The Winston-Salem Journal is in a tough spot. Our community’s newspaper of record announced layoffs earlier this month. The Journal has been cutting staff and reducing the amount of content it offers for years. WFDD argues that the Journal and other newspapers are continuing to adjust to digitization. Pre-internet the newspaper was king, today’s information age has newspapers scrambling to re-invent themselves.
Obsessed with attracting readers and ad revenue, mid-market newspapers like the Journal don’t want to alienate any readers. That’s why I believe we continue to see reporting on the Kalvin Michael Smith case that equates Smith’s nearly 20 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit with the horrific injuries that Jill Marker suffered during the Silk Plant Forest attack.
Today, more than two decades after the Silk Plant Forest attack (12/09/95), the Journal needs to focus on the injustice that Kalvin Michael Smith suffered. Sadly, Jill Marker will never recover from her injuries. She will remain more-or-less a vegetable, requiring 24/7 care until the day she dies. The WSPD and Forsyth County D.A. failed Marker, but at least she got a legal settlement to help pay for her medical care.
Kalvin Michael Smith is the only victim in the Silk Plant Forest case that has a chance to get back to a somewhat normal life. Kalvin Micheal Smith deserves to have his conviction overturned and be compensated for the nearly 20 years that were unjustly taken from him by racist and callous actors in the WSPD and Forsyth County D.A.’s Office.
But as Kalvin Michael Smith recovers from the gunshot wound he received two weeks ago, Smith and his family still have to deal with the insinuation from the pages of the Winston-Salem Journal that he was the one who beat Jill Marker within an inch of her life. Here is the final paragraph of Wesley Young’s insulting April 3, article:
Marker’s family has continued to believe in Smith’s guilt. Mark Hoisington, Marker’s brother, said Sunday that his sister requires a nurse’s care 24 hours a day and that she can neither see nor walk. Hoisington praised the work of Winston-Salem police and noted that no court ever overturned Smith’s conviction.
“The Lord works in mysterious ways, is all I can say,” Hoisington said.
This was a cheap shot from the Journal. Perhaps it made good copy, but Marker’s brothers comments don’t in any way reflect the facts of the case. There is a mountain of evidence that the WSPD got the wrong man. There is NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE that Kalvin Michael Smith had anything to do with the assault on Jill Marker.
A few days later the Winston-Salem Journal’s editorial writer, John Railey walked back the paper’s insinuation that Kalvin Michael Smith, while recovering in a hospital bed is experiencing some of what Jill Marker suffered. Railey stated, “I can’t see God’s hand on either side of the long tragic tale of Michael Smith and Jill Marker.” Railey’s April 8, article on Smith and Marker is a thoughtful, well-written article. Railey’s articles on Kalvin Michael Smith have been good. But the thirst for justice that Railey displayed in his many articles advocating on behalf of North Carolina’s sterilization victims is absent in his writings about the Silk Plant Forest case.
The many flaws in the case against Kalvin Michael Smith have been exposed for years now. The Winston-Salem Journal’s own award-winning investigation in 2004, raised serious questions about the credibility of Kalvin Michael Smith’s conviction. Since then two through reviews of the case should have erased all doubt on the part of anyone reporting on the case.
The Silk Plant Forest Citizen’s Review Committee and the Swecker Report were very through. They raised serious questions regarding Smith’s guilt. The recent documentary series Unlocking The Truth also concluded that Smith deserved a new trial. Everyone who impartially examines Kalvin Michael Smith’s case should conclude that Smith should have never been tried. All the evidence in the case that wasn’t manufactured by the WSPD, points to Kenneth Lamoureux’s guilt.
Instead of taking a middle-of-the-road position, the Winston-Salem Journal should have the courage to hold the institutions that put Smith behind bars for nearly 20 years responsible. The Winston-Salem Police Department and the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office failed Kalvin Michael Smith. They took years away from Kalvin that he can’t get back.
The WSPD and D.A.’s Office also failed Jill Marker and her family. They failed the public at large. The never arrested or charged Ken Lamoureux, they let an innocent white man get away. They convicted another innocent black man, just like they convicted Darryl Hunt and John Robert Hayes in the years prior to Smith’s conviction.
The Winston-Salem Journal should take a stronger tone and advocate on Kalvin Michael Smith’s behalf. But sadly, the Winston-Salem Journal is trying to appeal to all its readers, particularly older, conservative ones instead of advocating for justice. There was some optimism that when Berkshire Hathaway bought the Journal nearly 5 years ago that the paper’s decline would be halted or at least slowed. Sadly and to the detriment of everyone in the city, the city’s paper of record continues middle-of-the-road reporting on Kalvin Michael Smith and other important topics.