After both local and nationwide condemnation, Goodloe Sutton, the editor of the local Alabama newspaper The Democrat-Reporter, announced he is stepping down after publishing an op-ed calling for the Ku Klux Klan to ride again. He is being replaced by 46-year-old African-American Elecia R. Dexter, The New York Times reports.
While Sutton is stepping down as editor, he will remain on to advise Dexter. According to The Times, Sutton said he is leaving the post due to his age and refuses to apologize for the op-ed, which he said was written “in irony.”
Dexter, who has a masters degree in human services and counseling, and joined The Democrat-Reporter as an office clerk less than two months ago with no prior journalistic experience.
Sutton, 80, has been in charge of The Democrat-Reporter since the 1980s as the 144-year-old paper has been in his family for generations. According to The Times, the paper had respect in the town of Linden, AL, for investigative reporting into local law enforcement corruption.
But in the past few years, Sutton and The Democrat-Reporter have faced backlash for publishing several racially charged op-eds, including a 2017 article with no byline called “Let Football Boys Kneel” that attacked Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who kneeled during the national anthem.
“That’s what black folks were taught to do two hundred years ago, kneel before a white man,” read the piece. “Is that it? Let them kneel!”
After this most recent piece was published, Sutton was stripped of several honors bestowed on him by universities in the region. Sutton’s alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi, removed him from their Mass Communication and Journalism Hall of Fame, and Auburn University revoked a community journalism award it gave to him in 2009.
The Alabama Press Association also suspended The Democrat-Reporter’s membership and censured Sutton, formalizing a fall in credibility that locals say had been ongoing for some time.
“[Sutton] lost his wife, and all the credibility went with her,” said Linden Mayor Charles Moore, who called Sutton’s op-ed “very hurtful” in an interview with the Times. “She was a very good investigative reporter, and also a real sweet person.”
Dexter, in an interview with The Washington Post, said she had received numerous calls from Linden residents criticizing the op-ed and had planned to quit if action was not taken. This past Thursday, she says Sutton asked her to meet and offered to let her take the paper in “a new direction” as its new editor.
“One thing that sticks out to me as we move forward is making sure the people of this community feel this paper represents them and their views,” she said. “Family, community looking out for each other – I would like to take a personal component moving forward, so people feel like it’s their paper, which it is.”