Friday, May 20, 2011

Annapolis Newspaper Editor/Publisher Throws Gays Under the Bus

It's disheartening -- but not all that surprising -- that the comments section of the Annapolis-based Capital was filled with readers highly critical of the paper for running a front-page story on Mother's Day about a lesbian couple and their two kids.

But far more disturbing is that Capital editor and publisher Tom Marquardt would write such a cowardly apology to his readers -- which thankfully was spiked before it ever saw the light of day -- saying the paper was wrong and should not have published the article. (Notice which section the original piece was part of!) It's one thing for an editor/publisher to try to empathize with some of his readers. It's another thing to completely discount an entire segment of the population -- many of whom ARE your readers, including the people you profiled in your paper -- in an attempt to cover your ass. The message he's sending is if you scream loudly enough about how much you don't approve of queers, you can make them go away. If that's the case, Mr. Marquardt, why not just let anonymous people on the street run your Page 1 meetings altogether?) Instead of spending your time condemning people who you now say "do not reflect" your readers' values, how about focusing on condemning people who violate your newspaper's own commenting guidelines?

Via Romensko, here are a few passages from the draft that Marquardt circulated in the newsroom.

There is an old saying in journalism that, adjusted for modern times, goes something like this: Architects cover up their mistakes with vines, attorneys send theirs to jail, businesses write them off, and doctors put them 6 feet under. But a newspaper publishes its mistakes for all to see. And that we did on May 8 with a Mother’s Day story on a lesbian couple raising two baby boys born to them through artificial insemination. The reaction among our readers was swift and damning.

In previous years we have written about single moms, poor moms, foster moms and handicapped moms — as well as the traditional moms with big families and heavy workloads. This year was different but difference is not what our readers wanted on a day when dad and kids shower love on the family matriarch.

Unfortunately for us, we lost sight of what the readers want to read: feel good stories about people who reflect their values. Newspapers need to mirror its readers — all of them perhaps, but inclusion not at the exception of the majority.

Only one reader complimented me for our non-traditional Mother’s Day story. The majority who reacted saw this story as the final liberal straw in their local newspaper or wanted to make a statement with their cancellation.

I suspect that many of you were very uncomfortable with the story and angry for us putting it on the front page, but found forgiveness and perhaps more tolerance. Thank you.

The decision to feature this story sparked long discussions between me and the editors. Lessons were learned, although at great expense and aggravation. Had we included homosexual couples in a wide-ranging story about mothers and published it on some day other than Mother’s Day, readers probably would have been more accepting of it. There was a better way to tell this story and to also tell the story about the traditional family.

1 comment:

Marc said...

What the editor thinks his readers want: "feel-good stories." It's hard to imagine a more damning indictment of his paper, and of American journalism in general.

No more stories about the 2 wars we're in, or how corporations have taken control of Congress, or about economic and environmental policies that are ruining a once-great nation.

Instead, let's just read about attractive (white) celebrities and cute puppies and weight-loss plans that really work!

People, if you want to "feel good," go jerk off in the bathroom. But I'd rather not read about it in the newspaper, thank you.