The Dominion Post in Morgantown, W.Va., last Saturday published an item saying that the Monongalia County Sheriff's Department is asking for help identifying a man involved in some suspicious activity and only that “the person is described as a black man.” Sheriff’s deputy J. D. Morgan had dropped off a short news release at the newspaper with two photographs. He tells the Columbia Journalism Review that the person in the photos—a black man—isn't a suspect in any case, but is someone authorities want to talk to about some credit card transactions. The department was hoping anyone with information about the man would call.
The deputy says he received many calls. “Usually it's just sarcasm from people,” the deputy said. “'Hey, I've seen a black guy walking and he looks suspicious, I hear you're looking for him.'” Morgan asked the paper to issue a clarification. The paper then published the photos, a more detailed description of the man, and a mention of stolen credit cards. The newspaper blamed the episode on a “copy editor’s error.”