GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — A journalist at a Kenosha newspaper is receiving national attention after quitting his job in protest of a headline the paper used covering a rally for Jacob Blake.
The police shooting of Blake, and the shooting death of two others by an armed teenager afterward, put Kenosha, Wisconsin at the latest epicenter of protests over police brutality.
Daniel Thompson, the former digital editor of The Kenosha News, attended a march and rally put on by the parents of Jacob Blake last Saturday.
“I saw children, I saw food, I saw music, I saw people of all colors and ages gathering together, and it was peaceful,” said Thompson. “Even Mr. Blake [senior] called for a night of national peace, no riots, no anything at this event.”
But then, one of the speakers during the event said something that Thompson said shocked the crowd.
"If you kill one of ours, it's time for us to kill one of yours. I know everybody don't want to hear that," the speaker said.
“It was almost a reaction of 'what? He didn't actually say that, right?’ And immediately I knew someone would capitalize on that. It's a good headline for clicks ... and it should be part of the story. It's a threat, and it's said in a public space. Those quotes are fair game. It definitely deserved a place,” said Thompson.
But he said it should not have been the headline of the story.
So it became a shock for Thompson when he saw the headline in an article on his own newspaper's website that read “Kenosha speaker: ‘If you kill one of us, it’s time for us to kill one of yours’."
“I was livid, and I was almost shaking I was so angry. There's ways to still report the truth and be responsible with how you are presenting it to the public,” said Thompson.
Thompson said he texted his boss, editor Bob Heisse, with his complaint. Thompson provided KARE-11 with that text exchange. He said Heisse replied saying “That is a public threat and an exact quote. At a rally that was to that point totally on message.”
Thompson replied, "Then I quit."
In a statement to KARE-11, Heisse confirmed Thompson no longer works at the paper.
"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. “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.”
A day after quitting, CNN called Thompson. Then The New York Times, and The LA Times. The story blew up.
“I had just woken up that morning a nobody who was unemployed, and I was suddenly a somebody who everyone knew was unemployed,” said Thompson.
Soon after, the newspaper changed its headline of the story in question to read "Kenosha speaker strays from message at rally".
Thompson started a Gofundme page that has raised more than $33,000 at the time of this publication. He said half will be donated to rebuilding the Uptown neighborhood of Kenosha.
When asked how Thompson would write the headline to his own story, he said, “Average guy does right thing, everyone should.”