The Town Talk is the newspaper of record for the City of Alexandria, Louisiana, a newspaper that has been an institution in Central Louisiana for well over one hundred years, a newspaper whose significance in the local marketplace of ideas has been frequently documented, and a newspaper that was actually the subject of a probing piece of scholarly research in a book entitled The Talk of the Town.

Once upon a time, The Town Talk served as a model for progressive, civic-minded newspapers. It was founded by Edgar McCormick, a man who used his soapbox to champion his community. Mr. McCormick passed away nearly 100 years ago, and since then, this community has changed dramatically. We’re bigger. We’ve expanded. And we’re more diverse.

Unfortunately, however, Mr. McCormick’s newspaper is no longer a reflection of the community it serves. Now, the paper doesn’t belong to the community; it belongs to Gannett. It ships in corporate editors and cycles in publishers.

Despite the fact that 54% of Alexandrians are African-Americans, The Town Talk doesn’t have a single African-American reporter. Their inability to report the news of our entire community only exacerbates divisions and increases distrust. And, in many ways, this diminishes their ability and responsibility to be critical. A community as richly diverse as Alexandria deserves to be recorded by a newspaper that reflects that diversity, a paper that can speak to the entire community.

That said, I believe that the paper has some solid reporters, but with all due respect, they are undermined by an extremely conservative editorial agenda, an agenda that simply doesn’t speak to the community at large.

Today, The Town Talk endorsed John McCain for President, one day after it endorsed John N. Kennedy for Senate. Although I may be proven incorrect, I strongly believe our community will endorse, with its votes, Senator Obama and Senator Landrieu, and The Town Talk, with its weak endorsements, will be proven to have used its platform to advance an ideological agenda borne out of the individual political beliefs of a very small group of people and not a representation of our community.

By weak endorsements, I mean:

We leave it to others to sing the praises of Barack Obama, McCain’s primary competitor. Obama has elevated the discussion by daring to ask “what if?” and the nation is better off with his voice in the campaign. He speaks with eloquence about his primary pursuit — giving Americans the things they cannot get on their own. He also tells us he would achieve that by tapping the middle-income “have’s” to help pay for the low- and no-income “have-not’s.”

The Town Talk completely misses the point and misrepresents Senator Obama’s platform. It’s a ridiculous distortion to suggest Obama favors “tapping” the middle class to pay for “no-income ‘have not’s.'” Actually, Obama believes in providing a tax cut to 95% of working, middle class families. The notion that this is about hand-outs is offensive and ignorant. Continuing:

The underlying principle — to help others — is familiar to all of us. We are a nation of people who are known for their sacrifice and generosity. Americans do not need government to tell them to give. Americans give because their hearts urge them to do so and their faith reminds them they should.

At the same time, Americans are historically, collectively and rightly opposed to the suggestion that government should intervene in this regard. That prospect of over-reaching and ever-bigger government contradicts everything upon which this nation is built. History tells us that, and common sense tells us to pay attention.

Honestly, I find this to be incredibly amateurish. However, since The Town Talk brought it up, I call on them to voluntarily increase their tax contribution in order to help our country pay off our national debt. This would be evidence of their faithful committment to America.

Regardless, it is disingenous and dishonest to suggest that Senator Obama believes in over-reaching and ever-bigger government; this seems to simply reiterate a blanket and ridiculous argument that right-wingers use against Democrats in general. It’s really insulting how ignorantly this endorsement was framed.

But, believe it or not, they printed something even more ridiculous and insulting— an argument that because, technically, Obama is not the descendant of slaves, a hypothetical effigy of him being hanged wouldn’t be a hate crime because his father was from Kenya (and by the way, Obama isn’t actually black, according to The Town Talk):

Speaking of un-American: It is un-American for people to think that some guy in Los Angeles committed a hate crime by displaying among his Halloween decorations an effigy of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin hanging from a noose.

Free speech is often terrible. You have to take the bad with the good.

Do I think the display is distasteful? You bet. But he has a right to be distasteful. It is free speech.

And don’t buy into the suggestion that it would be a hate crime if he had hung Obama in effigy.

Obama is fair game. First, Obama is not black. He’s of mixed race. Second, his black ancestors did not experience slavery in the United States. His father was from Kenya.

If Obama were black and if he were hung in effigy, then a case could be made for that being a hate crime.

During the times of slavery, Reconstruction and well into the 20th century, a black man left hanging was meant to intimidate others. Today the noose is regarded as a symbol of that chilling time, and laws have been enacted to regulate how a noose may be displayed.

You heard it here first. According to The Town Talk, Obama is “fair game” for an effigy because he isn’t black.

Ugh.

6 thoughts

  1. Wow!! Those are ridiculous arguments. I’d expect to hear that from my more ignorant friends after a few beers, not on the editorial page of a once-vaunted newspaper. I hope they get lots of angry letters in return.

  2. The T-P and the Shreveport Times have both endorsed Obama. I can’t find any other Louisiana papers that have gone for McCain.
    Maybe I’m missing something.

  3. The Town Talk has always been a bit more conservative than most papers. They just announced they are cutting another 10%. This means fewer local reporters, and less knowledge of what is actually going on locally. Perhaps the medium is on its way out, and we’ll get our news from local blogs.

  4. Ian, I am still floored over the bizarre construction of the effigy argument: It’d only be a hate crime if Obama were actually black, but because his mother was white and his father was Kenyan, he’s somehow “fair game.”

    I think it’s a silly argument for many reasons, but primarily, I wonder what purpose it serves.

    That said, I hope the writer understands: Discrimination and hate crimes against African-Americans didn’t and don’t just occur to people whose mother and father are both black. We have a shameful history in this country of discriminating against people simply because one of their grandparents was black.

    It can run deep, and racists don’t care about the nuances of lineage (when it comes to their hatred of African-Americans). They care only about one thing: Skin color.

    How can anyone actually believe that a hate crime against an African-American is only provable if the victim’s parents are both black and if the victim can trace his or her ancestry back to slaves?

    Just absurd.

    To Jim, I believe the Town Talk is the only big newspaper in the State to endorse McCain.

    And Mung, it’s a shame that Gannett is cutting so much its workforce. One can only hope that those cuts will not affect the news room.

    I agree, however, that the pure-newspaper model is failing and will need a massive realignment and retooling to compete and remain relevant.

  5. What does a discussion of burning anyone in effigy have to do with why the Town Talk endorses McCain? I really don’t see the relevance, except as a cheap excuse to bring race into the discourse. I would be surprised if the paper’s endorsement moved a single vote. What it does do is reflect very poorly on the publication itself. If they want to endorse McCain fine, I would expect that. What is unacceptable is that they would misrepresent Obama’s policies and throw in a bunch of racially insensitive garbage in doing so. I respect legitimate differences of opinion, but the racist nature of a number of McCain’s supporters, along with the negative manner in which he has run his campaign are a big reason he is going to lose this election.

  6. It is no surprise that the John McCain – Sarah Palin ticket has gone increasingly negative down the home stretch. They really don’t have any other options to close the gap. However, a new negative advertisement has been leaked that is particularly disturbing in its hypocrisy.

    http://digg.com/2008_us_elections/Leaked_Ad_for_McCain_Palin_Abstinence_Only_for_America

    Sarah Palin has consistently advocated abstinence-only education in schools, despite the fact that this philosophy has resulted with both Palin and her daughter conceiving out of wedlock. Clearly, abstinence-only has not worked for the Palin family, yet Sarah Palin wants to prescribe this in place of comprehensive sexual education for other young Americans.

    This advertisement came from the same 527 group that put forth this anti-Obama spot last week…

    http://digg.com/2008_us_elections/Leaked_Pro_McCain_527_Negative_Ad_Small_Town_Fear_Itself/

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