After all these years in the newspaper business and being in areas where natural disasters, murders and community political misbehaving’s have taken place, it still catches me off guard and amazes me what type of story will really get readers’ attention and that will get legs and be transported around the country.
I had this happen to me once before, when I published the Times Georgian in Carroll County in the mid 90s when in the heat of the O.J. Simpson trial we published a picture of old O.J. with an "X" through it and a cutline that basically said we were not going to run another story about him or his trial until it was over.
The truth of the matter is we never ran any stories anyhow. It was like an April Fools article that ran in August.
The story hit the wires and in two weeks time we had 750 letters from around the world, were the subject of the three major TV news shows and the subject of columns in newspapers across the country. I even had an editorial written in our newspaper trade magazine that called me a publisher of courage, which still makes me chuckle.
Which brings me to the story written by our Sports Editor in Wednesday’s paper that slammed the practice of hunting in general and particularly deer hunting, a practice that I personally know is sacred to men and woman of all heritages, not only in Newton County, but in the entire country. This story now has traveled around the country,. We have received threats that our advertisers will be called, our parentage has been questioned and I have no doubt that if this were another time, the management of this paper would by now have been rounded up and those of us who weren’t already plump would have been fattened up and set loose in the forest and every hunter in Georgia would have been allowed to have a shot at us. Thank the good Lord that we live in a civilized world that doesn’t allow such punishments anymore.
Before I go on, allow me to explain the responsibilities of a typical newspaper sports editor, and I would emphasize the word "editor."
As the editor of the sports section, the sports editor picks and chooses his stories and generally has carte blanche to do so. That includes writing his own personal column about his viewpoints.
In this case, our sports editor took exception to the fact that we had resumed running pictures of hunters with their trophy deer.
He took the liberty to write a column that has many people wishing that he might be taking the next stage out of town.
I read this story Wednesday morning the same as you. Although not a hunter myself, I have killed a few squirrels by running over them, and when I was teenager, I actually killed two with my trusty BB gun. While reading it, the shock of what he wrote caused me to spill my coffee on myself and almost choke on my muffin.
I knew our publisher, Charles Hill Morris, himself part of a family that has a hunting tradition that goes way back, would be shocked and mortified.
He was, and I am still unhappy about our sports editor’s comments.
I want to assure each of you that the editorial board and the management of this newspaper support the right of every American to hunt.
For those of you who have told us that you and your friends are taking up a collection to send our sports editor packing, that is not going to happen. I might suggest that if you have done that, you give that money raised to the charity of your choice.
We encourage the people who work at our paper to have and express their own opinions, as we encourage you. There are many times that the publisher and I don’t agree with those opinions, but it is their right and yours to have them, and we are proud that they and you have and express them.
When you see an opinion on our opinion page, that is the policy of the paper and we will stand behind that opinion to the end.
You will never see an opinion in this paper that would support any regulation that would diminish the right of every American to hunt in order to provide food for his family.
As for the many calls we have received, we appreciate them, and we also appreciate the time spent on sending notes expressing your concerns, not only on this issue but any issue that appears in The Covington News
We look at your thoughts, either ones we like, or we don’t like, as proof that the First Amendment, in spite of the attacks on its existence, is still alive and well and protecting all of us from tyranny.
Keep those letters and calls coming.
Pat Cavanaugh is general manager of The Covington News. Reach him at (678) 750-5017, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.