Journalist Quits Kenosha Paper in Protest of Its Jacob Blake Rally Coverage

A journalist resigned on Saturday from his job at The Kenosha News after objecting to the headline of an article that chronicled a rally in support of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot seven times in the back by a white Kenosha police officer.

The journalist, Daniel J. Thompson, a digital editor who said he was the only full-time Black staff member at the paper, which covers southeastern Wisconsin, said the headline did not accurately sum up the article and gave a false impression of the rally itself, which he attended. The rally for Mr. Blake, who was left paralyzed by the shooting on Aug. 23, included calls for unity from his father, Jacob Blake Sr., and Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, the article said.

The headline, which appeared on the Kenosha News website on Saturday, highlighted a remark from one rally participant: “Kenosha speaker: ‘If you kill one of us, it’s time for us to kill one of yours.’” The online version of the article included a 59-second video showing the person who spoke those words, a Black man who was not identified by name.

Mr. Thompson, who joined the paper’s newsroom three years ago, said he found the headline off-base. “The story is about the entire reaction of all the speakers and people in attendance, and that quote is one outlier falling within a flood of positive ones,” he said in an interview.

He added that the speech made by Mr. Blake’s father would have been more worthy of the headline. “The things that frustrated me most is Mr. Blake, Jacob Blake’s father, himself personally, called for a night of peace, of no destruction, no riots,” Mr. Thompson said.

The rally, billed as “Justice for Jacob,” came days after Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois, was charged with homicide in the killings of two protesters during earlier demonstrations in Kenosha. President Trump is scheduled to visit the Wisconsin city on Tuesday.

Mr. Thompson, 30, said he attended the Saturday rally but did not cover it. Shortly after 7 p.m. that day, he sent a text that included a screenshot of the headline to Bob Heisse, the executive editor of The Kenosha News.

“I don’t even know if I can associate with the company after that,” Mr. Thompson said in the text exchange. “I need to calm down, but I wanted you to know immediately.”

According to a screenshot provided by Mr. Thompson, Mr. Heisse responded, “Yes you should calm down. That is a public threat, and it is an exact quote at a rally that was to that point totally on message.”

Mr. Thompson replied: “Then I quit.”

Mr. Heisse confirmed that Mr. Thompson was no longer with The Kenosha News but would not go into detail, saying, “I do not comment on personnel matters.” He added, “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.”

In a video he posted on Facebook after his resignation, Mr. Thompson said, “I did what I did because today is about Jacob Blake. It’s about his family, it’s about moving forward together peacefully, and I saw that today, and that headline did not reflect it. And when they refused to change it, I quit.”

He has set up a GoFundMe campaign and said he was contemplating “a framework for how I would run a media company in Kenosha and if that is a viable option for me.”

By noon Sunday, the headline had been changed on the Kenosha News site. It now reads: “Kenosha speaker strays from message at rally.”

“I hear the headline’s been changed,” Mr. Thompson wrote on Facebook. “Wow. Only took me quitting.”

Susan Beachy contributed research.

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