Newspaper series on gay Roanoke leads to cancellations

BY Advocate.com Editors

February 13 2001 12:00 AM ET

More than 350 people have canceled their subscription to The Roanoke [Va.] Times since the paper published a four-part series, running January 28 to February 4, about gays and lesbians in the city, Editor and Publisher reports. The cancellations, a record number for the 100,000-daily-circulation paper, were also accompanied by angry phone calls, E-mails, and letters to the editor. “There was a huge shock to Roanoke,” said Times editor Mike Riley. “No one knew it or fully accepted it that this is a haven for gays.” The paper had fewer than 50 cancellations in all of 2000. “The reaction was more than we expected,” said circulation director Debbie Meade. “We wrote about a topic people would just as soon not discuss.” Managing editor Rich Martin said the series was prompted in part by a shooting at a gay bar in the city in September that left one man dead and six other people wounded. “When the shooting occurred, there was such an outpouring of sympathy for victims, we realized we wanted to push up the stories,” Martin said. “It intended to show there are gay people in Roanoke Valley and their lives are very much like anyone else’s.” The paper has added a second page to its letters page to accommodate all the response, most from subscribers angry that the paper discussed homosexuality on its front page. “We do not need photographs of homosexuals kissing in our newspaper,” one reader wrote. “I was mortified.”

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