Our View: Newspaper election policies ensure fair, equal coverage

Published 10:12 am Monday, August 6, 2018

Sometimes you see something that leaves you asking, “What were they thinking?”

In a recent case, “they” would be a candidate in Spencer County and the newspaper that carried an advertisement featuring a blatantly racist message.

Realtor Bobby Smith, a democratic candidate for Spencer County Judge-Executive, ran a political advertisement in the Spencer Magnet featuring four bodies appearing to hang from a tree. Each hanging body contains a different word, writing out “Good Ol’ Boy System.” The ad also reads “Some HARD choices need to be made to make Spencer County great again. I will make those choices.”

Rightfully so, the Democratic Party condemned the advertisement Thursday. In a tweet made by the Kentucky Democratic Party, the ad was called “offensive” and “appalling,” light words for such a message that was disseminated to likely thousands of homes in the weekly publication.

We think the message is despicable.

“There is no defense to making light of lynching,” the tweet read. “Mr. Smith should rescind it and apologize immediately.”

Smith told the Courier-Journal the ad doesn’t depict people, but rather symbolizes the Spencer County system that he has become frustrated with.

The tasteless, racist and downright awful message speaks for itself, but the message comes from a state with a dark history of lynching.

The Courier-Journal noted that about 186 African-Americans were lynched between 1877 and The Kentucky Democratic Party was right to condemn the message. While Smith can’t be forced to withdraw his candidacy, the Democratic voters should condemn the message with their votes in November.

While much blame lies with Smith, the newspaper carries a burden when it allows such a message to be disseminated in its pages. This is why campaign editorial content and advertising must be scrutinized carefully and responsibly by newspaper management. No message like this should ever slip by management.

Newspapers and their management often catch flack for election policies that may be misconstrued as unfair. However, these policies are in place to not only avoid situations like this, but to make sure coverage is fair and equal for all candidates.