By: M.L. Stein
Group petitions Tacoma (Wash.) Morning News Tribune
to return lesbian copyreader to her reporting job sp.
A GROUP OF civil rights, labor and gay and lesbian activists staged a peaceful demonstration at the Tacoma, Wash., Morning News Tribune, demanding that copyreader Sandy Nelson be restored to her reporting job.
Nelson, a lesbian who is active in gay-and lesbian-rights causes, is suing the paper, charging that she has a constitutional right to off-duty political involvement in gay-rights and socialist feminist causes.
Management takes the position that her activities constitute a conflict of interest. The 30 protestors delivered petitions, reportedly from 12 countries, to publisher Kelso Gillenwater, who was out of town at the time.
“Hey hey, ho ho, censorship must go,” they chanted.
The petitions turned over to the Tribune’s administrative services manager, Harry Thacker.
Later, Gillenwater said in an interview that the court suit will determine “whether a newspaper has the right to impose reasonable rules regarding conflict of interest when the credibility of the paper is involved.”
In a press release issued by the the Sandy Nelson Defense Committee, Nelson described her supporters as “Minutemen and Minutewomen of this struggle against the tyranny of media owners who gag their employees and try to turn us into political serfs while they lobby and preach and sell themselves to advertisers.”
The News Tribune, in its press release, asserted that the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Nelson “overlooks the clear conflict of interest, as well as the appearance of a conflict, present when a reporter assumes a leadership role in a political campaign.”
The newspaper said that Nelson, who had worked there 10 years, was tansferred from her education beat to the copy desk following her “political leadership” in a campaign for a ballot proposition termed the Tacoma Human Rights Initiative.
Management, the release stated, offered to return Nelson to her reporting if she agreed to refrain from political leadership roles, but she refused.
“Nelson’s job transfer was based solely on the need to preserve the paper’s credibility,” it added.
Gillenwater said that Nelson suffered no salary or benefits loss and actually is making more money through night differential pay.