I have been a little harsh on that southern state recently so I feel obliged to report a positive story from there.
The Laurel Leader-Call, a local newspaper in Jones County, Mississippi ran a front page story (click to enlarge) with the heading ‘Historic Wedding’ about a lesbian couple who had a marriage ceremony even though such marriages are not legal in that state. A poignant twist to the story is that one member of the couple has stage four brain cancer.
You can guess what happened next. Some readers were outraged and called in to complain and rage and cancel their subscriptions. But rather than back off, the Editor/Publisher Mark Thornton responded vigorously (go to page 4). The owner Jim Cegielski was even more blunt in his response (go to page 5). In the process, he said something that bugs me too, and that is the people who hide behind their concern about the effect on children, which is a running gag on The Simpsons where Helen Lovejoy, the pastor’s wife, invokes it in response to practically anything.
As Cegielski says,
The job of a community newspaper is not pretending something didn’t take place or ignoring it because it will upset people. No, our job is to inform reads what is going on in our own and let them make their own judgments.
Many of the calls I received had the caller stating something to the effect, “I don’t need my children to read this.” Ugh. We have stories about child molesters, murders and all kinds of vicious, barbaric acts of evil committed by heinous criminals on our front page and yet we never receive a call from anyone saying ‘I don’t need my children reading this.’ Never. Ever. However, a story about two women exchanging marriage vows and we get swamped with people worried about their children.
Interestingly, the publicity generated by this backlash has created a counter-backlash of people expressing support for the paper, and that is very encouraging.