Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Bee in My Bonnet!

As I sit writing today, I’m coming off an adrenaline high. Two weeks ago I had similar feelings after taking on a German Shepherd. But Today I’m taking on my newspaper.

This morning at the breakfast table I was enjoying the comic strips as usual. To the right our paper often runs entertainment features. Today’s fare was beyond belief. "‘Shortbus’ among films that straddle line between porn, art," the headline reads. They had chosen to run an AP review of a number of films that straddle the line between pornography and art.

Just the first two paragraphs contained enough sexual content to make me blush. I just hope that my kids didn’t read it. In fact, I was pretty astounded that the editors decided to run such content right next to the comic strips – a section that children love to read.

So I placed a call to the paper. Charles McCullom, the managing editor, listened as I explained that our family loves reading the newspaper. We eat our breakfast and read the paper every morning. My kids (a 12-year-old son, and 10- and 7-year-old daughters) argue over who will get the comic section first. I expressed my disappointment at the content they ran right next to the comic strips.

Mr. McCullom was unapologetic. He acknowledged that the woman who chooses what content goes in that section had to edit the titles of the reviewed films due to their graphic nature. And yet he thought the article contained relevant information for his readers.

I acknowledged his right to publish what might appeal to his readership, I just asked him to consider where it was located. I pointed out that their Friday insert with art, theatrical productions, wine reviews, movie reviews and other entertainment options might have been a better fit. (My kids never even give that section a second glance.) He told me, "I cannot guarantee that you won’t ever be offended by what you read in our paper." That was as close as he came to offering consolation.

So I decided to console myself. If Mr. McCullom thought that as a single newspaper subscriber I had no pull, he was wrong. I dug my newspaper out of the recycle bin and jotted down the names and numbers of the businesses who ran ads in the paper today. I’ve spent the last hour calling the local businesses, telling them that I noticed their ad in the paper today and wanted to draw their attention to the content that was printed in today’s edition next to the comic strips.

The advertisers’ responses have been gratifying. Jeff Price, the manager of Lee’s Marketplace said he’d give them an earful. "Do you want me to have them call and apologize to you?" he asked. "No," I said, "I’d just like them to realize that they do have some responsibility to the community and their readers."

Bryce at U & I Furniture ran a large, colored double-page insert in today’s paper. He wondered what the paper had printed that had me so upset. I told him that I wasn’t comfortable reading it out loud to him. And I'm not. It really is that bad. He said that I’d piqued his curiosity and that he’d be sure to read today’s paper. I appreciated his candor and assured him that I was looking forward to buying new furniture from his store. Rich at Utah Carzz, Gene at Needham’s Jewelers, and Jeff at The Book Table also took my concerns seriously.

I’m hoping that my little tantrum makes a difference. I’m hoping that by having the newspaper’s advertisers talk to them, their editors will listen. I don’t want to cancel my subscription to our newspaper, but I do want to keep my children from being exposed to age-inappropriate material.

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