Good News from the CJR


The Columbia Journalism Review did some digging, and it turns out that blurb (as many of you expected and I had hoped) was the result of an idiotic copy editor:

On Sunday, John Cole at the blog Balloon Juice posted a photo of the item along with some sarcastic commentary:

    ATTN: EVERY BLACK MAN IN MORGANTOWN! Don’t be suspicious, because we are onto your shit.

Cole’s blog post didn’t cite a date for the paper or link to an online version of the brief, so at first I thought the whole thing might be a hoax. Or perhaps something that appeared in the paper decades ago. No one at the paper responded to calls or emails Sunday, so I called a Morgantown gas station that sells The Dominion Post and asked a young-sounding clerk if he might have a copy of yesterday’s edition lying around. He did, and he turned to page A2 and read the item aloud to me. (I’m not going to repeat the word the young man used to describe his assessment of the news item, but it was a derogatory term for someone with an intellectual disability.)

Later Sunday afternoon I got in touch with Deputy Morgan at the sheriff’s office. Unlike the gas station clerk, he was not so amused.

“You have no idea,” he told me. “I’ve been taking flak over that for two days now.”

The deputy says he stopped by the newspaper and dropped off a short news release with two photographs days ago. He says the person in the photos–a black man–isn’t a suspect in any case, but is someone authorities want to talk to about some credit card transactions. The department was hoping anyone with information about the man would call.

The sheriff’s department has been hearing from area residents since the item appeared in the paper, though not with the response they’d hoped for.

“It’s been constant day and night since yesterday morning,” Morgan said. People have come in to complain. Oh, and the phone calls.

“Usually it’s just sarcasm from people,” the deputy said. “‘Hey, I’ve seen a black guy walking and he looks suspicious, I hear you’re looking for him.'”

It got bad enough, Morgan said, that he went over to The Dominion Post and asked if the paper could issue some kind of clarification. Late Saturday, the Post published on its website this item, which includes the photos, a more detailed description of the man, and a mention of stolen credit cards.

That’s probably what Morgan was expecting to see in the first place–though the deputy says he was hoping the update would offer a little more clarity about how the original item had made it into print.

I bet this will go down as one of those teachable moments everyone seems to want to have about race.

37 replies
  1. 1
    aimai says:

    I’m kind of amazed that the police can put a picture of you in the paper with the implication that they want to talk to you because you are a credit card fraudster and not be liable if anything happens to you or someone who looks like you when the public takes matters into their own hands.

  2. 2
    👾 Martin says:

    To be honest, I’m amazed that anyone else took the time to complain.

  3. 3
    ruemara says:

    Ha. Next time, write a proper press release.

  4. 4
    Violet says:

    Update to the story on the CJR:

    UPDATE, 1/13/14, 1:30pm: While the paper still hasn’t returned our calls, the following has been posted at the bottom (comments section) of Saturday’s online piece:

    Due to a copy editor’s error, an item was published in The Dominion Post on Saturday without a full description of a suspect sought by the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department in connection with stolen credit cards. The corrected item with the full description ran in the Sunday edition of The Dominion Post and was published on late Saturday with three photographs. 1/13/2014 11:11:00 AM

  5. 5
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    J.D. Morgan, I thought he passed away 30 years ago. He was UCLA’s long time AD and Tennis coach. Oh wait, Dep. JD Morgan.

    ETA: I believe the UCLA’s J.D. Morgan was Arthur Ashe’s coach.

  6. 6

    The D in “DPost” stands for:
    Da list goes on…….

  7. 7
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    OT, but from Noisemax, another headline from the broken clock can be right twice a day category:

    Trump: Smoking Gun ‘Big Problem’ for Christie

  8. 8
    Yatsuno says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: I don’t want to hear another word out of that man’s mouth until the hair weasel on his head allows him to run for President again.

  9. 9
    gelfling545 says:

    @Violet: And yet the sheriff says:

    He says the person in the photos–a black man–isn’t a suspect in any case

    I guess I wouldn’t use that paper even to check the weather because accuracy is just not their thing.

  10. 10
    James E. Powell says:

    I bet this will go down as one of those teachable moments everyone seems to want to have about race.

    And I’m betting that you and everyone else who called about the original will eventually be identified as the ‘real racists’ in all this. The acrimonious, partisan political climate caused by Obama will be blamed.

  11. 11
    Aji says:

    @Yatsuno: Can’t we just have the weasel run and leave Trump the hell out of it? Seriously. That thing has pretty much got to be more intelligent than the creature on which it sits.

  12. 12
    Violet says:

    @James E. Powell: Doesn’t John Cole have blah friends? I’m sure that makes him the real racist already.

  13. 13
    scav says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Trump’s not a disinterested enough to not be laying a heavy thumb and hairpiece on that subject. Beggars would ride, Beggars would ride, or at least dream of doing so in the unclogged fast last past the man rearranging cones in traffic.

  14. 14
    Roger Moore says:


    Doesn’t John Cole have blah friends?

    We know of at least one: Angry Blah Lady, who went with him to the DNC even though he wasn’t wearing pants.

  15. 15
    kindness says:

    I pity the people of color in that community.

  16. 16
    Roger Moore says:


    Can’t we just have the weasel run and leave Trump the hell out of it?

    If the weasel were capable of running, it would have run away from Trump a long time ago.

  17. 17
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    He’s going to run, it seems, for Governor of New York, which should provide us with endless amusement and boost popcorn sales to new dizzying heights.

  18. 18
    Violet says:

    @Roger Moore: And some of the fraternity brothers are blah according to the pictures he’s posted of various fraternity events. I’m sure this puts Cole many steps over the Real Racist line.

  19. 19
    Mike in NC says:

    Is George Zimmerman checking out available housing in Morgantown?

  20. 20
    taylormattd says:

    How is that simply “bad copy editing”?

    That’s not merely “bad” and there is no way “copy editing” could cause that.

  21. 21
    Aji says:

    @taylormattd: There’s no way it’s “copy editing.”

  22. 22
    Aji says:

    @Roger Moore: I don’t think it’s a genetically pure weasel. I think it’s some kind of weird bioengineered thing, with some kind of symbiotic/parasitical relationship to its host. Otherwise, any self-respecting weasel would’ve just simply stopped breathing from the pure shame of it.

  23. 23
    Yatsuno says:

    @taylormattd: @Aji: It is because they say it is and to tell them otherwise just labels you as unserious. And possibly a librul hippie.

  24. 24
    Older says:

    @Aji: If it’s that smart, wouldn’t it pick a less repulsive person to ride around on?

  25. 25
    Cacti says:

    Michael Bloomberg finds nothing wrong with the ad as it was originally written.

  26. 26
    Aji says:

    @Older: See “bioengineered.” It’s prolly a GMO.

    Also, too, maybe it wasn’t given a choice?

  27. 27
    scav says:

    @taylormattd: Only charitable place I could think to put the bad copy editing is they let it through — nobody caught it after the original a) idiot and b) very likely racist put it in. No fucking QC at the DP. Nobody with a brain read that thing after it was set because it is also utterly useless as a bit of information from the point of aiding the police. I’d say that the cheap idiots at the paper are confirmed as they made a new error in their very ‘UPDATE’, not so unexpectedly favoring toward the same stereotypes (so the racially clueless if not malignant still can’t be ruled out). Only corporate idiots would drive themselves in deeper so quickly when called out at work with such a blunder.

  28. 28
    Yatsuno says:

    @Aji: It would not be above Trump to have a slave weasel atop his head. Hell I bet his entire housecleaning stall is either enslave or illegal and he just hasn’t been caught yet.


    See “bioengineered.” It’s prolly a GMO.

    Okay I LOLed.

    @scav: Hell they probably don’t even HAVE a copy editor. Those things cost money and gotta keep the conglomerate owners happy.

  29. 29
    Mnemosyne says:


    I suspect “bad genetics,” as in it was done by the publisher’s or editor’s idiot offspring.

    The only way I can see it as “bad copyediting” is that the copyeditor had the release and the pictures, the editor said, “I don’t give a shit how you do it, you have to fit it into this two-inch space,” and the copyeditor sent it that way as a “fuck you” to the editor.

  30. 30
    FlyingToaster says:

    @Aji: I’m pretty sure it’s related to Traxie who rides on Dark Truder’s head on Zula Patrol.

  31. 31
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    I bet this will go down as one of those teachable moments everyone seems to want to have about race.

    I’m waiting for the White House Press Corpse to ask Obama about it at his next presser. There can never be a teachable moment about race until the WHPC puts POTUS on the spot.

  32. 32
    PaulW says:

    I TOLD you it was a copy editor screw-up.

    Police reports and PR releases to papers are more detailed than what the newspapers end up printing, due to space restrictions. In this case, the copy editor cleared out the wrong relevant material and failed to provide helpful documentation (the photos).

    That should have been a column in the paper, not a blurb.

  33. 33
    JW says:

    For those of you not familiar with the Dominion Post newspaper’s quality, this should give you a heads up:

    Pierce’s misstep, while regrettable, in my mind pales in comparison to the change made at another West Virginia paper back in 2010. In that case, an editor at The Dominion Post ordered the doctoring of an official photo from the governor’s office of a group to mark the passing of Erin’s Law.

    The original photo, taken by Martin Valent as then-Gov. Joe Manchin signed legislation to better protect hit-and-run victims, showed five people standing around the governor, but the version that ran in the Dominion Post showed Manchin with just two people, both members of the family of the bill’s namesake, Erin Keener. Gone from the picture were three Democratic legislators sponsoring the bill prompted after Keener’s death at 21 after she was struck by a car and dragged down a Fairmont street in 2005.

    The paper’s purported defense came in two parts: First, that the photo was an illustration and not a news photo (though it wasn’t labeled as such) and second, that The Dominion Post has a policy against running photos of lawmakers up for re-election (though readers quickly offered up multiple exceptions to that rule from the pages of the D-P).

  34. 34
    El Caganer says:

    Of course it was suspicious activity – there aren’t any black men in Monongalia County. Once again proving that LIEBRULS are the real racists.

  35. 35

    […] the screen grab has caused quite a stir, especially in that it did not reflect the desires of the local […]

  36. 36
    AxelFoley says:

    LOL, I lost my shit over this.

  37. 37
    amk says:

    well done, cole.

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