Why Do I Care If A Local Newspaper Chain Won’t Publish Articles About LGBT People, Anyway?

So this is an update to the update.  Prior posts can be found at:

http://ideatrash.net/2016/04/the-owner-of-four-town-papers-in-ohio.html

http://ideatrash.net/2016/04/update-dale-grimm-ohio-newspaper-owner.html

Dale Grimm, the newspaper publisher who doesn’t publish “that nature of stories” (read: about teh gays) sent me another e-mail with this almost … plaintive… quality:

What is your interest in what we do and do not publish? You do not
subscribe, you do not live in the area – you don’t even know how to
pronounce the village’s name.

Below is my response; I’m posting it here as an “open letter” of sorts in the hopes that it may prove useful to someone else.

Dale, I do live in the area. I’m literally
eighteen miles away from you. Local news stations cover stuff in New
Carlisle on a regular basis; likewise, your papers have covered Dayton
events.

My friends and people I care about live all over
the area, from Cincinnati to Columbus to Lima and Findlay even further
north than you. Some of them are the LGBT people that you apparently
refuse to admit exist. While I do not personally live in Enon or Troy or
Springfield or New Carlisle (which I do know how to say, thank you),
people that I do know do.

You also publish your
publication on the internet. As I well know from my own publications,
that means your publication is of interest to literally the entire
world. As an ISP operator as well, and one who knows enough to use linux
boxes, I am surprised that you apparently think someone less than a
half-hour away would be interested in your publication’s ethics.
Your
publications proport to cover the communities they are in as a whole.
Yet there is clearly a silent, unspoken blacklist of people whose
existence you apparently will not acknowledge. That exclusion is bad for
those individuals – especially children – and is bad for the community.
The silent blacklist is, in my opinion, more insidious and damaging
than an honestly stated blacklist.
On a personal note
as a small publisher, I find non-answer answers like “editorial
privilege” to explain actions quite frustrating. If you’re going to take
a personal belief and incorporate it into your business, then you
should be open about it. For example, my respect policy
that covers both myself and all of my contractors. It has gotten me
some degree of grief, but it is something that I believe strongly in,
and therefore make very public.

Finally, you have set
yourself up as a news outlet – and perhaps more importantly, one that
works with local schools. There is an ethical bar in reporting the news evenly and fairly, even if you disagree with the people you’re reporting about. Further, there is an obligation that you do not misrepresent
the news to match your own agenda. For example, your alteration of an
obituary to match your own personal beliefs is a vast compromise of your
integrity.

I am well aware of what the first amendment actually says; it is perfectly legal for you to continue on as you have been.

The first amendment, however, does not protect you from social consequences for what you do and do not publish.

Personally? I would urge you to do one of two things:
1. Be public about what your editorial policies are. If you’re going to not publish any stories about LGBT people (or whomever else might violate what you consider unseemly), then be open and public about it.
 
2.
If you choose to be an ethical newspaperman and report on the whole
community, apologize quickly, succinctly, and publicly for the problems
in the past. (There’s a good guide to how to make a good apology at http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/04/15/apologies-what-when-and-how/ )  Once you have apologized, start making any wrongs you have done right.

I am not saying that you should give up your personal beliefs.  Go ahead and vigorously believe whatever personal beliefs you have.

But leave them at the door when you start working as a newspaperman.

It
might seem that apologizing won’t work. There are plenty of people who
claim that out there. But I can tell you from personal experience that it does.

The ball, as they say, is in your court.

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