Bad PR for the World-Herald

• There’s been a little backlash against the Omaha World-Herald after news broke that the paper refused to run a gay couple’s wedding announcement. Since that story ran in The Reader, the Daily Nebraskan ran an editorial, Nebraska StatePaper re-ran The Reader’s story (check those comments) and the Omaha TV News blog drew some attention to the issue as well (by way of my rejected cartoon).

GLAAD reported in August ’08 that 1,049 U.S. newspapers publish same-sex marriage announcements, which is 72 percent of all newspapers. The World-Herald, of course, is not one of those.

One wonders how wise of a business strategy it is to cater to the most small-minded segment of the population. As with racism, sexism and anti-miscegenation, time tends to erase the fears that lead to bigotry, and we live in a society that is becoming increasingly tolerant of homosexuality. So when we reach a point where gay couples are treated with the same respect as straight couples, what will papers like the World-Herald have left? It’s a practice that will continue to alienate a growing portion of their audience in fear of upsetting a shrinking number of readers.

Still, we live in a fairly conservative state, so one could hypothetically argue that Nebraska will have to move slower than the rest of the country. Yet according to GLAAD’s Announcing Equality website, the Columbus Telegram, Fremont Tribune, Hastings Tribune, Lincoln Journal Star, North Platte Telegraph, Scottsbluff Star-Herald and the Sidney Sun-Telegraph all accept same-sex marriage announcements.

• As a result of the paper’s policy, some facebook users created a Boycott the World-Herald group. The group’s page says “Congratulations to Woodhouse Ford for pulling their entire $1.4 million dollar a year ad buy out of the Omaha World-Herald,” which seems to imply Woodhouse’s advertising decision was related to the controversy. I called Woodhouse, and marketing director Lisa Bristol confirmed that the decision to pull World-Herald ads was made back in December 2007 and was implemented a year ago. “It was just a business decision,” Bristol said, that had nothing to do with the current controversy.

• The paper already had a slight image problem after announcing it would cut off direct delivery to a large chunk of western Nebraska, resulting in the creation of another displeased facebook group. They’re looking for 1,000 members to prove their point to the paper. So far, they’re up to 25.

• This comes on the back of the December PR mess that was publisher Terry Kroeger’s heavy borrowing of a KC Star column. I missed this at the time, but the Kansas City Pitch had a pretty damning story on the situation.

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