Wednesday, August 9, 2006
After several private discussions with Scott Stanford, the editor of Steamboat Pilot & Today, concerning his decision to include Ann Coulter's column in the newspaper, he asked me to respond publicly. I will take this opportunity to do so.
I am the person who suggested boycotting businesses that advertised in a paper that included her column. First, I will address the outlandish and insulting suggestion that what I am doing amounts to an attempt at censorship. That suggestion is an insult to the memory of millions of people who have been imprisoned or killed over the course of history for disseminating unpopular opinions and information. Coulter's books are available in any bookstore or shopping center, and she can be readily seen on any number of news programs. Secondly, and more to the point, it seems the height of hypocrisy that Stanford would be hostile to anyone attempting to exercise their own discretion while he freely exercises his own.
The purpose of a newspaper, business wise, is to try to appeal to as many readers as possible, thereby maintaining and/or increasing circulation, so that when a potential advertiser inquires, a viable product can be presented. In short, Mr. Stanford balances editorial concerns with financial ones. Why should he be the only one allowed to do this?
The idea of a boycott is an exercise of the same concern from a different standpoint. He bases his editorial decisions on financial matters. Why then, can I not base my financial matters on editorial decisions, and encourage others to do the same? It's called voting with your wallet, and it's a perfectly legitimate approach to making a point or affecting a change. This is not about silencing a point of view, this is a quality issue, and in my opinion, Coulter's intellect and mental acuity really are not in the same ballpark as, say, Maureen Dowd's or Jonah Goldberg's, for that matter.
And no, Mr. Stanford, what I suggest is not akin to boycotting a bookstore or library. Generally, a library is a publicly funded repository for media, and a bookstore sells the same. While the proprietors of these establishments do have control over their inventory, they do not control what "lies inside the covers." As an editor, you alone are responsible for what appears in the pages of your publication.
But all of this is moot. In attempting a boycott, I would be instigating punishment against owners, employees and co-workers (many of whom are friends and acquaintances) who have no real options concerning where they advertise. The idea that a boycott like this could work in a town with only one daily publication is a stretch, and Stanford knows this, giving some explanation for his (in my opinion) rather dismissive attitude.
For those concerned with the continued publication of Coulter's column in the Steamboat Today, the only option, at this point, seems to be letting Mr. Stanford know about it directly, and I would invite all to do so.
Christopher Lohmann, Steamboat Springs