Caller missed the meaning of Christmas

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 19, 1999

With all of the Christmas hoopla in full swing, I’d planned on using this space this week to write about how wonderful the holidays are, but with one message left on my office telephone, my holiday spirits quickly fell from atop the Christmas tree and landed on the floor with a &uot;thud.&uot;

The voice that came trickling out of the receiver was that of a nice-sounding young woman, but her message wasn’t as sweet as her voice.

&uot;I just wanted to call to remind you that there are some white people in Natchez too,&uot; the woman said. &uot;All that’s ever in the paper are pictures of black people.&uot;

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She didn’t leave her name, just her race-based complaint.

Whoever said the Grinch was just a cartoon? Obviously Dr. Seuss never had a telephone message similar to this one or he’d have made the Grinch an angry woman from somewhere in Adams County.

After hearing the message, my immediate reaction was to get angry.

&uot;How dare her accuse us of not being fair in what we print each day?&uot; I thought.

The timing, the week of Christmas, just seemed to make matters worse.

&uot;Didn’t she ever here the song ‘Jesus Loves Me?’&uot; I asked myself, reciting a line from the song in my head, &uot;red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.&uot;

I guessed that if she did know the song, she didn’t think it applied to the real world.

After a few seconds of anger, I decided, she might be correct. Maybe we do publish more photographs of black people than of whites. Honestly, the thought had never crossed my mind.

As one of several people responsible for the editorial content of this newspaper, I can assure you that we never make decisions about what is or isn’t news based on the color of a person’s skin. Some newspapers make it a practice to count such things on a daily basis in an effort to keep things exactly fair. We don’t play &uot;news by the numbers.&uot; What we each day is to look at what’s going on that day and do the best job we can reporting that news for our readers — regardless of what color they are.

News is colorblind. And although I don’t intend to claim we are perfect at anything we do, I can vow that we try to make the best newspaper we can for our community — which is about 50 percent white and 50 percent black.

So in an effort to see whether the anonymous woman who left the message had any merit or not, I proceeded to get out a week’s worth of newspapers and began counting.

I counted the number of blacks, whites and others in editorial photographs. I did not count photographs in advertisements.

And since we sometimes run small versions of photographs that appear elsewhere in the newspaper at the top of the front page, I only counted these once.

What I found was the opposite of the caller’s accusations.

In the week’s worth of newspapers, we published 100 photographs of white people and 68 photographs of black people. And I’d suspect there are weeks when those numbers are flip-flopped. The largest differences appear on Wednesday’s and Sunday’s when we publish our Style section. And these photographs are almost all submitted by a variety of clubs and school organizations.

We don’t discriminate when publishing these photographs either, but we can only publish what we receive. We also published one photograph of one an Asian person.

If you’re a hunter you’ll note we published three photographs of deer — two dead and one alive.

With the anonymous caller’s myth dispelled, I hope she has a merry Christmas. And I hope that one day she’ll see the world isn’t simply a matter of color.

Kevin Cooper is managing editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at 445-3541 or by e-mail at