Hypocrisy, cowardice and the Cherokee Scout

It didn’t really surprise me when Cherokee Scout editor Robert Horne resigned. Sometimes you do something and it renders you ineffective. He did the right thing, and it cost him his job.

At least he can leave North Carolina with his head held high, and with some well-deserved kudos from his publisher:

“We wish Robert well in all his future endeavors,” said David Brown, publisher of the Scout and Journal. “He’s a good man who has done a lot of positive things for the area that should be remembered.”

Brown on the other hand, gets to stay in North Carolina and hang his head in shame. That shame isn’t just because he backed down and licked the sheriff’s boots when confronted with controversy. No, he gets even more shame because of the ad he posted today on JournalismJobs.com. That ad begins:

Have you always wanted to be the editor so you can order the rest of the newsroom around while challenging the community with your extreme political views? Then this isn’t the job for you. Instead, we’re looking for an editor who knows how to tell good stories—the kind people will always make time to read—from breaking news to heartwarming features to in-depth reports.

High praise indeed for Horne, who’d been out the door for fewer than three weeks. It’s another sad but not surprising sign that community journalism—the kind where so many reporters and editors learn their craft—is often no longer concerned with standing up for the public’s right to know, no longer interested in holding elected officials to account, and no longer interested in the kind of journalism that can actually change a community.

(The next front page story in the Scout)

Standing for openness, access and accountability are not extreme political views. They are, or they should be, the very foundation of a local newspaper. Shame on Brown for betraying that, and shame on any other editor, publisher or owner who would do the same.

And perhaps the saddest part is that the damage—if, indeed, there was any—is already done. Anything Brown does now won’t have any effect on the people who’d decided the paper wanted to come for their guns. All it does is tell the people who had supported the paper before and the rest of the journalism community, that there is no principle Brown will hold to, given the right amount of pressure. That’s a sad message to send and an even sadder one to receive.


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