Virginia paper published a Klu Klux Klan recruitment flier on its front page as part of a story and it backfired terribly
When the residents of Colonial Beach, Virginia woke up and reached for the morning paper, last week on April 26, they were rudely shocked to find a Ku Klux Klan recruitment flier printed on the front page, complete with anti-semitic, racist language and a phone number for the head of the KKK.
The Westmoreland News, a local weekly paper, published the flier as part of a story of how residents of Colonial Beach found zip-locked bags containing Ku Klux Klan recruitment flyers and DVDs on their front lawns on April 14. The paper had a story pertaining to the incident and despite a disclaimer being placed on the flier, the paper has received strong backlash from its readers and from people all across the country.
The paper's editor, Brittlynn Powell, received the flier from Colonial Beach Police Chief Danny Plott who was reportedly upset at the way the material was used. When the bags were first received Chief Danny Plott had said: "The flyers are disgusting, and if people in America, Virginia, or Colonial Beach think there is not hateful racism that exists they are wrong and this proves it."
He reportedly did not know that the flier would be published by the paper and sent the editor a stern email demanding an explanation. “She explained that she wanted to put it in to show people that those of us in Colonial Beach who may think there’s not racism…I think she didn’t expect for this to blow up the way it did,” Plott told WTVR.
Local residents were reportedly outraged with one resident commenting that it almost looked like the paper was giving free publicity to the "Loyal White Knights". Criticism of the piece has been huge on Facebook with multiple users commenting on the insensitivity shown by the publication.
Unfortunately, for the paper, the way the flier takes up the front page, it comes across less like a story and it could be confused for a paid advertisement.
"When I look into a newspaper from my community, I expect to be informed about the happenings of my local atmosphere. I don't expect to feel threatened, belittled, and unwanted,” a user named J Lemar Smith wrote on Facebook. “There is no problem with making the locals aware of the events surrounding these advertisements, but submitting a free advertisement on the front page is unacceptable.”
The paper has received some support for forcing its readers to confront a touchy and sensitive issue with one Facebook user commenting that the flier "hits home the reality of racism".