Illinois Paper Running a ‘Keep or Dump Coulter’ Poll

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By: Dave Astor

An Illinois daily that’s asking readers to help it decide whether or not to keep columnist Ann Coulter is getting loads of input.

“I expected a pretty good response, but I’m not sure I was expecting people to be THIS fired up about it,” said Mike Matulis, editorial page editor of The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill.

He told E&P this afternoon that 1,357 votes have been cast since a yes-or-no Web poll began yesterday, with 737 (54.3%) wanting the paper to get rid of Coulter and 620 (45.7%) wanting to keep her.

Another 48 reached The SJ-R by phone, with 28 anti- and 20 pro-Coulter messages recorded. And Matulis is currently sifting through more than 100 e-mail messages with comments about Coulter.

Indications are that those e-mails are running somewhat against the controversial Universal Press Syndicate columnist, who set off a firestorm March 2 with her use of the word “faggot” at the Conservative Political Action Conference. At least eight of Coulter’s 100 or so newspaper clients have since dropped her weekly column.

Matulis said he doesn’t yet know when The SJ-R will decide about Coulter’s fate in the paper. He did tell E&P that reader input will be one factor in the decision, but the paper’s editors will make the final call.

“No matter what we decide, some people are not going to like it,” Matulis added.

The editor believes virtually all the reader input so far is from current or former Springfield-area residents. Matulis said he’s grateful that The SJ-R was somehow not one of the newspapers on last week’s Coulter client lists compiled by the liberal and the Human Rights Campaign gay-rights group. Both organizations urged people to contact papers that still publish Coulter.

In a Sunday editorial that appeared in The SJ-R’s print edition and on its Web site, the paper wrote that Coulter’s “faggot” reference about Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards “was an idiotic, sophomoric statement. Besides that it didn’t even approach making any sense. It was Ann Coulter doing what she does so well — tossing a verbal bomb. Of course, it wasn’t the first time Coulter has tossed a bomb, and it certainly was not the first time she has been idiotic. …

“We want to hear from you — pro and con. Tell us why we should either keep or dump Coulter. …”

That editorial brought in the 48 phone calls and 100-plus e-mails. The 1,357 votes were in response to a separate poll on the paper’s site.

Another paper, The Sanford (N.C.) Herald, ran an editorial yesterday explaining why it was one of the papers dropping Coulter last week.

It wrote, in part: “Our newspaper is, of course, an advocate of free speech, and our decision to run Coulter in the first place was to provide our readers with all colors of the political spectrum. Until recently, we accompanied Coulter’s conservative views with the liberal musings of Molly Ivins, who passed away in late January.

Coulter’s columns were edgy — sometimes controversial — but we felt they provided balance in our Sunday ‘Op-Ed’ section.

“But her columns are not why we made the decision. Simply put, Coulter — as a syndicated writer — worked for us. We paid her through her syndicate, Universal Press.

“As with any employee of The Herald, how you present yourself to our community is as important as how you present yourself in our newspaper. A public statement like the one she made about Edwards would have canned anybody in our office. The Herald prides itself in being a voice for our community, and when a representative of our newspaper offends a particular race, religion, or lifestyle, we feel action needs to be taken. And Coulter’s choice of words come with a history of other bad choices, many of which have led other publications to drop her columns.”

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