ONTD Political

Mississippi Newspaper Receives Backlash For Gay Marriage Story, Owner Eloquently DGAF

1:37 pm - 02/21/2013

A newspaper in rural Mississippi is defending its decision to run a cover story on what it called the first same-sex marriage in the county it serves.

On Feb. 7, the Laurel Leader-Call published the story Historic Wedding: Women wed in Laurel through smiles, tears about the wedding of Jessica Powell and Crystal Craven. Craven has been battling brain cancer. The women exchanged vows earlier this month at a ceremony in Laurel, Miss., attended by family, friends and Craven's doctors.

"If chemo doesn't work, we don't know what happens after that," Craven told the paper.

"This is true love," Powell said. "Love is love. It knows no gender."

She added: "I don't remember voting on straight marriage, so why is gay marriage an issue?"

The story sparked a backlash among readers in a state that does not legally recognize same-sex marriage.

"We shouldn't have to defend every decision we make here at the Leader-Call," Jim Cegielski, the paper's owner, wrote in an editorial published on Saturday. "However, the intense reaction to our gay wedding front-page story, which led to a deluge of hate calls, letters, e-mails, Facebook posts, soundoffs and random cross stares thrown in my direction, warrants some sort of response. So here it is."

Cegielski continued:

We were well aware that the majority of people in Jones County are not in favor of gay marriage. However, any decent newspaper with a backbone can not base decisions on whether to cover a story based on whether the story will make people angry.

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 readers what is going on in our town and let them make their own judgments. That is exactly what we did with the wedding story. Our reporter heard about the wedding, attended it, interviewed some of the participants and wrote a news story. If there had been protestors at the wedding, we would have covered that the exact same way … but there weren't any. We never said it was a good thing or a bad thing, we simply did our job by telling people what took place.

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).


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.

I had at least 20 or so readers express to me they think gay marriage is "an abomination against God." We never said it wasn't. We never said it was.

"We were simply reporting to the best of our ability," Cegielski wrote. "However, I can't help but be saddened by the hate-filled viciousness of many of the comments directed toward our staff … No one here deserves to be berated or yelled at simply because we were doing our job."

Fifteen readers canceled their subscriptions in protest, according to Cegielski.

"You have every right to cancel your subscription," he wrote. "But you have no right to berate and belittle anyone on our staff."

kitschaster 22nd-Feb-2013 01:03 am (UTC)
It's fucking frightening when you have positive comments on a Yahoo News article. Holy shit.

That said, the owner makes a lot of good fucking points, specifically the one about murder not bothering people, but a lesbian couple does. And of course those people glossed over the fact that one of the women has brain cancer, because fuck her and all, right? Goddamnit, I hate "Christian values and morals", because they're usually fucking bankrupt on both.
glamoursnipe 22nd-Feb-2013 12:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, for once, I braced myself before reading the comments and let out a sigh of relief, rather than a snarl of rage.
mollywobbles867 22nd-Feb-2013 01:08 am (UTC)
Wasn't this just posted?
moonshaz 22nd-Feb-2013 02:20 am (UTC)
Yes, it was. :)
wrestlingdog 22nd-Feb-2013 02:28 am (UTC)
I think it's a different perspective on the same story.
nitasee 22nd-Feb-2013 04:32 pm (UTC)
Nope, it's the exact same story. It even looks like the same source. (I posted it earlier.)
tigerdreams 22nd-Feb-2013 01:51 am (UTC)
A news publication describing events that have transpired without pushing an agenda or telling people how to feel? The hell, you say!

Clearly the people in this town have been watching Faux News for so long, they've forgotten what actual reporting looks like. And the paper's owner makes a good point -- subscribers have no problem with violent, horrible crimes being plastered all over the front page, but two women tying the knot is apparently cause for pearl-clutching and breathing into paper bags. 9_9
effervescent 22nd-Feb-2013 03:37 am (UTC)
Yeah. It's a really, really good point, because when I remember back to being a kid, and routinely hearing about genocide etc in other part of the world... Kids routinely get exposed to violence just from the news being on and nobody bats an eye. Yet two people swearing to love each other attracts so much more attention?
kittenmommy 22nd-Feb-2013 04:38 am (UTC)

Yeah. It's a really, really good point, because when I remember back to being a kid, and routinely hearing about genocide etc in other part of the world...

I remember Walter Cronkite covering the Iranian Hostage Crisis on the news every night. I guess that's less traumatizing than two people who love each other getting married!
the_gabih 23rd-Feb-2013 06:51 pm (UTC)
I think in the UK the storming of an embassy was shown on a kids' news programme a few decades ago, simply because there were no other news programmes running at the time to broadcast the event? But yeah, kids see shitloads of violence everywhere. Why shield them from love?
alexvdl 22nd-Feb-2013 03:52 am (UTC)
You realize that's what people pay for these days right?

If you're a conservative, Fox News. If you're a liberal, MSNBC. You wanna listen to the radio you have have LImbaugh, Hannity, and Liddy on one side and Al Franken, Ed Schultz, and Tom Hartmann on the other.

Journalistic integrity and presenting the news without bias are quickly becoming dying concepts.
carmy_w 22nd-Feb-2013 05:31 pm (UTC)
Well said!

Journalistic integrity, regardless of the bias of the journalist, was the single largest casualty when the Fairness Doctrine was overturned in 1987.

And that's a crying shame-that a doctrine which curtailed free speech (which, technically, it did) was removed, thereby curtailing (heck-murdering, frankly) honest reporting.
(no subject) - Anonymous
234_am 22nd-Feb-2013 05:46 am (UTC)
+1 Conan
rkt 22nd-Feb-2013 02:23 am (UTC)

shortsweetcynic 22nd-Feb-2013 02:31 am (UTC)
you know...the other night, hubby and i were talking and I said "so, hypothetically, let's say eventually all the states in the country legalize gay marriage. who's the holdout? who's the last one?"

and we both agreed it was mississippi.

amyura 22nd-Feb-2013 03:27 am (UTC)
Yup. Although I think Alabama might give them a run for their money.
(no subject) - Anonymous
kittymink 23rd-Feb-2013 11:39 pm (UTC)
Yeah, South Carolina and Mississippi seem to be the most conservative. Though Tennessee seems to be competing with them
jenny_jenkins 22nd-Feb-2013 02:43 pm (UTC)
Utah, Arkansas, Mississippi - based on their reputations outside the US.
nitasee 22nd-Feb-2013 04:34 pm (UTC)
Or Louisiana. We in Texas refer to the state as the third world next door.
kittenmommy 22nd-Feb-2013 04:36 am (UTC)

Jim Cegielski is my new hero. And I hope Jessica and Crystal have many happy (and healthy!) years together!
lovedforaday 22nd-Feb-2013 09:24 am (UTC)
I wonder how many newspapers in rural areas refuse to print certain news out of fear of their conservative readership.

Edited at 2013-02-22 09:24 am (UTC)
cinnamontoast 22nd-Feb-2013 02:08 pm (UTC)
Lots. Lots and lots. And they get very cranky when asked about it.
aviv_b 22nd-Feb-2013 03:08 pm (UTC)
I believe the NYTs was the first major newspaper to accept gay wedding/civil union announcements and that wasn't until 2002. The latest figures I was able to find were from GLADD in 2008 - 72% of all daily papers accepted such announcements. Unfortunately, that means more than a fourth a papers won't.

Hopefully the holdouts have declined, but I'm betting there are still a lot of papers, particularly in small towns, that won't.
fragbert 22nd-Feb-2013 12:10 pm (UTC)
Two people publicly affirming their love forever = "an abomination against God."

"hate-filled viciousness" = good Christian ethics.

Seems some Christians are still unclear on this whole "love thy neighbor" concept.
seashell_bikini 22nd-Feb-2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
Bravo paper guy!

And awwww. I teared up reading about them. I hope they have MANY MANY MANY more years together!
kittymink 23rd-Feb-2013 11:40 pm (UTC)
Paper guy is awesome.

Sad that people are still angry and hateful over gay marriage.

Awesome comeback though.
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