At One Suburban Library, Gay Paper Rankles Some

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Potential advertisers get mad at Gay People’s Chronicle when it rejects graphics or text that violate its standards of decency. But the Cleveland-based free-distribution weekly, which circulates throughout Ohio, tells them it has a reason for standing firm.

“One of the things we do say to them is, these papers go to libraries, and we don’t want anything in there that would not be appropriate for a library,” Managing Editor Patti Harris said in a telephone interview.

That’s why Harris was surprised to learn Thursday that a small group of residents in the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington, Ohio, went to the local library’s Board of Trustees last week to demand that it stop permitting free distribution of Gay People’s Chronicle in the building’s lobby.

According to an account in the Upper Arlington News by reporter Katy Waters, a handful of people led by resident Mark Bloom said the Chronicle and another free-distribution gay paper, Outlook Weekly, were “smut” with offensive ads that should not be in a library environment.

“This is the first we’re hearing of any complaints at all,” the Chronicle’s Harris said. The 20-year newspaper considers itself a “very legitimate news source” with strict standards for what advertising is acceptable, she said.

“We don’t have anything pornographic, or anywhere near that,” she added. “I mean, this paper ends up on my mother’s coffee table. If they want to target the Gay People’s Chronicle as content-offensive, they’re going to have to look pretty hard to find it. Unless the word ‘gay’ offends them, and then there’s nothing I can do about it.”

In fact, Harris added, the Chronicle’s ads are “very tame” compared to some that run in the local alternative papers.

The leader of those who want the Chronicle evicted told the library trustees that he didn’t especially object to the heterosexually oriented material in two alternative papers that are also available in the lobby, The Other Paper and Columbus Alive.

In the Upper Arlington News article, Bloom is quoted as telling the meeting: “I enjoy provocative photography of attractive women. But it’s not a conversation I want to get into. I’m not a homophobe. This is just a no-brainer. These magazines have nothing to offer.” He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The trustees told the residents that issue of distribution of newspapers in the library’s foyer would be part of a regular upcoming review of policies. But Board President John Magill did not offer much encouragement to them, according to the News account. He told the residents that the library’s “Bill of Right” commits it to offering publications on an equitable basis, according to the article.

Library Director Ann Moore, who was not at the meeting, was also quoted as saying about the issue: “I am sure there are gay people in Upper Arlington, and I run a library for everybody, including them.”

The Chronicle, which says it has a readership of about 45,000, hand delivers to more than 522 locations in more than 50 Ohio counties. Harris said sporadic episodes of people taking stacks of papers to prevent distribution is a perennial problem for any gay paper, and that recently a man had phoned the paper to claim, in what she described as “an obscenity-filled” rant, that he was going around to all Columbus-area libraries and removing copies of the Chronicle.

“If there’s a legitimate concern about our paper, I want to address that, just as we would do if we were The Cleveland Jewish News or the lawyer’s daily,” Harris said. “But if the objection is to who we are, well, we’re not going away.”

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