Clearly, the Record & Landmark of Statesville, N.C., wanted to make a centerpiece out of the upcoming Klan rally. Clearly, the Record & Landmark didn’t have any lead art with which to make that centerpiece.
Therefore, someone decided to simply run the Klan flyer big on page one.
It was a poor choice. The flyer looks like an ad.
Even with the contact info redacted, it looks like an ad.
Judging by the comments attached to Wednesday’s story, it seems that a number of local readers also felt that way. Or that the page-one flyer put way too much of a spotlight to the Klan’s appeal for guests.
Or, at least, guests of a certain, um, color.
Side note: Hey, Klan. You need a copy editor.
An editorial posted on the paper’s web site Wednesday explained:
It was painful to see the words â€œKKKâ€ and â€œWhite people onlyâ€ and a drawing of men in white hoods on the front page of our newspaper.
Many of you have shared very emotional and heartfelt comments with us about why you wish we hadnâ€™t written a story … published the flyer … put it on the front page.
It was a decision we made together as a newsroom â€” people of all ages and races and backgrounds â€” and it is one we are proud of.
You need to see what hate looks like in 2012. You need to have the same painful and emotional reaction we did when we saw that poster and its masked men carrying burning crosses.
My take: They’re missing the point. Yeah, it’s painful to learn the Klan still exists. But what failed here was the way it was played. Perhaps a picture of someone looking at a flyer posted on a wall. Perhaps someone viewing the flyer on a computer monitor.
If the intent was to “show what hate looks like in 2012,” then run a label or a headline or a deck that says just that: Here’s what hate looks like.
But neither the headline nor the label nor the deck nor the cutline made clear what the editorial claims the paper was aiming for. They were played relatively straight. As a result, the flyer just looked like an ad. Period.
The lesson here: Not just anything will make good lead art. Or even acceptable lead art. Put some thought into how your lead package is going to come across to the average reader.
If you’d have to sit next to a reader and explain it, then it probably won’t work.
Average daily circulation for the Record & Landmark is 14,552.
That front page is from the Newseum. Of course.