By: Staff reports

California Community Papers See Mass Defections

At least 11 full-time employees and columnists, including the editor
and publisher, of a group of California community newspapers have
resigned after the owners said they will not publish positive stories
about abortion or gays and lesbians.

The controversy began when senior management pulled a gay support
group’s calendar listing from a recent issue of the Atascadero Gazette
after a two-week run, reports The Tribune of San Luis Obispo, Calif.
The staff was then told that no calendar listings, stories, or letters
to the editor that don’t meet the owner’s family-values mandate would
be published. The owner, David Weyrich, subsequently reversed his
decision on letters to the editor.

Atascadero Gazette Publisher Steve Martin resigned last Tuesday in
protest, and Editor Ron Bast quit two days later. The arts editor and a
reporter also resigned. Meanwhile, five staffers, including the
managing editor, resigned from the San Luis Obispo Gazette .

The Tribune reports today that about 75 protestors gathered at the
courthouse steps in San Luis Obispo yesterday to protest the Gazette
newspapers’ policy. A Gazette spokesperson said about 200 readers had
cancelled their subscriptions.

Weyrich has written a letter to readers that will appear in tomorrow’s
editions, the Tribune reports. In the letter, Weyrich writes, ‘Call
us old-fashioned, but it hasn’t been too many years since our professed
beliefs were the accepted norm in America. Society has changed to the
detriment, we believe of us all as a people … Believing in the family
does not mean we are against homosexuals as individuals, or that we
will utilize the newspapers to disseminate information against them. We
simply believe that lifestyle is an unnatural choice that we will not
promote nor encourage. Abortion, on the other hand, is not about
choice, but a child’s life.’

The San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce expects to hold an executive
session early next week to discuss the future of its advertisements in
the Gazette papers, which launched in July 1999.


Staff reports

(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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