Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A big "oops" in Santa Barbara

When you print an apology that includes the sentence "The Daily Sound would never advocate for the assassination of our president or any other person," you know you're having a bad day.

The free daily in Santa Barbara, California, is apologizing for a column that many readers apparently interpreted as a call to take the life of the president.

Of course there are two sides to any story, and this is no exception. The Daily Sound printed this piece (here is a link) December 10 by Gina Perry, a resident who writes a column every other week for the paper. She slams Obama supporters including those who wanted to put a $200,000 bounty on the head of U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue, who is speaking out against the president's healthcare plan and proposed carbon emission legislation. The "bounty" was for anyone who could dig up personal dirt on Donohue that would force him to resign.

At the end of the column, Perry writes, "The most dangerous extremist in this country is the one running it. Perhaps a bounty should be put on his head."

Jeramy Gordon, the publisher and founder of the Daily Sound, wrote in a December 16 apology, "Even if the assassination of our president wasn’t Perry’s intended meaning — which she claims — it’s a conclusion that many highly educated people came to."

To Gordon's credit, he didn't fire Perry. His reasoning: "we carry the old-school ideal that fighting opposing opinions with more opinions and more words is the most effective way to right a perceived wrong." And to that end, Gordon has printed numerous letters critical of him and Perry.

Many publishers would have fired her in the hopes that the controversy would go away. At a corporate, chain-owned paper, it's easy to imagine a boss at the home office calling the local publisher and yelling, "What the hell is going on there? Fire that woman!"

On the other hand, Gordon did offer a full apology and explained that the column wasn't edited before being published. "This is truly an unfortunate situation and we’ve learned our lesson that guest opinion pieces need to be more closely monitored," Gordon wrote.

Still, we can imagine that when the calls started rolling in after Perry's column first appeared, Gordon probably felt like somebody in a Southwest Airlines commercial that has the tag line "Want to get away?"