By: Mark Fitzgerald
Protestors Criticize Paper’s Editorials
CHICAGO – Charging that the Chicago Sun-Times has ignored and misrepresented their community, several groups of Arab Americans declared a boycott of the tabloid and have claimed success in getting Arab-American-owned stores to dump the Hollinger International Inc. paper.
The fact the Sun-Times is a sister paper of the Jerusalem Post is frequently noted by Arab-American leaders in Chicago. They say they decided to act after the paper ran an Oct. 3 editorial blaming Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for recent Middle East violence – which the paper followed 10 days later with another editorial bluntly headlined “Arafat nothing but a murderer.”
At one of several protest rallies the groups have staged in front of the paper’s offices, the Very Rev. Nicholas Dahdal of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church of the Weeping Icon in Cicero, Ill., urged Arab Americans to hit back financially: “There are more than 1,000 Arab-American-owned stores in the Chicago region that sell the Chicago Sun-Times. For what? Five cents on each newspaper? To sell a newspaper that bashes us, that distorts the truth, and that refuses to even give us the opportunity to express our voices on its editorial pages?”
Sun-Times Editor in Chief Michael Cooke said the protesters have never contacted the paper: “I see them outside, but I’ve never had a phone call or a letter or an e-mail or a request for a meeting. But these things have to be handled with some maturity and sensitivity. Clearly, they believe they’ve been wronged.”
Days after the boycott began, Raed Tayeh, a spokesman for the protesters and the Chicago correspondent for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, said about 50 Arab-American-owned stores had dropped the paper. But Mark Hornung, Sun-Times vice president of circulation, said recently that “a very small number of stores, less than 10,” were refusing to stock the paper. In fact, Hornung said, interest in the Middle East appeared to be spiking single-copy sales.
“Our position is this: The First Amendment works both ways,” Hornung said. “Just as the Sun-Times has the right to publish its positions, dissatisfied customers have the right to express disagreements. That’s the First Amendment – it’s a beautiful thing.”
Mark Fitzgerald ([email protected]) is editor at large for E&P.
Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher.