Public Upbraiding p.14

By: DOROTHY GIOBBE

ACOLUMNIST FOR the Telegram & Gazette, in Worcester, Mass., was publicly rebuked by her publisher last month after penning a satirical piece about the city’s promotional efforts.
In her June 13 front-page column, Dianne Williamson poked fun at the city’s plans to devise a catchy marketing slogan designed to burnish the image of Worcester.
Williamson took the official slogan ? “Worcester ? Right Place, Right Time” and offered a number of variations. Some of her suggestions included:
u Worcester: The Bob Dole of American Cities
u Worcester: Unless You’re A Drug Dealer You Probably Won’t Get Shot
u Worcester: Next Exit
Her list included about 25 others, but two of them particularly incensed publisher Bruce Bennett.
“Worcester: The place Adelle Garboury Refused To Leave” spoofed the death of an elderly Worcester woman whose lifeless body lay in her home for four years before it was discovered.
The bizarre news of Garboury’s corpse received national attention. Jay Leno joked about it on the Tonight Show and a number of Worcester children ghoulishly dressed up as Garboury for Halloween.
The other faux-slogan Bennett objected to was, “Worcester: We’re Not Afraid To Fornicate In City Hall” referring to a semi-public sexual encounter between two men at city hall that supposedly was witnessed by a number of people.
Bennett said he found the two items “tasteless and insensitive to the extreme,” and ? despite zero complaints from readers ? he ran a bordered box on the next day’s front page essentially apologizing for Williamson’s column.
It read:
“Yesterday in this space, in a column by Dianne Williamson, the Telegram & Gazette published some tasteless suggestions for a Worcester slogan. The subject itself is fair game, but we overstepped the bounds of common decency, which we regret.”
Williamson was called at home by a Telegram & Gazette editor and forewarned of the apology. She immediately telephoned her editor and quit her job.
“I did not want to quit,” Williamson wrote in a subsequent column. “[But] I believed the box was extreme and unwarranted. I believed my credibility had been undermined by the very folks who had encouraged me to establish a voice and express my opinions.
“I felt both items were fair game within the context of a newspaper column,” Williamson added. “I don’t believe my job is to parrot Miss Manners.”
Over coffee the next morning, Bennett explained to Williamson his reasons for running the box. He asked her back to the newspaper and, after mulling it over for a few days, she accepted.
Bennett himself wrote a column a few days later to give his side of the incident.
The publisher acknowledged that he shouldn’t have singled out Williamson. However, he wrote, “I still think the two column items should have been cut. It would have had no ill effect; we’re not talking about the Pentagon Papers here. But hanging Williamson in the note was misguided.”
The controversy spurred Worcester Magazine columnist Kenneth J. Moynihan to criticize what he said were the Telegram & Gazette’s efforts to act as a “mother hen” to the Worcester community.”A leader we can always use,” Moynihan wrote. “A nanny is a pain in the brain.”
Publisher chastises columnist for what he calls a “tasteless” riff on city’s new slogan

?(Dianne Williamson’s column poking fun at the city of Worcester’s plans to devise a catchy marketing slogan (right) provoked a column a few days later (top) by her publisher, Bruce Bennett, which rebuked her. ) [Caption & Photo]
# Editor & Publisher n July 20, 1996

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