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Letter - Why was black sheriff candidate treated differently?

To the editor:

As a child, I remember in the summer of 1963, my two older sisters getting to go to Washington, D.C. At the time, they did not realize that they would witness history. Yes, they were fortunate enough to have heard Dr. Martin Luther King give the "I have a Dream" speech. When my father heard the speech on the television, I remember him saying that Dr. King was speaking like a prophet who knew his destiny. I have always been inspired by Dr. King's vision and speech. After our government created the Martin Luther King National Memorial Holiday, I have always made it a point to attend the various Dr. King memorials. In keeping with tradition, on Sunday, Jan. 20, I had the honor of attending the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial at Newton County High School for the second year. As usual, the event was very inspirational and moving. I believe everyone that attended the event was inspired by the speeches of the various community leaders and especially the speech by Georgia Secretary of Labor Michael Thurmond. I smiled to myself when I saw the various political candidates attending the memorial for the very first time. I did not see any of them at the memorial last year. Shame on them.

I think we, as a country, have made great strides in the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King. However, my wife, who is originally from England, brought something to my attention today when I read the newspaper headline for Jan. 22. One of your headlines read 'I am Newton County!' It pertained to a sheriff candidate announcing his candidacy for sheriff.

The observation my wife made, which is true, is the following: When the three Republican white sheriff candidates announced their candidacy in your newspaper, your paper printed a large photograph of the candidate and bold headlines or large print above their picture. "To Protect and Serve," "I am Newton County" and "--- to Run For Sheriff." However, when the black democratic candidate announced his candidacy, he only received a small photograph and no large large or bold face headline. It just read "Lieutenant plans run for Sheriff." Was this intentional or just an oversight? My wife believes that it was intentional. Can you please explain for your readers why and how this happened? For the record, I am a white registered republican. However, I believe that every political candidate and person, regardless of race, should be give equal coverage in your newspaper. It does not appear that your paper gave equal coverage to the democratic black sheriff candidate.

Randy Upton

First Vice-Chairman

Newton County Republican Party

Editor's note:

We are always conscious of the public's take on how we treat candidates, regardless of their race, and we certainly do attempt to give them equal coverage whenever we can.

In the case of Mr. Ezell Brown, there were several factors which combined to create the resulting smaller play he received on our front page.

First and foremost, he was the only candidate for sheriff who did not hold a press conference to announce his candidacy. Therefore, we were not able to send a photographer to get a photograph of him making the announcement - a photo which we ran for each of the other candidates.

Instead, Mr. Brown sent us a smaller "mugshot" photograph.

Secondly, his representatives requested that we run the story on Saturday. We explained that we could not promise when it would run or where on the page it would appear, but we told them that we would do our best to run the story on Saturday.

Due to the fact that we had a story with accompanying photographs better suited to be featured in the "centerpiece" position of the paper, Mr. Brown's announcement was not afforded the same amount of real estate on the page as the other candidates had been afforded.

It is important to note that nothing is every guaranteed when it comes to how a story will play on our front page. Some days, a story or a photograph will make it onto the front page above the fold, while on other days that same story or photo would be placed inside the paper. Everything is relative when it comes to the layout of a newspaper. Our decision making process is at the mercy of the news cycle's ebb and flow. The only way someone can be guaranteed a specific amount of space and location in the paper would be to contact our advertising department and purchase an ad.

I certainly understand your reasons for questioning the layouts, but I can assure you that Mr. Brown's race was in no way a factor in the decisions surrounding our treatment of his announcement.