The community standard

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2006

It’s the job of a community newspaper such as the News-Herald to strive to reflect the community standards in its news pages.

There are words or images, for example, that people willingly tolerate, even enjoy, that emanate from one of those five or six televisions in their house, that will make them go ape if they see it in their local paper.

Most of the time, things are pretty straight forward and there’s little doubt about what is acceptable and what is not.

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I like to think about my own family. If it’s something I feel comfortable with them looking at, then most of the time it’s OK for it to be in the newspaper.

Yesterday about quitting time, managing editor Douglas Grant came in to my office and said, “Here’s one for you: I just got off the phone with someone who wanted to know whether we would publish their gay wedding announcement.”

“Glad I’m not you,” I said. “What’d you tell them?”

Believe it or not, in more than two decades of doing this, it’s something that has never come up. People just don’t do such things in the places I’ve newspapered, places like Mena, Ark., Richwood, W.Va. and Saraland, Ala. Or if they do, they don’t announce it.

For the reason cited above about my family, I’d be inclined to decline the request. While they could probably deal OK with it, it’s not something I want to force parents in Suffolk to have to confront with their small children on a Sunday morning when they are trying to relax and read the paper. I’ll leave that to TV, thank you.

But, admittedly, I tend to be a bit prudish where such things are concerned. I think that two people being in love and wanting to announce it to the world is probably a good thing. I’m just not always comfortable talking about it. I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts about this? Do you agree or disagree? What’s the standard of our community?