A follow-up to my op/ed last week about Bob Eschliman, now former editor of the Newton Daily News, who came under fire for writing a critique of a homosexual-themed study Bible, entitled the Queen James Bible, on his personal blog. Yesterday Shaw Media, who owns the Newton Daily News, fired him.
John Rung, the president of Shaw Media, wrote an editorial explaining the decision.
The First Amendment prohibits the making of any law that impedes the free exercise of religion, abridges freedom of speech, infringes on the freedom of the press, interferes with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibits the petitioning of government for redress of grievances.
The First Amendment does not eliminate responsibility and accountability for one’s words and actions.
I agree, it does not, but I have to question whether the problem is with his use of the word “Gaystapo” which their decision ironically bolsters his point or is it because of his criticism of a slide that this particular Bible marks of the Church toward affirming homosexuality? I’ll admit that Bob and I have a different approach and style when it comes to addressing homosexuality. I personally refrain from the use of pejoratives like “gaystapo” for a variety of reasons. Even so, my speech is often called “hateful” by those who disagree with me. Why? Because I don’t embrace homosexuality as a lifestyle. I’m a man under authority. Scripture does not give me that option. It’s sinful like many other things, but unlike those other sins we’re not under pressure by our culture and sometimes our courts to embrace it.
So where exactly does Rung draw the line? He continues…
Shaw Media’s “Statement of editorial principles,” which can be read in full by clicking on the link at the bottom of NewtonDailyNews.com, starts with this:
“Because journalists subject people and institutions to intense and constant scrutiny, we must maintain the highest principles in our conduct. Our integrity is our most valuable asset. Without it, we lose the public trust invested in us by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
In the past week, we have lost some of that public trust that is so vital to our existence. Today, we hope to begin earning it back.
There will be some who will criticize our action, and mistakenly cite Mr. Eschliman’s First Amendment rights as a reason he should continue on as editor of the Newton Daily News.
As previously stated, he has a right to voice his opinion. And we have a right to select an editor who we believe best represents our company and best serves the interests of our readers.
We take our responsibility as a media company seriously. Our Promise is to provide relevant information, marketing solutions for our business partners, and to advocate for the communities we serve. To be effective advocates, we must be able to represent the entire community fairly.
They are right that they have the right to choose their own editor. I can also see that they may not want their staff to maintain personal blogs. Their statement of editorial standards needs to be updated to clearly lay out expectations then when it comes to social media and blogging on one’s own time. It’s silent on the issue.
So he has the right to voice his opinion as long as it is an opinion that Shaw Media agrees with is essentially what Rung is saying. If the use of pejoratives was the problem are they now banning pejoratives in their commentary, editorials, and letters to the editor or just what they disagree with? Rung owes it to his subscribers to clarify the paper’s position.
They should realize their decision may come with consequences as well whether it is through the legal system or through the free market. As far as restoring public trust they just violated the trust of those in their community who share Bob’s opinion. They also invite scrutiny of the remaining staff and content of their newspaper to see just how fairly they represent the entire community which includes conservatives and the faith community.