Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Stop the Press: With a Landslide of Pro-Gay News, Dallas's Daily Newspaper Is Asking, "How Much Is Too Much?"

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Stop the Press: With a Landslide of Pro-Gay News, Dallas's Daily Newspaper Is Asking, "How Much Is Too Much?"

Article excerpt

The Dallas Morning News is the very model of an evolving gay-friendly newspaper. It covers gay issues with balance and sensitivity, and it has scores of openly gay employees to whom its parent company provides domestic-partner benefits. This year it became one of only a handful of dailies in the South to accept announcements of same-sex commitment ceremonies.

That's why it came as a shock to many media observers when the paper's publisher, Jim Moroney, ordered all 500,000 copies of the August 2 religion section destroyed, a highly unusual practice. Moroney was reacting to the prominent placement of a feature article headlined "Episcopalians Latest to Tackle Gay Rights."

"I see it as a case of a publisher who interferes in editorial decision-making," says Kris Martin, public relations manager for the Cathedral of Hope, a gay-friendly church in Dallas. "Mr. Moroney took a knee-jerk reaction to a small but extremely conservative group of people who thought they could influence coverage at the News. It certainly does not fit with the publisher's history, which is to treat the paper not as a vehicle for liberalism but for inclusion."

First reported in the weekly Dallas Observer, the Morning News episode underscores the antigay pressure with which many media outlets must still grapple. Moroney's decision to down-play the story of the election of the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop came as the paper was reeling from a campaign protesting its decision to accept same-sex union announcements, resulting, the Observer said, in 800 subscription cancellations.

The Morning News had already been struggling to keep up with one of the largest onslaughts of gay news in close to a decade. In a two-month period highlighted by the Supreme Court's opinion striking down the Texas sodomy law, the paper devoted hundreds of column inches to gay issues, including an editorial supporting Wal-Mart's ban on sexual orientation-based discrimination.

In an interview with The Advocate, Moroney attributed his decision to poor communication between the publisher's office and top editors. He said he had asked editors to be extra careful with their gay-related coverage following the decision to run commitment announcements. "I worried it could look like an agenda, look like we were jumping on a bandwagon," he says. …

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