A FIRESTORM OF controversy raged through the newsroom of a California business publication after the publisher allegedly banned photos of members of three ethnic groups.
According to sources at the San Diego Business Journal, staffers were flabbergasted when publisher Ted Owen informed them that no photos of Iraqis, Iranians, or Vietnamese would be allowed to run in the newspaper.
Owen, a former Marine, reportedly characterized members of the groups as enemies of America, and said it is unpatriotic to feature them in the newspaper.
But Owen denies that he ever banned anyone from appearing in the publication, and blames an "internal misunderstanding" for the turmoil that ensued.
The issue arose when the privately-owned Business Journal ran a story about three Chaldean brothers. Chaldeans are Eastern Orthodox Christians of Iraqi and Iranian descent.
According to accounts from staff members, Owen examined an accompanying photo of the brothers. While he made disparaging comments about the photo, the issue was close to deadline, so Owen allowed the photo to run on the cover.
Soon after, the editor and managing editor were called into Owen's office and informed that members of the three groups were not to appear in the pages of the Business Journal in the future.
But Owen insists that his comments during the meeting were misintrepreted.
"I was a Marine for 22 years, and when I give a lecture, it's pretty stern," he said. "My discontent was with the photo quality of these three gentlemen. It had nothing to do with whether they were or weren't Iraqis."
Whether or not his comments in fact were misunderstood, members of the editorial and advertising staff reacted strongly to the news of the supposed ban.
Special projects editor Ellen B. Holzman walked out of the Business Journal offices as soon as she heard about the meeting between Owen and the editors.
"The policy is chauvinistic, jingoistic, and racially discriminating," Holzman said in a resignation letter. "I feel other groups will be added to the list of those who will be officially excluded from coverage in the Business Journal, despite the part that they play in the business community."
"The policy is incompatible with my ethical standards as a journalist. As a professional journalist for 15 years, I cannot be part of a newsroom where such policies exist," the letter continued.
Local media picked up on the story. The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted Owen as saying "It is not a public debate here how I run the newspaper. The internal policy is no one's business but ours."
More recently, Owen has released a statement in which he denied banning the ethnic groups.
"I have instructed our editors to include any pictures of any and all ethnic groups that are relevant to our stories," read the statement. "That has been our policy, that is our policy, and that will always be our policy. Any interpretation otherwise came about as a result of an internal misunderstanding."
"We regret any ill will or bad feelings brought about as a result of this unfortunate episode."
A week after the meeting with the two editors, Owen said he would write a column about the controversy, explaining what happened, from his perspective.
He added that he has met with representatives from the 650-member Caldean Business Association, and has offered the entire membership free subscriptions to the Business Journal. Also, he said he has met with members of the Asian business community, and there is "no animosity" on either side.
Two advertisers and one subscriber called to discuss the supposed policy, but Owen said that they accepted his explanation of the events.
As for Holzman, she said she has no regrets about resigning. "It was the only thing I could do. I'm happy to see the issue itself dealt with."
Owen, a former Marine, reportedly characterized members of the groups as enemies of America,
and said it is unpatriotic to feature them in
By: Dorothy Giobbe One editor quits; publisher contends it was a misunderstanding sp.