Whenever a controversial topic emerges in a community, scrutiny of how the news media reports on the subject often emerges.
Over the past three weeks, The Dispatch has reported extensively on comments made by Lowndes County Board of Supervisors president Harry Sanders on June 15, shortly after the board voted against a proposal to remove the Confederate Monument from courthouse grounds.
The idea of moving the monument had both supporters and opponents in its own right. Sander’s comments served to turn a brush fire into a raging inferno, sparking protests and numerous calls for Sanders’ resignation.
The Dispatch has covered the events surrounding this issue as they have unfolded. At every step, our focus has been to provide fair and accurate accounts of these events. We stand by the integrity of our reporting.
Even so, there are some who feel that our coverage of this controversy has been one-sided. Critics allege that we have not treated District 5 supervisor Leroy Brooks, who has made heated remarks that some feel are directed against white people, as we have Sanders.
In explaining why Sanders’ decision to step down as board president was a meaningless gesture, Brooks said all it would do is put “another white person” at the head of the table. Brooks also said that if Sanders did not resign he would have “blood on his hands.”
The Dispatch reported both of those comments.
Without context, we can understand why Brooks’ comment would be considered bigoted.
Yet when Brooks noted that a white person would likely replace Sanders, it’s a statement supported by facts. Since 2004, the board has elected a white board president and white vice president each four-year term.
As for “blood on his hands,” it was clear to those in the meeting that Brooks was not making a threat of violence, but ascribing to Sanders the responsibility for the potential for violence in the emotionally-charged atmosphere created by Sanders’ comments.
In both cases, Brooks was engaged in a discussion where the question of race had already emerged.
Lest there are those who suggest we are giving Brooks a pass on racially-charged comments, we will refer to you to occasions in 2012 and 2016 when Brooks raised questions of racism without merit. In each case, The Dispatch was inequivocabile in condemning Brooks’ words.
We also note that none of the comments made by Brooks are even remotely comparable to those made by Sanders.
When Sanders said blacks were “dependent” during the era of slavery and remain dependent today, there is no “other side” of the story we feel worthy of noting.
These were racists comments that cannot be defended.
We stand by that assertion.
Our editorial page remains open to anyone who has a view to share, regardless of the opinion offered, including those that have been supportive of Sanders.
We will not willfully ignore opposing facts in the news stories we cover. But we are not in any way obligated to elevate an opposing argument beyond its merits.
We seek to provide thorough, accurate coverage. Having done so, we are content to let the chips fall where they may.
If it may appear to be “one-sided,” to some, it’s worth noting that there are many times when there are valid arguments to be made for “the other side.”
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.