MESS IN THE PRESS

UK Newspaper In Hot Water For Publishing Homophobic Letter And Headline

“Take Heed, All You Homosexual Sinners” read the headline in last week’s edition of The Whitstable Timesa weekly community newspaper published in the town of Whitstable, England.

Underneath the headline is the following letter:

The confrontational Stonewall slogan (Some people are gay, get over it) that is currently touring our city, towns and villages via Stagecoach buses has caused me to think and remember what is written by the prophet Isaiah 3-9: ‘For the look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom: they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves’.

The letter was submitted to the newspaper by someone who would not give his full name, simply referring to himself as “Mr. D. Bryson.”

Since publishing the letter, readers have criticized the newspaper for its decision to do so, but also for its choice of headline, which was not a quote from the letter itself. Many feel it was designed to offend people.

The paper’s Twitter page was quickly flooded with angry tweets. It also received a number of letters.

One reader stated that he would not be reading the paper any more, telling HoldTheFrontPage, “the headline gives a good indication of the views of the editor and staff and although I believe in freedom of speech, I also believe journalists should be intelligent enough to create an article that does not offend. Perhaps it’s time to review your equality policy!”

Another person said, “As it happens I am less offended by the content of his letter (I live in Kent after all and encounter such homophobic views regularly) than I am by your paper’s chosen header … To me it is deliberately designed to be provocative and if it was genuinely innocuous why not apologize instantly for any offense caused.”

But Rebecca Smith, editor of the newspaper, is refusing to apologize. She recently defended the letter, saying, “The letters pages are a place for people to air their views. This letter did represent an extreme view and the headline summarized that view.”

The paper also tweeted last week that its policy is to publish any letter it sees fit so long as the opinions expressed are not defamatory or illegal and so long as they do not “incite hatred.”

We’re not sure how we feel about that. Calling gay people sinners who have “brought evil upon themselves” kinda sorta seems to incite hatred to us.