A biracial Wisconsin journalist quit his newspaper job because he claimed a headline on a story about a rally held after the police shooting of Jacob Blake misrepresented the event.
Daniel J. Thompson, a digital editor at the Kenosha News, posted a screenshot late Saturday showing the headline that prompted his resignation: “Kenosha speaker: ‘If you kill one of us, it’s time for us to kill one of yours.’”
Thompson, who attended the rally but didn’t cover it, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the event featured mostly positive messages, including one from Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., who recalled visiting a hospital to see his son, who was left paralyzed after the Aug. 23 shooting.
But the headline focused on an unidentified participant at the rally who said the threatening words featured in its headline. The editorial decision unfairly mischaracterized the “Justice for Jacob” event, Thompson claimed.
“I can stand for being unemployed,” Thompson, who said he was the only full-time black journalist at the outlet, wrote on Facebook. “I CANNOT stand for this. And I WILL NOT. At any cost.”
Thompson, 30, told the New York Times that a better, more accurate headline would have focused on the speech by Blake’s father instead of an “outlier falling within a flood of positive ones.”
Thompson posted a screenshot of his subsequent exchange with the newspaper’s executive editor, Bob Heisse, who confirmed to The Post on Thursday that Thompson was no longer employed there.
“I don’t even know if I can associate with the company after that,” Thompson wrote. “I need to calm down, but I wanted you to know immediately.”
“Yes you should calm down,” Heisse replied, a screenshot shows. “That is a public threat and it is an exact quote. At a rally that was to that point totally on message.”
Heisse declined to elaborate on Thompson’s resignation, citing personnel matters.
“However, you should know that our staff has been working tirelessly to cover the protests and civil unrest in Kenosha since Saturday, Aug. 23, when Jacob Blake was shot by a Kenosha police officer,” Heisse said in a statement. “The community depends on us and we are working under challenging circumstances. We are telling all sides of the story with photos, videos and stories and we will continue to do so.”
Heisse said the article in question was not its lead story from the rally, although the Journal Sentinel notes it appeared in the newspaper’s featured position on its website.
Thompson said in a Facebook video after resigning from his job of three years that he wished to keep the spotlight off himself.
The headline on the story, meanwhile, has since been changed to “Kenosha speaker strays from message at rally,” the newspaper’s website shows.
“Nothing was wrong,” Heisse told the Journal Sentinel of the headline. “I just felt after a while that I would just change the headline.”