Black Weekly Firebombed p. 46

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Feisty Ohio paper manages to publish its April 2 edition despite destruction of its newsroom a few days earlier sp.

A FIREBOMB THAT destroyed the newsroom of the Cincinnati Herald could not keep the black-oriented weekly silent.
The Herald managed to publish its April 2 edition despite the firebombing at 3 a.m. March 28.
It has continued to publish since.
“We were very, very fortunate that the part of the building that the firebomb hit was far away from the production area,” Herald publisher William Spillers Jr. said in a telephone interview from his damaged office.
“Our biggest problem, as you can imagine, is office space,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I’m sitting in my office now, but I can’t stay too long because the smoke gets to me.”
Cincinnati arson investigators said someone threw a plastic bottle, filled with gasoline and ignited, into the second floor of the building in the city’s Walnut Hills neighborhood.
An early possibility that investigators found fingerprints at the scene apparently turned up nothing, Spillers said.
“If they’ve made any progress, I don’t know of it,” he said.
However, Spillers and many Herald journalists believe that the firebombing was linked to a controversial article in the March 26 edition by a local African history doctoral student.
Michael Burks’ article “Blacks and Islam” argued that there is no racial reason for blacks to identify with Islam, which he called an “Arab religion.”
Burks further wrote that Arab Muslims wreaked destruction on black Africans during a seventh century invasion, massacring and enslaving.
The day before the firebombing, a man called the newspaper several times with death threats against Burks and the paper.
“Unfortunately, I’m beginning to believe I’m a victim of someone who didn’t like [Burks],” Spillers said.
Nevertheless, Burks will be back in the paper soon, Spillers said. “Nobody is going to tell me who is going to write in the paper and who is not.
“I’m not really crazy about his writing,” the publisher added, “but he’s going to get a better shot from me after this thing.”
U.S. Rep. David Mann (D-Ohio) toured the damaged newsroom after the fire and in a letter later urged U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to launch a federal investigation of the firebombing as a hate crime.
A Cincinnati Enquirer story by John Hopkins noted that the firebombing is the most extreme attack on a newspaper in the Queen City since a mob dismantled the press of the abolitionist newspaper the Philanthropist July 12, 1836.
The family-owned Herald, which was founded in 1954, is Cincinnati’s only black-oriented weekly. It has a circulation of about 25,000.

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