The elephant in the room

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

While I had several things on my mind today, there’s no avoiding the elephant in the room.

That, of course, is the mayor’s decision to refuse to declare April Confederate History Month in Suffolk as he did last year.

We’ve been receiving lots of emails and calls this morning from supporters of the proclamation. Folks are obviously disappointed and many are downright angry. Some are angry at the mayor, some are angry at the Suffolk News-Herald.


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This caught me a little off guard, the whole thing. I fully expected the Mayor to sign the proclamation again. But I was even more surprised that people are blaming the newspaper for his refusal to do so.

While I can understand the anger, I feel it’s misdirected.

They claim that it was the story that appeared in the News-Herald last week that stirred up trouble and caused them to lose their proclamation.

I was on vacation when the story broke, but I went back and read it again and I can’t see where we did anything incorrectly.

Our story was about the mayor wrestling with whether to issue the proclamation, so obviously he was harboring doubts before the News-Herald story came out. The story was about his doubts. How could a story we published after the fact have caused them?

As managing editor Douglas Grant pointed out to one caller who blamed our publishing the story on the mayor not issuing the proclamation, what if it was a story about the mayor trying to decide whether to support a tax increase? Would he have us not report that?

Regardless, I’m hearing that some folks are even considering not participating in the Civil War Weekend events because of this. That would be a mistake. Why cut your own throat? Regardless of what politicians do or don’t do, the heritage, which I thought was what this is all about, remains the same. The weekend presents the Sons of Confederate Veterans, re-enactors and others interested in the Civil War a wonderful opportunity to showcase their heritage and the good works their organizations do, which, I would remind those who are angry at us, we have regularly showcased, particularly Lee Hart’s work restoring Cedar Hill Cemetery and his successful lobbying efforts on behalf of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for the organization to take over maintenance of a section of Richmond cemetery where thousands of Confederate dead are buried.

The News-Herald is proceeding with plans to publish a special section of the paper for Civil War Weekend, which will include articles on local Confederate heritage written by Fred Taylor, a former commander of the local camp. Many, many local businesses have been supportive of this effort and we appreciate their desire to see this event and this heritage presented in a favorable light.