During almost every open day at the Lost Art Press storefront, someone asks the question: How do you endure the sniping, nitpicking and outright hostility toward your work? In response, I tell them one of six stories from my career in newspapers.
It started when Debbie, the city editor of The Southwest Times-Record, hung up the phone and called me over to her desk in the center of the newsroom.
That call, she said, was from the local Ku Klux Klan. They had called to complain about me.
The Southwest Times-Record is the newspaper in Fort Smith, Ark. I had grown up in Fort Smith, attended the segregated public schools there and left to go to college. That summer I had returned to work as an intern at the Times-Record and was assigned to write a history of segregation in the schools. Some of the local African-Americans who had been involved in lawsuits to desegregate the local schools were considering filing a new suit because the schools were de facto segregated again.
The Klan’s message was simple: Send the Jew ACLU lawyer writing these articles back to New York or we will shoot him. We know he leaves the side door of the newspaper every afternoon and drives a red Honda.
While the first part of the message was false, the second part was true. I left the office every afternoon, got into a red Honda and drove to the home where I grew up.
That day, I thought about leaving via another door. I remember that my hands were shaking as I gathered my stuff to leave work that day. But then I decided that if a group of heavily armed rednecks wanted me dead, there was little to do about it. For the rest of the summer I left the newspaper by the same door at my usual time.
So I have to say that on balance, a bunch of cranky old farts with keyboards and chronic back pain make me laugh.
— Christopher Schwarz