A week ago six Rock Island High School football players chose to make a social statement by taking a knee during the national anthem before their game with Alleman High School.
This statement was started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and has spread elsewhere. Because of the national prominence of similar acts, we took a picture of the action and ran it on the front page. It was also shared on social media.
The result was a firestorm of comments both in support of and chastising the athletes. I heard from several readers who criticized our decision to run the photo.
The newspaper’s role is to report news to our community. We didn’t run the photo to praise the action or to criticize it. There was no disrespect intended.
We simply thought that given the exposure and discussions similar actions have triggered around the country, our readers needed to know that it happened here too.
To those readers who were adamant that we should NOT have run that photo, I have had to ask, “Just how and where would you draw that line?”
I find censorship of the news much more offensive than having to read about an event I don’t agree with.
News literacy is an important issue in modern society. It’s something that news consumers need to take seriously. If you rely on only one source of news, and it is a source that slants stories to meet your standards, then you are only getting a small part of the story.
There are plenty of websites and cable TV channels that are more than happy to provide your preferred slant on news. A smart consumer will get news from many sources, compare and contrast the facts, and draw their own conclusions. The not-so-savvy news consumer may rely on one source that censors or twists their news.
Social media sites, which many people rely on for news, have algorithms that try to determine what stories you are interested in based on what you have read in the past and send them to your feed. So what shows up on your feed will be different from what shows up on your neighbor’s.
They, too, are censoring what you see.
On the other hand most newspapers strive to report the news with balance. With all of the fragmentation of cable TV, radio, Internet, etc., we are the last mass media serving a broad readership base — in our print product, online and through social media.
We believe our readers are interested in knowing what happens locally. We are your best source for local news. We have good news, bad news, statistics, ads, entertainment, recipes -- and much more.
We believe our readers want to know what we know and what our sources tell us. If one group of readers thinks we should not have run a photo, and another group thinks we should have, how do we serve both groups?
We print the news.
The fact that we report about a robbery in your neighborhood doesn’t mean we condone it. It just means we think you want to know about it. The same is true with what happens at the local high school football game.
When six football players choose to take a knee during the national anthem, the best way to report that is with a photo showing them. That’s what we did and what we will continue to do in the future. Given the chance, we would run the photo on the front page again.
If you want someone to censor your news, you’re going to have to look elsewhere.
Roger Ruthhart is managing editor of The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. His column appears each Sunday.