Mississippi Newspaper Owner Lets Homophobic Readers Have It After They Cancel Subscriptions Over Coverage of ‘Historic’ Same
Jessica Powell and her partner Crystal Craven were married recently in what is believed to be Jones County, Mississippi's first same-sex wedding.
A local newspaper, The Laurel Leader-Call, which serves the county where the wedding took place, covered the ceremony and splashed its report on the front page under the headline "Historic Wedding."
Penned by reporter Cassidi Bush, a "self-proclaimed conservative," the article talks about Craven's Stage IV brain cancer diagnosis, and Powell's dress, and quotes the couple as saying "love is love, it knows no gender." Typical heartwarming wedding stuff.
Laurel Leader-Call readers were outraged.
Nasty calls and emails flooded the newspaper's offices, and subscription cancellations followed suit. The paper's Facebook page received more angry comments over this story than on any story in its history.
Last Saturday, Leader-Call owner Jim Cegielski published a powerful op-ed responding to the brouhaha.
He and the rest of the paper are "well aware" that most of the residents of Jones County "are not in favor of gay marriage," Cegielski says, but "any decent newspaper with a backbone" has an obligation to "inform readers what is going on" and can't base its editorial decisions "on whether the story will make people angry."
I took the bulk of the irate phone calls from people who called the paper to complain. Most of the complaints seem to revolve around the headline, "Historic Wedding," and the fact that we chose to put the story on the front page. My answer to the "Historic Wedding" headline is pretty simple. You don't have like something for it to be historic.
The holocaust, bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Black Sox scandal are all historic. I'm in no way comparing the downtown wedding of two females to any of those events (even though some of you made it quite clear that you think gay marriage is much worse).
Cegielski goes on to note that many of those who took issue with the article expressed concern for their children or the children of others.
To those people he had this to say:
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.
On a personal note, Cegielski confessed that he was "saddened by the hate-filled viciousness of many of the comments directed toward our staff."
Cancel your subscription all you want, he wrote, "but you have no right to berate and belittle anyone on our staff."
UPDATE: The Leader-Call reports gaining over twice as many new subscribers as subscribers lost to the controversy — with "almost all of them" coming from outside Mississippi. "We've probably had 400 phone calls [this week] and 99% of them have been supportive," Cegielski told Jim Romenesko.
The media may want to pretend that bigots have more power than they actually do, but when push comes to shove, the good guys come out in droves.
Apparently none of those good guys live in Mississippi.
I'm weepy. What a great story.
[quote]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.'
What is it really that is so threatening about same-sex loving? Everybody says, oh, it's the influence of religion – but religion also proscribes child molesters, murders and all the vicious, barbaric acts of evil that don't bother Mississippi Xtians a whit when they show up on the front page of the paper. And the Bible has a lot more to say about these evils than it does about homosexuality.
Is it just fear of the other? That seems so ridiculous to me -- but it has fomented war and abuse and slavery for the duration of man's time, so I guess it could certainly explain homophobia.
Anyway, kudos to the editors of the Leader-Call ... and the paper's new subscribers.
If that isn't a pornstar name, I don't know what is.
The paper is getting a lot of great response on its Facebook page
Fuck I'm Canadian and I'm thinking of ordering a subscription.
Wonderful newspaper, and it's fantastic to see these journalists standing up to the fuckwitted bigots.
"What is it really that is so threatening about same-sex loving? Everybody says, oh, it's the influence of religion – but religion also proscribes child molesters, murders and all the vicious, barbaric acts of evil that don't bother Mississippi Xtians a whit when they show up on the front page of the paper."
Well, come on now, folks. When the newspaper has articles about murderers and child molesters, it goes without saying that those acts are considered to be evil, whereas even if the paper didn't actually "endorse" the gay wedding, the perception is that the paper views it as a positive thing. That's the HUGE difference.
Anyway, I'm very happy to hear that the paper more than made up in new subscribers what it lost in ignorant, hate-filled, bigoted old ones. And the operative word there is "old."
I'm going to support them by subscribing to an online subscription.
Remember kids, we are our own diplomats, be gracious.
Next headline: Jones County Christians claim they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.
Which is the same excuse they used in the 1860's when the Feds wanted them to end slavery.
Which is the same excuse they used in the 1960's when the Feds wanted them to end Jim Crow and racial segregation.
Anyone see a pattern here?
agree with R11. Best thing to do is subscribe.
When did it become legal for gays to marry in Mississippi? How did I miss this???
Mississippi is the most religious and backwards state in the country. I know Texas, Florida and Arizona get slammed all the time but, truly, MS is the dregs.
They take Paypal, too, really easy, r13.
It'll be an interesting 6 months of Mississippi news, who knows, there could be some great thread making headlines.
It's not, R14. The couple had a wedding ceremony at what sounds like a lounge/reception hall with their family and friends in attendance. I guess that it was a first in their town.
The one wearing the cowboy hat has very serious brain cancer and could quite likely be dead within the year. Adding an extra level of awfulness to the response of the shitmonsters who got up in arms about this purely ceremonial declaration of till-(impending)death-do-us-part love between these two women.
Laurel MS is the bithplace of African American soprano Leontyne Price. If she's heard about this I'm sure it has saddened her. She's supported Laurel schools and civic organizations. She's also a supporter of gays. So many of the people she has worked with have been gay. Civil rights still has a long ways to go in Laurel.
They focus on this issue because "christians" aren't moral people. They love to hate and fear and nothing gets them more uncomfortable than people subverting the old masculine/feminine gender roles. They don't give a shit about war or poverty because they ARE NOT MORAL.
Cegielski makes the hysterical bigots look like idiots.
So glad that I moved from that miserable shithole of a state. My parents still live there, so I'm obligated to go for family reasons every now and then, but try my best to keep my visits as limited as possible.
Love FlowBeeBryant's comment about the story, on Gawker: "I understand why these people are so upset. If you allow gay marriage in the state, it might cause Mississippi to turn into a poor, third world hellhole that's ranked last in every quality of life metric in the country."
Me, too, R9!
Are there enough people in Mississippi who know how to read to be able to support a newspaper?
But we've had four Miss Americas!!!!
Of course, one of them was married to a drunk, one of them is still yapping on about being cured by Jesus (even though she was divorced once and Jesus does not like divorce) and one of them had a daddy who was a Klansman but still FOUR!
And one Elvis.
Let's not forget it was Laurel MS, that patronized Blanche du Bois as a prostitute then kicked her out for the same.
The is a great little art museum in Laurel of all places, The Lauren Rogers Museum.
Due primarily to oil and timber money … and a sudden death. [lrma.org]
And chances are you have some Masonite® manufactured lumber in your home --- this came from Laurel, Mississippi.
Laurel has some plusses among the bigotry. See today's news story.