We owe the community an explanation for our coverage of graffiti, vandalism and hate speech in the July 26 issue of the Barrington Times. As many remember, that issue included a front-page story …
We owe the community an explanation for our coverage of graffiti, vandalism and hate speech in the July 26 issue of the Barrington Times.
As many remember, that issue included a front-page story about someone, or someones, inflicting widespread damages at the town’s premiere Little League baseball field. Those damages included an array of broken equipment, as well as ugly, disgusting spray paint with vile words of hatred, racism and vulgarity.
When we arrived at the field to document the situation, we did not know what we would find. Our focus was on fields, facilities, disruption, cost and public services.
What we found, mixed in the array of physical damages, were the threads of something far uglier — though we did not fully understand that while walking through the park and documenting the vandalism. We saw the swastika and “Heil” painted on the dugout wall, but it was just one of many ugly things to see and record that day.
The perpetrator, or perpetrators, spray-painted the “N” word. They wrote vulgar messages about children. They wrote the “N” word in ketchup across the concession stand grill. And we didn’t even see the full array of what was inside the concession stand.
Was this the work of a gang of Neo-Nazis? We did not believe so at the time, and we do not believe so now. Was it more likely the work of ignorant bullies using an array of offensive triggers in a perverse scream for attention? We tend to believe so. In fact, that is what the police investigators for the Town of Barrington believe. They suspect a small group of juveniles inflicted all of this damage.
Are these juveniles closet Neo-Nazis hiding in our community? We also do not believe that is the case, but as parents living and working here, we are shaken to know that anyone living here or close by could so callously toss around such words of hate.
(As an aside, we urge parents to be more vigilant in watching and documenting what their children are doing on their phones — who they’re following, what they’re exposed to, where they’re being influenced. They might be shocked by what they find.)
Getting back to our coverage, here’s where we owe the community an explanation and an apology. Our final presentation to readers landed in the middle of all these issues with no clear direction. We had a story focused on vandalism, paired with an enormous photo that conveyed hatred and anti-Semitism. Our reporting was a little bit of this, matched with a little bit of that, which in the end was confusing and misaligned. Even our headline was a mishmash of two extremes, pairing “knuckleheads” with “hatred.”
We could have dug deeper on the hate speech, so the story matched better with the photo. We could have chosen a different photo, or more photos, so the visuals matched better with the story. We could have chosen either direction and executed it better, which we understand clearly now.
Please know that we are deeply aware of the pain and disgust invoked by a large swastika on the cover of the local newspaper. We appreciate everyone who has written to share their reactions and criticisms with us.
We also are deeply aware that we can do better in the future, choose a path, and follow it more completely. Thank you for holding us accountable and caring enough to share your feelings with us. We will work to do better.