Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Hunky Jesus" -- should we have covered this?

Several readers have taken us to task for a photo we published inside our Local section on Monday. It showed a man carrying a large cross during the "Hunky Jesus" contest in San Francisco. It was an event that drew several thousand onlookers.
The readers felt the photo offended Christians and their spiritual beliefs, coming as it did the day after Easter. They accused us of showing a bias, in that if an event was demeaning to Muslims, like a "Hunky Muhammad" contest, we likely would not have published that photo.
I, too, was taken aback by the picture. The event offended my sensibilities, given that Easter, the most sacred day to Christians, had just occurred.
This example, though, points to a truism about journalism: On any given day, someone is not going to like the news they see in our paper (or others, for that matter). We publish coverage of Klu Klux Klan rallies when they occur periodically in the South and elsewhere, for example. African American readers cannot like that. We publish comments of certain Middle Eastern leaders, like the president of Iran, who contends the Holocaust did not occur. Jewish readers must be offended by that. And just last month, we had coverage of a controversial speaker at Cal Poly who had certain things to say about Muslims and terrorism. His comments did not go over well with local Muslims.
When it comes to politics, Republicans get upset when we have a story quoting Democrats being critical of President Bush. The vice versa is equally true.
So why do we publish anything that can construed as offensive? In short, because it is newsworthy. A good paper will strive to reflect its community, both its most local and then state and nation. In this case, we reflected an aspect of the culture of San Francisco, a city that has a lot of influence over the liberal side of our national culture and politics.
I welcome your comments.
_ Tad Weber


Anonymous said...

One minor point/disagreement. I am not African-american, middle eaastern, a woman, Jewish or racist, but I AM offended by the president of Irag, the Klan (sic) and other racist, insensitive people and groups because of the lack of understanding, ignorance and outright lying and deception it takes to believe and spout out the hatred they express.

I am offended because I am a thinking, thoughtful, compassionate human being and to deny the Holocaust, to deny people's right to exist because of skin tones and/or country of origin or other stupid reason is much harder for me to understand or grasp than Quantam Physics. That's why I am offended, not because I am a member of "the offended group."

Anonymous said...

Well, of course hateful rhetoric and ignorant people should offend us all.

But it is still the job of a newspaper to report the news. If we never knew that there was a Klan rally, how could we protest it?

You have to protest the hatred, not protest our local newspapers for alerting us to its existence. Bad news is just as important as good news, offensive or otherwise. Change only comes when enough people are offended, excited, or inspired.