Mississippi Newspaper Owner Defends Gay Marriage Cover Story
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.
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."
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.