The Washington Post's Ombudsman's blog has a post up on the reaction to the photo they ran with their front-page story on same-sex marriage starting in the city last week. It shouldn't be all that controversial - same-sex marriage starting in the district is news worthy enough to be on the front page of their city's paper for at least one day, and the picture is public and tasteful. But it seems that seeing two dudes kissing is enough to send people into a panic.
A few of the readers have engaged in rants, often with anti-gay slurs. One called me to complain about "promoting a faggot lifestyle." Another complained about the photo in an e-mail to the two Post reporters who wrote Thursday's story about the licenses: "That kind of stuff makes normal people want to throw up. People have kids who are being exposed to this crap. I will be glad when your rag goes out of business. Real men marry women."
Ann Witty of Woodbridge wrote to say she had canceled the Post subscription she has held since the 1960s.
"I am 65 years old and I realize that the world is changing rapidly - much more rapidly than I would like it to," she e-mailed. "While I realize that the Post must report on these changes - even the ones with which I do not agree - I feel that the picture on Thursday morning was an affront to the majority of your readership. It is not something that I want coming into my home. I believe that even your editors know that it would have been better placed in the Metro section and that it would have mitigated its impact to do so."
Wrote Lee Miller of Columbia: "I would appreciate it if your cover pictures would not be so disturbing where my kids can see it easily on the kitchen table... please don't shove this "Gay" business in our face. This is something that should have shown up on an inside page or two (without the picture)."
In comments to the ombudsman's call-in line (202.334.7582), one reader said, "the picture of two guys kissing makes me cringe." Another called it "ridiculous," adding: "Put it on page 10 or page four, put it in the paper, but I do not like it right there where I can't avoid looking at it."
If this isn't the emotion that gay panic is built on, then I don't know what is.
The most disappointing? This is what pissed off the Washington Post's readers, even more than the famous scandal last year where the Post was caught selling its journalists' integrity and objectivity to industry lobbyists for several thousand dollars.
Many threatened to cancel their Post subscriptions, and more than two dozen did. Post circulation vice president Gregg Fernandes said that late last week 27 subscribers canceled, specifically citing the photo. In contrast, The Post reported only two cancellations immediately after last July's ethics uproar over its ill-advised plan to sell sponsorships to off-the-record "salon" dinners at the publisher's residence.
I'm just going to throw it out there that the fact that more people care about this than about the integrity of the paper they're paying for, one that's supposed to be the foremost watchdog on the government and especially special interest lobbyists that got caught selling access to backroom meetings between those two institutions and its own journalists, is definitely one of the reasons America's in such a mess right now.
But besides that, the story was news in the city it was published in, big news, and people should be forced to deal with their own homophobia. Good on the Washington Post for putting it out there, and I hope they're not scared away from fair coverage in the future by a vocal group of homophobes.