Monday, June 15, 2009

Journal-World misses major local story

One advantage a local newspaper has over national newspapers is, well, its focus on local news. Unfortunately, the Lawrence Journal-World has apparently decided not to exercise that advantage.

In April the Lawrence school district decided not to renew Tim Latham’s contract with the district. According to Latham, a history teacher, the director of human resources said he was not a good fit for the district.

Why isn’t Latham a good fit? According to Latham and several of his students, Latham’s conservative views had something to do with it. Jan Gentry, assistant principal at Lawrence High School, seems to have had several problems with Latham. According to Latham, Gentry called him into her office and said that his school-affiliated Web site was "too patriotic." The site had links to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Air Force, the U.S. Army, and other military-and history-related sites. His site also said that he wanted students to love their country. Horrors!

Gentry also allegedly asked Latham about his “McCain-Plain” bumper sticker. "She said, 'I don't know how you could support that woman,'" Latham said. "That was the beginning of what was going on. They were trying to find a reason to get rid of me."

I have three children in the Lawrence school district and this is the first I have heard of a principal or assistant principal having a problem with bumper stickers, especially one as innocuous as Latham’s. I have seen far more offensive bumper stickers (e.g., “A village in Texas is missing its idiot,” “The emperor is an idiot,” etc.) on teachers’ vehicles.

To me, one of the most interesting things about this story is the coverage it has received. Latham appeared on the Fox News Channel this morning with two of his former students. Chloe Mercer, who graduated from Lawrence High School last month, describes herself as a liberal. "It's really disappointing because he's a really good teacher," she said. "It doesn't seem fair. Why would they let a good teacher go?"

Latham’s story was also covered by on May 27. has covered the story and has included videos of students speaking in support of Latham. News busters, a Web site of the Media Research Center, included an item on Latham’s story on June 11. Latham was interviewed on Kansas City radio KCMO 710am on Sunday night.

Oddly, the Lawrence Journal-World has yet to publish an article on Latham’s firing. It’s not that they are ignorant of the story. A reader blog by bearded gnome discussed the story on nearly a week ago on June 9. As of 9:00 this morning, that item had 153 comments.

So while Latham’s story has gotten nationwide coverage, the folks at the Journal-World can’t seem to find a few column inches for it. And they wonder why their paid circulation numbers are falling.

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