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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Sunday, February 09, 2003
9:48 PM

~ PostWatch Extra ~ This from The New Yorker promo on the Peter Boyer piece:
Martha Burk, whose letter to Augusta's chairman, Hootie Johnson, set off the controversy, tells Boyer, "I've already won. Even if Augusta National never admits a woman, people will never again look at it without thinking, Discrimination. If I got off the stage today, the club is already tainted, the tournament is tarnished, and that will remain."

This is disturbing for its Joy in the Smear, but she may be right. And if she is right, it's because the following was scarcely ever reported:
Boyer writes that as the national media, especially the New York Times, picked up the story, "the portrait emerged of Augusta National as a sort of gathering place for neo-Confederate rou├ęs, stuck in arrested development," a picture that puzzled Johnson. "It is foreign to us, and it's hard for us, to hear people referring to him in that manner," Robert McNair, the former governor of South Carolina, tells Boyer, because Johnson had been instrumental in the integration of the state's Democratic Party and its political life generally. "Hootie became one of the very active, very progressive leaders of the state," McNair says. I.S. Leevy Johnson, one of the state's first black legislators, says that Hootie Johnson "became a symbol of racial healing. And I don't think it was done in a pro-forma fashion. I think he genuinely felt that it was in the best interest of the state that the races work together." When Boyer asked Johnson how he reconciled this record with his insistence on rejecting Martha Burk's letter, he said, "I don't believe it's a moral issue at all. I think that's the way human beings are. Women and men, they have this, I don't know, inclination or need--I wish I was more articulate on it--this need to be together, and just, for men, sometimes, to just be men."

As dozens upon dozens of all-women's colleges will tell you. And the two or three men's colleges that remain.

My boldface, by the way.

Burk's stunt certainly deserved coverage, but Johnson's risky role as a supporter of racial integration in the South was not some obscure mystery that eluded the best resources of the New York Times and the Washington Post. It was something they repeatedly ignored. Basic high-school journalism requires the type of minimum context and balancing I'm talking about, but the jewels of the trade couldn't handle it.

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