Wednesday, March 10, 2010
This photo ran A1 in the Washington Post on March 4. It was printed, along with an article, the day after D.C. began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

It's newsworthy. A1 newsworthy. And so the Post went about their business of publishing the news. In response, 27 people canceled their subscriptions.

That is mind blowing.

It's not that I think 27 is a huge number (though it did warrant an AP story) nor am I surprised that there were people who are angry about the photo (and presumably also angry about the passage of the law). But I am surprised that that was reason enough to cancel their subscriptions. There is nothing obscene in the photo; the guys don't even seem to have their hands on one another. Surely the Post prints disturbing photos from time to time, but they do it because it's the news.

In fact, the Post ombudsman wrote that it's common for the Post to get complaints about controversial photos:

Almost immediately, I began hearing from upset readers. That’s normal when controversial photos appear in The Post. The same thing happened recently when The Post published disturbing images of Haiti earthquake victims.

But these complaints lasted longer and ended in canceled subscriptions. According to the ombudsman blog linked above, the message was basically "I don't want to see this with my breakfast" but often in a much more offensive manner. Here's one of the calmer ones, written by a 65 year old woman:

“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."

(The editors, clearly, do not believe she is right).

But basically, these people canceled their subscriptions because they disagreed with the news. Way to shoot the messenger.

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Written Pyramids is a blog written by a journalist living and working in Washington D.C.

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