Rural Mississippi Newspaper Editor Defends Gay Wedding Story After Deluge of Hate Mail

Leadercall

This is the front page of the February 7 edition of the Laurel Leader-Call, a newspaper in rural Mississippi which found itself the target of so much hate mail for publishing a story about the wedding of Jessica Powell and Crystal Craven, that the editor was compelled to publish an editorial on Saturday defending it, Yahoo's The Lookout reports.

Though same-sex marriage isn't legal in Mississippi, the couple, one of whom battles brain cancer, exchanged vows and the paper felt it significant to recognize the first ceremony of its kind in the county.

Wrote its editor:

The job of a community newspaper is not pretending something didn't take place or ignoring it because it will upset people. No, our job is to inform reads what is going on in our own and let them make their own judgments. That is exactly what we did with the wedding story. Our reporter heard about the wedding, attended it, interviewed some of the participants and wrote a news story. If there had been protestors at the wedding, we would have covered that the exact same way … but there weren't any. We never said it was a good thing or a bad thing, we simply did our job by telling people what took place….

…We have stories about child molesters, murders and all kinds of vicious, barbaric acts of evil committed by heinous criminals on our front page and yet we never receive a call from anyone saying 'I don't need my children reading this.' Never. Ever. However, a story about two women exchanging marriage vows and we get swamped with people worried about their children.

I had at least 20 or so readers express to me they think gay marriage is "an abomination against God." We never said it wasn't. We never said it was…

…We were simply reporting to the best of our ability. However, I can't help but be saddened by the hate-filled viciousness of many of the comments directed toward our staff … No one here deserves to be berated or yelled at simply because we were doing our job.

Comments

  1. yuninv says

    Each and every time a bunch of morons get obnoxious about something so beautiful and loving, the percentage who support us increases. Thank you, assholes, you’re bringing me my equal rights.

  2. MikeKV says

    “No, our job is to inform reads what is going on in our own and let them make their own judgments.”

    Apparently their job doesn’t include profreading or checking to see if they any words out…

  3. SammySeattle says

    Same-sex marriages are not illegal in any state. Any same-sex couple can be married in any of the 50 states. It’s just that most states and our federal government do not recognize these marriages.

  4. Alan says

    Chitown Kev is right. The editor is to be applauded not just for running this story – but for understanding what journalism is about. Television news programs have completely lost this objectivity (maybe the PBS Newshour). We need more objective reporters covering all kinds of news.

  5. beef and fur says

    Yeah, this is the state that just ratified the constitutional amendment to abolish slavery…THREE DAYS AGO.

    On another note, I’m really getting tired of giving any f*cks about what backward, ignorant rednecks think, but these people vote and their legislators listen.

  6. Swiminbuff says

    Kudos to the editor for giving his readership a reality check. Same sex marriage unfit for children to know about but mass murder and child molestation OK?? Some people really need to have their moral compass adjusted.
    Would love to know if he received any response, positive or negative, on his editorial.

  7. Strwpsi says

    KUDOS TO THE LEADER CALL AND ITS EDITOR: THANK YOU.

    I love that he did not back-pedal. I can imagine the amount of vicious hatred and threats he got from “Christians” made him stand his ground, and damned good for him.

    CONGRATULATIONS TO THE LOVELY COUPLE TOO.

    Can you imagine when they were young they ever thought they’d see the day when a gay wedding — theirs — made the front page of the paper? I couldn’t, and it is wonderful.

  8. says

    Truth is, the bigots are afraid of us.
    We must be louder, more assertive, more combative, more in-your-face in demanding equality. Let them fear Armageddon, Rapture, End Days or whatever they are drinking with their meth this week. Most of all let them continue to fear our freedom.

    Let the bigots comfort their lonely dead beat lives in the arms of Leviticus; we have ample other examples from that source (David and Jonathan) and from history which teach us that homosexuality and gay married relationships were always celebrated and admired for their sincerity and intensity.

  9. macguffin54 says

    I disagree. I think the paper did back-pedal a bit and cop out when saying the newspaper was not taking a stand and was just reporting “the news”. If you read the story’s headline and byline, and the original article itself, the tone is a bit more than neutral, bordering on congratulatory. While it may be true that if there had been opposition at the time they may have reported on that, too, it doesn’t change the article’s original intent. The newspaper’s response was a cop out, meant to ameliorate the tide of controversy. It’s a shame the newspaper felt the need to back down from their original stand, at least half-heartedly. But, hey, if the opposition falls for it and backs down themselves I guess that would still be a victory of sorts. It’s a bit of a shock that such attitudes actually exist and are reflected in the press in good ol’ Mississippi, of all places.

  10. Reality says

    Glad this newspaper is defending itself!!!! They are 100% right – these conservatives only become concerned with gay rights, but ignore everything else going on in the world like it’s not more important. Let LOVE live

  11. says

    The Leader-Call is my hometown paper, and I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that this represents huge progress.

    Laurel isn’t exactly “rural” to my mind, but it’s definitely small and conservative. When Camp Sister Spirit opened just down the road over a decade ago, the lesbian owners had to post armed guards. Now the Leader-Call is running stories about same-sex weddings? Even though the editor is equivocating just a bit, his stand — and by extension, that of the paper — is extraordinary.

  12. hedwig says

    Laurel, Mississippi, where 37.5% of people under the age of 18 live below the poverty line. Sounds to me like they should be more focused on other issues but isn’t that always the case.

  13. Steve says

    I think much of the public outrage stems from the fact that it was an interracial marriage (this being Mississippi and all). The sight of a white woman cutting a piece of wedding cake for her black bride was probably enough to send the Bible-thumpers right over the edge!

  14. dbaudit says

    Yes, @Alan and @MikeKV, Andy, Sam and the rst of the teem at Towleroad can be a bit slopy with there transcriptions, but I’ll take slppy nws over no news.

    Keep up the good work guys!

    I wish that the Los Angeles Times had the journalistic integrity of the Laurel Leader-Call.

  15. Kevin Foster says

    Even though I’m an atheist, every morning when I wake up, I thank God almighty that I’m not in Mississippi or Alabama or some other similar hell-hole like Uganda or North Korea.

  16. AriesMatt says

    After sending an email to the editor of the Leader-Call, this is the response I got:

    “Thank you, Matt … I can’t wait to pass on your kind words to our staff. It will mean a lot after so much hate-filled criticism. I appreciate you for taking the time to write!”

    Spread the love, people! Their email is: editor@leader-call.net

  17. bandanajack says

    i thought i had contacted them through their contact link, but i think i will write them an email as well. if it takes away some of the pain and stiffens the spine of the staff, great. we all need a little applause when we do the right thing, and we seldom get it.

  18. Peter says

    Kudos to the Laurel Leader-Call for covering this wedding. Nobody’s interests are served by pretending that weddings such as this don’t happen outside the urban areas.

  19. anon says

    People who take the time to write letters to newspaper editors in small towns are probably not the type to have thought things through. Older, less educated, often retired or unemployed, very often having chips on their shoulders, sometimes paranoid, attention grabbers and often have a strong desire to be seen by the community as especially pious.

  20. Tom B. says

    Just wanted to share what I wrote in my email:

    To the editor of the Leader-Call:

    I recently read a story about how your paper was attacked by people were unhappy with a story run in the paper about a gay wedding that took place. Though I am not a resident of Mississippi, as a former Southerner, I know how difficult it can be to get past the overbearing nature of the more extreme fringe of the religious down there. However, reading about your editorial response to these attack makes me feel that there are some that are making a difference and standing up to the bullying of those who want to keep anything that does not fit within their narrow worldview in the dark and out of sight. To you and your staff, keep fighting the good fight, and don’t let anyone try to bully you away from running the stories you feel are important to your community.

    (And they did respond to it, too.)

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