Commentary

Newspapers: Falling Behind….AGAIN

Posted by tbaker |

By Terrah Baker

I would never want to overshadow someone’s wedding announcement with a political or social protest, but it’s not me that’s doing it. That’s what I told myself while trying to decide if this was an appropriate time for a column calling out the NWA Times and their affiliates for their same-sex engagement announcement policy.

My conclusion was that the protest began when the NWA Times decided to adopt and enforce the banning of same-sex engagement/wedding announcements in their publications.

I didn’t seek out this opportunity to counter-protest (if you will), the issue came straight to my desk in the form of a manila envelope with a lovely printed photo and blocks of information on a newly engaged couple, and a note saying “I was told to send this to you, since we cannot publish same-sex engagements.”

It took a minute to realize that this was not an alternate reality, but, a workplace; in a progressive and growing region of Northwest Arkansas where originality and independence is flourishing….apparently everywhere but the newspaper. I admit, I had heard the policy before, but had never fully taken in the scope of indignity this policy causes our readers and community.

I would say I was appalled, along with many friends and coworkers I’ve heard comment on the policy, but sadly, I was not surprised. Considering the history of newspapers, and their current state, no one can say they’ve exactly “stayed ahead of the times.”

Being Left Behind

They seem to try and make a business out of being structurally and creatively conservative, while any economist, good businessman and social activist (if you care about those crazies) could tell you it’s about staying engaged, new, reaching out to the inevitable future so you don’t get left behind…looking ignorant and out-of-date.

I don’t mean to demean human civil liberties with a comparison of the newspapers economic decline to the plight of those affected by this policy, but the basic logic the paper has stayed true to is shining through in both circumstances — holding on to old ways while falling behind on what’s relevant.

Investing In The Community

Does the newspaper know how many homosexuals call Northwest Arkansas home, like their heterosexual friends, and are, or will be, pillars in our community? Does the newspaper see what disrespect they lay upon those couples they reject and how that reflects, or will reflect in the future, on their judgement as a social entity?

I don’t think they do. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be having to argue why a couple comprised of two human females that are in love and want to commit to each other should not receive the same benefits and rights as a “different”-sex couple. And if our state can’t lead the way, our newspaper should, because like our state they are meant to serve the people.

Message To The Newspaper Man

Unlike the state, the newspaper has the added benefit of having to convince only a few in order to change policy. So this is the time I call upon you, oh newspaper man in the sky, to please do the newspaper a favor, and show all NWA residents equal respect in the social entities that define us, and change the policy that states your organization “does not run same-sex announcements because the state of Arkansas does not legally recognize those unions.” We love our newspaper, and want it to stay around, but only if it represents our community.

The fact that our state has not caught up with over 50 percent of U.S. citizens who think same-sex marriage should be legal, according to a Princeton Gallup Poll (a number that has doubled since 1996) is not your readers’, workers’ and investors’ faults, and they are calling for a change.

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