ve received from you this week discussing our mistake. Some readers are angry, some are sympathetic. But my pledge to the community is to carefully consider all of your responses. We hope you stay engaged with us as we work toward becoming a better resource for our community. I believe that Washington, Missouri’s best days are ahead of us and The Missourian will work hard to help it attain its goals. If you have ideas on how we can do that, please contact me at email@example.com.