By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Some background: On July 6, the paper began running same-sex commitment ceremony announcements. Other papers around the country have been doing this, but those papers aren't located in the first notch of the Bible Belt. That decision came down during a time when gay issues were very much in the news (priests buggering boys, the Supreme Court decision on the Texas sodomy law, a gay Episcopalian bishop seeking official church approval, the supernova trendiness of Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, etc.). This has led to about 800 subscription cancellations at the Morning News in the past month.
Now, Buzz isn't sure if you understand how newspaper suits react when people cancel subscriptions, so we'll explain it to you. It's the same way Buzz's cat reacts when he sees a possum. It's the same way Terrell Bolton reacts when he sees crime statistics. It's the same way Buzz reacts when he misses the lunch buffet at The Men's Club by five minutes. In other words, they freak.
Freak how much? Freak to the point that they destroy newspapers. That's what happened last week when Publisher Jim Moroney found out that the Religion section, which is printed early for the Saturday edition, featured a lead story by staff writer Jeffrey Weiss titled "Episcopalians latest to tackle gay rights." That's because Editor Bob Mong, who was on vacation last week, had told his managers and Moroney that he was fearful of overplaying gay-themed issues, and he wanted editors to discuss placement of such stories to make sure they weren't making a bigger deal out of an issue than should be made. According to Mong, once Moroney found out no such editorial discussion took place on Weiss' story, he ordered the first run shredded and reprinted--hello, not cheap!--which is why last weekend's Religion section was not in color, and why the centerpiece story was a wire-service story from Newsday.
Mong says, "To me, it's not a gay issue, it's a communications issue." He says he just wants to be sure that the paper isn't over- or underplaying stories, not that he or the paper is worried about an anti-gay backlash from its conservative readership. "Yes, we have to be aware of our readership and the perceptions they have of our paper, but we think they [the gay-commitment ceremony announcements] are the right thing to do."
Which is fine. And since Mong was nice enough to talk to us, we won't point out that the very notion of overplaying the Episcopal story--Page 1 in the News and virtually everywhere else--is, in fact, a huge rationalization.