EDITORIAL: Front-page choices about news, not hidden agenda

Vanessa Gomez

In the recent weeks since the release of the Oct. 20 issue, City Times has found itself dealing with accusations of homophobia.
The accuser, who requested we not use their name in the paper, shared strong concerns about the front-page layout by e-mail. They felt that the choice of photo for the “Church group protests school” was an advertisement for a hate Web site. They also felt that the other front-page story, “Police target ‘cruising’ at City,” reflected poorly on the gay community as it ran beside the other story. The e-mail also contained a flier that was to be distributed at a Fellowship of Associated Gay Students and Straight Allies (FAGS) meeting the following day asking if City Times could be perceived as homophobic.
It is disappointing that a segment of the gay community believes that City Times is homophobic. It is insulting to our staff, which counts several homosexual student colleagues. Is this segment of the community implying that these staff members hate themselves?
The City Times Editorial Board would like to take this opportunity to give an insider’s perspective on why the editors made the layout choices they did. City Times sent three writers and two photographers to cover the “church group” story. The assigned crew had its own challenges covering such an extreme group, but as journalists, we are forced to ignore bias and get both sides of the story. The editorial staff’s decision to print the picture of Shirley Phelps-Roper holding numerous protest signs was to show the intensity of the group’s beliefs.
We wanted the public to ask the tough questions, such as why is “America doomed?” and why the group thinks “God hates fags?”
The “cruising” story ran next to the “church group” story based solely on the fact that those two stories were the biggest news for that issue. We also took into consideration that campus police have identified this as a persistent problem on campus that has never been covered in the paper. In reflection, the editorial staff does see how the placement could be interpreted as “anti-gay.” However, the intention was never to alienate the gay community. Some other feedback we received addressed the issue of the story being one-sided. The writer did try to interview other sources. However, at press time, we could not find a representative from that community who would agree to be interviewed.
The initial accuser took the issue to City College administration and demanded that a formal reprimand of the students and adviser be carried out and that City Times be made to print the reprimand on the front page of its next issue. This demand, however, is not legal under California law SB 1370, which states students cannot be disciplined by a community college governing board or administration for exercising their freedom of speech. The law also prohibits a school employee from being disciplined for acting to protect a student exercising free speech.
We encourage feedback from our readers and invite any letters to the editor on this or any future issues that City Times reports on. We strive to remain objective in reporting campus events and fulfill our civic duty to our readers.