When a white newspaper editor in Alabama drew widespread condemnation for an editorial that referred to as for the Ku Klux Klan to experience once more, solely to get replaced by a black girl who hoped to take the newspaper in a brand new route, it appeared like a symbolic second.
The new editor and writer, Elecia R. Dexter, mentioned she wished to make the newspaper, The Democrat-Reporter, extra reflective of the group it serves in Linden, a small city in western Alabama that’s about 59 % white and 41 % black.
However now, after only some weeks, Ms. Dexter has stepped down.
Her departure this week, which she attributed to persevering with interference from the editor she was meant to exchange, complicates the way forward for the weekly newspaper, which was as soon as hailed for its journalism, and displays the thorny actuality that therapeutic from racially hurtful acts isn’t a once-and-done course of.
“I would have liked it to turn out a different way, but it didn’t,” Ms. Dexter, 46, mentioned in an interview Friday. “This is a hard one because it’s sad — so much good could have come out of this.”
Her predecessor, Goodloe Sutton, got here beneath intense criticism final month after he wrote an editorial that railed towards “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats” and referred to as for the return of probably the most notorious white supremacist group within the nation’s historical past.
In an interview with The Montgomery Advertiser, he went even additional, suggesting that the Klan “go up there and clean out D.C.”
“We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them,” he instructed The Advertiser.
Although The Democrat-Reporter has a circulation of only some thousand, the editorial landed with a thud at a time when the nation was reckoning with the damage of politicians who had worn blackface and previous yearbooks containing racist slurs.
Consultant Terri A. Sewell, a Democrat whose congressional district contains Linden, referred to as on Mr. Sutton to step down, and universities shortly rescinded previous journalism honors given to Mr. Sutton, who had been acknowledged, alongside along with his late spouse, for exposing corruption within the native sheriff’s division within the 1990s.
The incendiary editorial was the newest in a collection of items in The Democrat-Reporter lately that have been seen as racially insensitive. An editorial in Might 2015 referred repeatedly to black people as “thugs.” And in 2017, in the course of the nationwide debate over soccer gamers kneeling in protest of police brutality, the paper revealed an editorial titled “Let football boys kneel.”
“That’s what black folks were taught to do two hundred years ago, kneel before a white man,” it learn. “Is that it? Let them kneel!”
Amid the controversy final month, Mr. Sutton, 80, supplied handy the paper over to Ms. Dexter, who had been working there as an workplace clerk. Although she didn’t have journalism expertise, she mentioned she was excited concerning the alternative to make a distinction locally.
“People have stopped by or they saw me in the store,” she mentioned final month. “Now they feel like it’s going to be a true reflection of everyone.”
However within the weeks since, Ms. Dexter mentioned she bumped into issues with Mr. Sutton, who retained possession of the paper, which had been in his household for many years.
She mentioned he emailed an altered model of the Feb. 28 concern of the paper to native information retailers and advertisers. She shared copies of each variations of the entrance web page with The New York Times, which confirmed that an article about his retirement had been changed with one defending the editorial and criticizing The Advertiser for its protection.
The topic line of one of many emails, which have been despatched from a piece account and which Ms. Dexter shared with The Times, learn: “fake news hurts little paper.”
Mr. Sutton additionally interfered with Thursday’s concern of the paper, Ms. Dexter mentioned in a information launch, saying that the problem “does not reflect the views or thoughts” of the brand new editor. Ms. Dexter mentioned she was stepping down to keep up her “integrity and well-being.”
Mr. Sutton didn’t reply to an electronic mail or cellphone name requesting remark Friday. He has beforehand defended the Ok.Ok.Ok. editorial as satire meant to attract consideration to corruption in Washington.
For Ms. Dexter, the whirlwind expertise plunged her right into a nationwide debate about racism and entitlement — and briefly depicted her as a logo for change. She recalled how she obtained a message from a person letting her know that his biracial daughter was impressed by her function on the paper.
“It is things like that that give me peace,” mentioned Ms. Dexter, who mentioned she was unsure what she would do subsequent.
Ultimately, she mentioned, her resolution to step down was sophisticated by her issues over Mr. Sutton’s cognitive well-being. She mentioned that his latest conduct was illogical and “more extreme” than it had been previously.
“You can be mad at him, but we can’t keep making this about him,” she mentioned. “People like him will exist. That’s just the reality of life.”
“The point,” she mentioned, “is not to give those people all the energy.”