Sunday, July 31, 2011

Was that front-page photo of men kissing really news?

A subscriber called me recently to relate that he had cancelled his subscription over the Freeman’s use of a front-page photograph of two newlyweds kissing.
The twist to an otherwise quite traditional photo, as you might guess, was that it was of newlyweds of the same sex — in this case, two local men who had been together since 1969.
The reader said he found it offensive.
(We didn't publish the photo online, but we did post a video that includes the men hugging.
“MARRIED AT LAST: Area same-sex couples tie the knot,” July 25, 2011

I said we printed the photo because it well-illustrated the big news of the day, which was the first in which same-sex marriages were allowed in New York state.
He said he didn’t think it was very big news, really, given all of the other things going on in the world.
I honestly don’t know how to respond to someone who says same-sex marriage is not big news, especially after the epic legislative battle over it in Albany. Not to mention the argument of opponents about however-many-thousands of years of tradition were being overthrown. It’s an irreconcilable contradiction to say the prospect of something new is too big an innovation to bear, then say it’s arrival actual is no big deal.
It was big news. Period.
The former subscriber also said justifying the use of the photo as simply illustrating news was hypocritical because we don’t print photographs of bodies decapitated in car accidents, even though that might be news.
Which is kind of a point. But not really.
Yes, it’s true that we don’t print photos of decapitated bodies in car accidents.
And I could make an argument that illustrating the true horror of a fatal car accident might have a useful purpose in reminding the public of the dangers of driving and the importance of responsible operation.
But we wouldn’t print such photos if we got them because it is true that a large number of readers would find the photos highly objectionable.
To compare a decapitated body to two men kissing may be more objectionable.
Further, the photograph of the newlyweds kissing immediately after taking their vows perfectly illustrated what the battle for same-sex marriage rights was all about for supporters — equal treatment under the law.
Lips upon lips was the application, if you will, of a traditional ritual to a new application of the law of marriage. The representatives of the people changed the law and this was the result.
Finally, I don’t want to be too cerebral or analytical about the reasons we published this photo. And I don’t want to mince words, either.
Within my lifetime, there have been those who objected to photographs or films of interracial couples kissing. It doesn’t take historical hindsight to conclude that those who objected were bigots, though perhaps the passage of time and the further evolution of attitudes helps some. I’m old enough to remember wondering at the time what the big deal was.
If, from time to time, we offend a bigot by publishing the news, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. I don’t know what kind of newspaper we would be — much less what kind of person I would be — if we let bigotry trump news judgment for the sake of financial concerns.
(For the record, his was the only objection I received.)

4 Comments:

Blogger derek said...

Hear hear.

July 31, 2011 at 9:35 AM 
OpenID Julie said...

I applaud you Tony Adamis!! LOVE=LOVE

July 31, 2011 at 4:58 PM 
OpenID Craig said...

"I don’t know what kind of newspaper we would be — much less what kind of person I would be — if we let bigotry trump news judgment for the sake of financial concerns."

I do. You'd be The New York Post or Fox News.

Keep up the great work.

July 31, 2011 at 6:13 PM 
Blogger dee said...

Took me a while to see this, for once I back the Freeman. Bigots have nothing better to do than complain. Thank you for posting the picture of the non decapitated loving couple.

August 11, 2011 at 12:37 AM 

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