By: Denise Civiletti
I don’t believe my position as the editor of a community newspaper should preclude me from exercising my right to free speech on the opinion pages of this newspaper. And I don’t believe the role of a community newspaper should preclude it from exercising the right of a free press. In fact, I believe quite the opposite is true.
A handful of folks called here in response to our endorsement of Sen. John Kerry for president, threatening us with economic sanctions like canceling ads and subscriptions. Some have so far carried through on that threat.
Certainly it’s their right to do so. I’d like to think we sell ads because our clients know this medium is the most effective way to get their message to potential customers, not because our clients agree with our editorial positions.
This isn’t the first time advertisers were upset by our editorials, or even by our news coverage, when we reported something they’d rather not have reported, causing them to yank their ads. We’ve lost real-estate ads because of an op-ed piece on substandard housing that portrayed a broker’s associate in an unfavorable light. We lost another advertiser because we printed a story about the owner’s criminal record. And another because of a story we ran about prostitution in a certain area of town.
Advertisers figure we want their ad dollars so badly that we’ll change our news coverage and editorial positions to accommodate them. They are wrong.
Yes, we want to sell ads, and advertising revenue is the engine of our company’s business. But advertisers do not and will not influence what’s in the pages of our newspapers or the content of our opinion on our editorial pages. Imagine if they did have that kind of influence. You wouldn’t be able to trust anything you read in this paper, because you wouldn’t know if the report was true or if it was slanted just to serve the purpose of an advertiser.
So, our message to advertisers is: We appreciate your business, but our news coverage and editorial pages will remain independent.
One aside: To the jerk who called up our sales rep and cursed her out about our Kerry endorsement with the most vulgar language imaginable, I wish you’d had the courage to call me directly rather than spew your obscenities on a lady who has nothing to do with our editorial decisions.
I’d also like to think our subscribers get The News-Review because they know it’s the best, most comprehensive, fair coverage of local news, sports, and community events. At least that’s why I want our readers to subscribe — not because they agree with everything that we have to say on the opinion pages, or vice versa. Again, if a newspaper’s editorial stance is the basis of your decision whether or not to buy or subscribe to a paper, that’s your right.
As for the other handful of customers who called or wrote to say they’re canceling their subscription, we hope they’ll be back because they miss our coverage of the Riverhead-area community, the kind of coverage that we believe they can’t find anywhere else.
We’ve taken the heat before, and we’ll take it again, I’m sure. But we will never compromise our coverage of what’s going on in this community or our right to express our opinions on these editorial pages for the sake of selling ads or papers.