To the editor:
I read the May 3 New York Times article about Jefferson County, "Years later, race is still issue for some voters," and was incredulous. I grew up in Steubenville, am proud to call it home and do not want to live anywhere else. As my wife says, we don't know one racist person. So, reading a front page New York Times article about how citizens here are too racist to vote for President Barack Obama was really a shock.
What Jefferson County residents should realize, though, is how national reporters can really twist people's words and take them out of context. Anyone who has been interviewed by a large news outlet knows that they talk to you for a long time, but ignore the thrust of what you are saying and pull the most surprising quotes out of the whole conversation, things you never would have expected. Reporters have a preconceived idea about how they are going to write a story and twist everything into that frame.
A typical example: during the 2000 election, the Washington Post did a feature on Texas Gov. George W. Bush. The reporter writing the feature was a friend of former Librarian of Congress James Billington, who had taught Bush at Yale. Billington does not speak to reporters (a wise practice), but when his friend called him up and without saying hello asked, "What did you think of George W. Bush at Yale?" Billington responded, "I didn't think very much of him. Then again, I don't think very much of anybody from that era, it was so long ago and I don't remember it very well." The reporter included the only first sentence in his piece, without the qualifying statement which didn't fit his angle, which was that Bush was a slacker in his younger years.
I would be surprised if the people quoted in that story intended their quotes in the way it came off in the article. This is a good lesson in not being too trusting of national news organizations.