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Former Oklahoman Editorial Writer Rues Demise of Racist Newspaper

With The Oklahoman still fading into irrelevance, the paper's newish out-of-state owners, Gannet, recently brought in Ray Rivera – a dreamy, ambitious and just-naive-enough-for-the-job newsman from Seattle – to try to turn things around, and transform the paper from a right-wing propaganda pamphlet for the state's ruling elite into a community-backed source of allegedly objective local news and journalism.

This new direction, which I assume will keep the paper afloat just long enough to be bought back by the Gaylord family and turned into a non-profit so they can maintain their influence in this town, has ruffled the feathers of the paper's old guard who long for the days when The Oklahoman was still an influential, albeit draconian, publication that targeted conservative Oklahoma readers who enjoyed a right-wing, racist spin on local news and information.

One of those people in the old guard is J.E. McReynolds. He worked for the paper for nearly 30 years, with the last five spent overseeing the production of some of the hottest, most-out-of-touch conservative views on the paper's editorial page.

Last week, J.E. wrote an editorial for The OCPA – The Oklahoma Coalition for Prehistoric Assholes – lamenting the paper's new direction, and how it's abandoning its core conservative base by focusing on journalism and reporting that apparently doesn't have a racist, right-wing agenda.

Check this out:

Oklahoma's largest newspaper has lost its way. This of course started long ago, but the pace has quickened. Core readership is ignored or disrespected. The paper has little value in relation to its price. The new executive editor, Ray Rivera, inherited a sinking ship whose listing probably can't be corrected. But he should try nevertheless, starting with an avowed and demonstrated show of respect for the traditional core readership: Conservative, God-fearing, decent folks. Good people.

Yeah, that's a great idea. To increase subscriptions, The Oklahoman should show respect to its traditional core readership. You know, those conservative, god-fearing, decent folks who have either A) died off or B) abandoned the paper over the years, support the January attempted insurrection, and consider a free and objective press to be an enemy of the state. You know, good people.

For most of the article, J.E. waxes nostalgic about the good old days of the paper (a.k.a. the Jim Crow era) and whines about political correctness gone amuck. For example, one thing that really grinds J.E.'s gears is that the human tragedy that was mislabeled for nearly a century as the "Tulsa Race Riot" is now called the Tulsa Massacre.

I soldiered on as long as I could but retired at age 61 in 2015. I had not only had enough of inconsistent and hostile management but enough of modern journalism's wholesale disregard for objectivity and truth. Case in point: The racial tension 100 years ago this month in Tulsa was formerly known as the Tulsa Race Riot or, more accurately, the Tulsa Race War. Now it is known as the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Who decided this? In what insular boardroom did a clueless committee come to the conclusion that “Massacre” fit the narrative better than “Riot” or “War”? I see this all the time today. I saw it for years in Associated Press feeds, which long ago dropped any pretense of objectivity. I haven't seen so much of this in The Oklahoman until more recently. Now I see it every time I read any of its content.

I know I'm not an old white guy who has watched too much Fox News, but as opposed to wondering who decided to call it a "Massacre," maybe J.E., a former journalist, should be asking a more important question like –"Who decided to call it a Riot?"

If J.E read the new politically correct Oklahoman, he would have his answer.

As part of its coverage of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, The Oklahoman examined the role they, and other racists newspapers in our state, played in covering up the event and misrepresenting what happened.

The story was just five paragraphs long, placed at the bottom-right column of the front page.

"Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in Elevator," read the attention-grabbing headline in the May 31, 1921, edition of the white-owned Tulsa Tribune...

The deeply flawed story of an alleged assault attempt by a Black man of a white woman in an elevator has been credited by historians as helping to instigate a massacre that in less than 24 hours left an estimated hundreds of Black residents dead and destroyed 35 blocks of a prosperous Black enclave in one of the deadliest episodes of racial violence in American history.

Here's more:

While reporting continued to follow the arrests and reports from local law enforcement, two days later editorial writers for The Tulsa Tribune, Tulsa World and The Oklahoman embraced a false narrative that Black people had incited the violence.

The Oklahoman’s June 2 editorial ended with this racist claim: “It is true that, strictly speaking, this is a white man's country.”

Well, I guess we found the types of "politically incorrect" opinions J.E. would like to see back on The Oklahoman's editorial page! You have to admit, The Oklahoman's "traditional core base" (a.k.a. good people) would come back to the paper in droves if they brought back that style of content.

Anyway, you can read J.E.'s full editorial over at the OCPA website. That being said, I'd encourage you to read The Oklahoman's breakdown of newspaper coverage of the Massacre instead. As opposed to the editorial, you'll actually learn something from it.

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