Britney-Madonna photo sparks stance against newspaper

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Gary LaRoy has canceled his subscription to his local newspaper and is encouraging others to do the same because of the paper's failure to "reflect the values and morals of the community it serves."

"There is a fiduciary responsibility that the news media has to be reflective of the community, and I don't think our local media -- specifically The Tennessean -- is for the most part," LaRoy said, speaking of the Nashville, Tenn., newspaper owned by Gannett.

Specifically, LaRoy was upset when The Tennessean ran a picture of Britney Spears and Madonna kissing at the MTV music video awards show. The newspaper placed the photo on the front of its Living section Feb. 14, Valentine's Day.

The photo was part of a feature about kisses, including what the paper dubbed Best Kiss, Most Infamous Kiss, Longest Kiss and Largest Kiss. The Spears-Madonna incident was tagged Most Infamous.

"I am sick and tired of the gay and lesbian agenda taking over our media," LaRoy wrote in an e-mail circulated among his friends and also sent to The Tennessean. "While I cannot influence the national media, I believe you and I can send a strong message to The Tennessean that we are tired of that which is abnormal being portrayed as normal."

LaRoy told friends he was canceling his subscription and asked them to prayerfully consider their own response.

"I believe it is high time the silent majority begins to roar," he wrote.

LaRoy, who recently completed a role as transitional pastor at Nashville's Woodmont Bible Church, said the Spears/Madonna photo was not the only reason for his action. He had grown increasingly impatient with what he calls the liberal view of The Tennessean in its reporting and commentary on various subjects. And he is certainly not alone.

"The vast majority of the people I sent the e-mail to said they had already canceled their subscription prior to this episode because of the liberal view of The Tennessean," he told Baptist Press.

When LaRoy called Feb. 16 to cancel his subscription, he was less than satisfied at the response from the newspaper. When the person on the phone asked why he was canceling, he gave a reason.

"They said, 'OK, I'll pass that on,'" LaRoy recounted. "A follow-up call [from the paper] was fielded by my wife, and when she gave the same reason, she got the same response. It's obvious they don't listen because they don't pass it on, or if they do pass it on, no one listens to what the people are saying."

John Gibson, reader editor at The Tennessean, told Baptist Press he had received several letters and e-mails from readers objecting to the inclusion of the Spears/Madonna photo.

"In hindsight I think the editors, when they critiqued the paper, I think we wished we had not run that photo, and I've told people that who have called to complain," he said.

LaRoy, a graduate of Southwestern Seminary, said he did not necessarily intend to start a movement of people taking action against their local media when he wrote the e-mail, but he said it would not be a bad idea.

"For me it was a matter of personal decision, and if it had an impact on them that's great," he said. "But it was something I had to do personally because I couldn't continue to have my subscription fees go to support that."

For Christians to really impact the media, LaRoy said, they must speak up.

"I think we've become anemic in our voice as Christians and we allow special interest groups to control the media and to control the agenda in the marketplace," he told Baptist Press. "My feeling is that if we're going to have any impact at all, then we have to go beyond the individual and we have to start being reflective of Christ within the community."

For example, LaRoy said The Tennessean would take notice if 10 area churches compiled a list of people who were going to cancel their subscription in response to liberal reporting.

"If you had 1,000 people on a series of lists from churches and then letters going out to the advertisers in The Tennessean saying why they are canceling their subscription, that has a direct economic impact on The Tennessean, and that will awaken them," he said. "It's an issue of constant vigilance."


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