Friday, June 12, 2020

Editor/publisher of small Missouri paper steps down after running cartoon he acknowledges as 'racially insensitive'

William Miller was 87 when he accepted the Eugene Cervi Award
from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors at
the University of Maryland on July 1, 2017. (Photo by Al Cross)
William Miller Sr., longtime editor and publisher of the weekly Washington Missourian, stepped down after 67 years on Wednesday after the outrage following his decision to run a syndicated cartoon he now acknowledges is "racially insensitive." Washington, pop. 13,892, is just west of St. Louis, in Franklin County.

Michael Cavna of The Washington Post writes: "In the cartoon, by Tom Stiglich of Creators Syndicate, a light-skinned woman screams, 'Help!! Somebody call 911!' A darker-skinned man who is attempting to snatch her purse says: 'Good luck with that, lady. … We defunded the police,' a reference to a proposal that some activists have put forward to reform law enforcement."

After the cartoon ran, two of Miller's daughters, Missourian co-owners and editorial staff members Susan Miller Warden and Jeanne Miller Wood, published a message apologizing to readers. Warden and Wood said they had no knowledge that the cartoon would be published and said they were "just as outraged and horrified" as the staff and community. Both resigned in protest that day, Sarah Teague reports for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Miller published a post later that day apologizing for "poor judgment" and saying he had intended only to highlight his opinion that "defunding police departments in the aftermath of George Floyd’s senseless killing is not the answer to resolving the racial inequities and injustices that have occurred in policing in this country." Miller promised the paper would no longer run cartoons by Stiglich.

At some point that day, Miller resigned. The next day, the Missourian announced that a third daughter, Tricia Miller, was the paper's new interim editor and publisher. She recently retired as publisher of the St. Louis Business Journal after 33 years with that publication.

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