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I enjoy reading the weekly Guilford Courier for town information, real estate, local high school sports, etc., but I was shocked to see the recent back-page (most expensive) advertisement in the Nov. 28 edition for a local gun company in North Branford.
For all the pain this town as endured over the past few years, especially this neighborhood, I would think the Courier would have more ethics and common sense than to accept this type of full-back-page advertising regardless of profit motivation. This isn’t censorship by any means, but a moral, conscious business decision.
Editor’s note: While I suspect that for most readers, the decision to accept firearms advertising, which the Courier has done since its start, would be quite simple (“Of course!” or “Of course not!”), it for us has been and remains a far more complicated decision that calls on us to examine our mission in the communities we serve. While we at the Courier regularly review our advertising policy and that review will continue, after this latest round of complaints regarding the Nov. 28 ad, our parent company The Day of New London determined we should continue to accept firearms advertising.
This author appears primarily concerned by the position of the ad in the Nov. 28 issue, though as other recent feedback has also questioned whether gun ads belong in a community newspaper altogether, I’ll attempt to address a more broad set of objections. Wish me luck.
From the calls and emails we have recently received, gun advertising is clearly offensive or otherwise objectionable to many of our readers. Using one’s perception of offensiveness might appear to be a very common-sense metric to determine an ad’s suitability for publication, though taken to its fullest, eliminating content offensive to some readers would leave little or nothing to publish. Use of common sense also relies on a set of common values.
From my 19 years of covering this town, I know that even in Guilford, where the memory of the tragic loss of Ethan Song in January 2018 is painfully fresh, there is no clear reader consensus that guns or gun advertising are unethical or inappropriate. Readers can refer to our coverage of the 2012 controversy over hunting at the East River Preserve for evidence of a substantial number of readers who prize their rights to firearms.
When drawing a line on what items are suitable for publication, as a news organization we lean toward protecting free speech, including some potentially offensive speech.
In the end, the decision to run a particular ad isn’t dictated by profit motive or the very real possibility that our decision to run an ad may hurt overall profit, but rather by our view of our role as a community news organization, which is to present, through news and advertising, a complete picture of the communities we serve.
We don’t expect that all readers, advertisers, or staff members will be satisfied by this policy, but we hope they can appreciate and share our respect for the role of the paper to provide a forum for free speech and expression for local readers and businesses. — Brian Boyd, editor
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