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Rancho Murieta newspaper cuts ties with columnist who suggested curfew for black men

A column in the River Valley Times, a community newspaper in Rancho Murieta near Sacramento, advised black men to stay home after dark in the wake of the Stephon Clark shooting.
A column in the River Valley Times, a community newspaper in Rancho Murieta near Sacramento, advised black men to stay home after dark in the wake of the Stephon Clark shooting. Courtesy of Chris Macias

A Rancho Murieta weekly newspaper has cut ties with a contributor whose column suggesting black men should stay inside at night to avoid altercations with the police drew widespread outrage last week.

Marcia Courson and The River Valley Times mutually agreed to part ways Monday morning, publisher Dave Herburger said.

In the days before the column's publication, Herburger had been filling in for the newspaper's editor, who was out of town attending to a family member's illness, he said.

Herburger said he did not read the column before it ran in the print newspaper. "Had I read the proofs prior to publication, I would have been able to avoid all this," he said.

Courson, 75, had been a paid weekly columnist for The River Valley Times for the last seven years, Herburger said. He said he spoke to her on the phone immediately after the controversy began taking shape on social media channels in Rancho Murieta, a 5,000-person gated community 15 miles south of Folsom.

A petition calling for Courson's dismissal began circulating after her column on the difficulty of digesting recent news events was released. The column referenced the March 18 fatal shooting of Stephon Clark by two Sacramento police officers as well as the subsequent protests by activists.

One particular part of the column caused an uproar and prompted Herburger to compare Courson's piece, and its suggestion of race-based curfews, to something out of Nazi Germany.

"Hard to know what a young man wandering the streets at night might be up to and if he has a gun," Courson wrote. "Police have to be careful not to overreact, and you black men might be better off at home after a certain hour."

"I would like to believe I would have at least edited out that one sentence, if not the whole thing," Herburger said Monday.

The River Valley Times will feature 10-12 letters to the editor — two to three times the normal amount it receives — instead of Courson's column in this Wednesday's edition, Herburger said.

The newspaper serves about 5,600 readers in Rancho Murieta, Wilton and Sloughhouse. Courson's column was covered by several national media outlets including Newsweek, the Daily Mail and CBS.

Courson is a former director of the Rancho Murieta Country Club and a community women's club, according to RanchoMurieta.com. She could not be reached for comment Monday but previously told Herburger she was "very apologetic," he said.

Benjy Egel: (916) 321-1052, @BenjyEgel

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