'Take A Hike' p.

By: Tony Case That's what a Canadian publisher tells readers who don't like
the content of his newspaper or how certain stories are played sp.

A CANADIAN PUBLISHER has a message for those who don't like what they read in his newspaper: "Take a hike."
Last month, Verne Shaull of the 4,468-circulation Nelson (British Columbia) Daily News penned a vituperative editorial aimed at readers "intent upon shooting the messenger" and put it on an editorial page free of any other commentary.
In the space usually reserved for the editorial cartoon, the word "censored" appeared in prominent typeface with the jab "Mr. Government Expert objects to content." The letters to the editor section was left blank "due to the hurt feelings of Ms. Cause A. Problem." And an opinion column was supplanted by the "censored" stamp because "Ms. Create A. Cause" disagreed with its sentiment.
"Today's editorial page is what the page would look like on a daily basis if a minority of individuals in the Nelson area were to have their way," Shaull wrote, just below the paper's masthead. "Pretty, isn't it? There's a lot of valuable information there, don't you think? Can you imagine what it would be like day to day? Is this what you want?"
Shaull related in the editorial that he produced the page because of readers' frequent verbal attacks on Daily News staffers about virtually every element of the paper, from content to the way articles and editorials are played.
But in an interview, Shaull said controversy surrounding what he described as a satirical column specifically had inspired the unorthodox page.
In "The Sexes Are At War," Vancouver, British Columbia-based opinion writer Doug Collins proposed that women, whom he repeatedly referred to as "wimmin," be separated from men.
He cited a study by the Panel On Violence Against Women that said 98% of women polled reported they had suffered some form of male violence. Male violence, he commented, takes many forms: "a black look, a plea that a man has a headache or a demand for dinner."
About 350 letters and phone calls followed, and one group unsuccessfully tried to organize a boycott of the paper.
Many readers, men and women alike, expressed anger that the column ran Dec. 6, which was designated as National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. The day marked the fourth anniversary of the shooting of 14 wom-en in Montreal.
Incensed letter writers referred to the Collins column as "inexcusable," "inciteful," "vitriolic" and "garbage," and two canceled their subscriptions to the Daily News.
One man wrote, "Inflammatory editorials of this kind damage a community where many men and women are working together to combat violence and promote higher education, regardless of gender."
Meanwhile, others sided with the paper, both for publishing Collins' piece and running the blank editorial page in response to the backlash.
A woman who said she regularly reads Collins' work even though she doesn't always agree with his views wrote, "I find it astonishing that you and your staff would be subjected to such awful abuse for printing something with which certain individuals disagree. Are they too lazy to take pen in hand and write a letter to the editor, or do they get their jollies by abusing people?
"The freedom to communicate with one another is vital to the survival of democracy. If a totalitarian society is desired instead of a democratic one, a necessary first step would be censorship of the media. Is that what the majority of us really want?"
Shaull praised readers who express their views in letters to the editor. He has been in the newspaper business for 35 years, including a 16-year stint as publisher of the Wapakoneta (Ohio) Daily News, and he said the Nelson Daily News has the most popular and best-written letters section he has seen.
It's those who don't bother to write, who are violent, abusive and "holier than thou" in their judgment of the paper who irk him.
They "believe there is only one view and that is their's," he wrote in the editorial. "These people we understand. They just want to hear themselves talk, often spewing out garbage and obscenities and making a perfect ass of themselves."
Shaull pointed out that the function of an editorial page is to present a range of opinions. He insisted that the content, placement and timing of a piece do not necessarily reflect the views of the paper or its executives.
The publisher described Nelson, which has an estimated population of 8,628, as disproportionately left-wing.
"It's known as 'Little San Francisco' because of all the groups and philosophies," he said in an interview.
"There are many minorities in Nelson ? and by minorities I'm talking not about racial minorities but about all these small little groups, whether it be nationality, way of life, feminists ? who are uptight about every little thing. They're so far-out in one way or another," he said.
But this diversity makes life in Nelson interesting, Shaull observed.
"It gives us a wider perspective. Everybody tolerates everybody."
?( Nelson (British Columbia) Daily News publisher Verne Shaull ran an editorial page filled with examples of how the newspaper would look if it bowed to reader complaints. Above is an example.


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