America’s newspapers, while a dying bunch, still serve an important purpose: to represent the social climate of the regions they represent. In Florida, the Miami Herald has been doing this by running editorials and op-eds about how stupid the state’s gay adoption ban is; how stupid Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is; how stupid banning gay marriage is. And this has upset reader Jerome Hurtak — so much so that he wrote in to the newspaper to complain about the Herald‘s one-sidedness. The paper’s public editor responded. With this: Yeah, and?
“Yes, I agree that the subject of gay rights deserves discussion from all sides, and so I reviewed The Herald’s editorial pages myself,” says ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos. “I found that since June, the paper ran seven op-ed columns supporting various gay rights, versus two that opposed. News columnist Daniel Shoer Roth, who is openly gay, wrote three more in the news pages that were sympathetic to gay causes. The pro views, for the most part, supported gay adoption of children, gay service in the military and gay marriage. The anti ones, both by Cal Thomas, rejected having gays in the military, gay marriage and the ordination of gay Episcopal bishops. Add to this two editorials in which The Herald editorial board endorsed allowing gay adoption and ending the military’s don’t ask/don’t tell policy and the balance on the pages clearly favored expanding gay rights. Is this wrong? I don’t think so. … This not to say that the newspaper should only run popular opinions. The Herald has a duty to expose readers to responsible arguments from all sides of difficult issues. They might cause opinions to change. … To be sure, the opposition to gay rights must be respected. These readers’ views are rooted in religion (though religious interpretations are changing) and in strong social and family traditions, particularly among older generations. A newspaper that is too far in front of its community will lose that community. Change is often best nudged to avoid violent cleavage, which is itself a moral imperative.”
That’s a very peaceable response to what some of us (this website?) might consider obvious: Whether the majority of Americans are in favor of LGBT equality legislation is one thing, but there is also the notion of right and wrong. Newspapers, just 50 years ago (and some even more recently), were publishing op-eds favoring separate drinking fountains for black Americans and segregated schools. We would scoff at any newspaper that did that today — but, at the time, it seemed rather … normal, if not upsetting to many. And today, we’re seeing another debate play out in newspaper pages, although some of us are more willing to acknowledge how history is being written than others. In twenty years, or thirty, the idea that we could have once advocated discriminating against a certain class of Americans will seem hateful, byzantine, and altogether foolish.
We’re just fine with thoughtful, reasoned discussions about gay rights — just as we are for similar discussions about affirmative action and abortion (those touchy subjects!). But for the same reason we’re denouncing media outlets trafficking in hateful rhetoric under the guise of “presenting the opposite side,” so too do we call bullshit on newspapers filling its pages with anti-gay arguments to maintain the appearance of objectivity.