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Swan song … or why I no longer appear in the Pelican Press newspaper

Newspapers are our nation’s first line of defense to freedom. When publications become susceptible to pressure from advertisers, which I believe happened in this case, our freedom — our ability to express and exchange differing, sometimes dissenting opinions, and our ability to learn and understand and make decisions and choices about how we want to practice democracy as individuals and as a nation, is dangerously compromised.

I’ve been hearing from some online readers that they are wondering why I left the Pelican Press newspaper. So, it seems appropriate — especially since tomorrow, Friday, May 1, is the one-year anniversary of the last time my Reality Chick column appeared in the Pelican Press newspaper — to run the final column I wrote for that paper, which I think, pretty much explains why I left.

The column below, my Swan Song, was my answer to both the advertisers that were trying to, in my opinion, coerce the newspaper into printing only material that they, the advertisers, did not find objectionable, and to the corporate owners who had made a decision that I could no longer write about topics that were “national” in scope.

The only thing the column doesn’t cover, since it occurred after the final column ran, was that there was a considerable hue and cry among readers debating the issue of freedom of press and freedom of speech. Some readers were happy to see me gone, but a lot more lamented not just my leave-taking, but more importantly, that a newspaper was, in the opinion of a great many, being told what to print by an advertiser. An impressive number of readers stated clearly that they may have disagreed with my politics and my writing, but that they would defend my right to express it, and they wanted a newspaper that would run a variety of differing viewpoints.

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Swan Song (appeared as the final Reality Chick column in the Pelican Press May 1, 2008)

Some local advertisers and readers have called for my head since I wrote a column called Was Wright So Wrong? Since then, an edict has come down from the corporate owner of this paper that Reality Chick columns stick to local topics only and must exclude “national” topics – i.e., the paper would not publish columns that dealt with issues beyond the “local” community. Presidential politics, the national issue of racism, for examples, would be off limits. I was told that this decision is driven by a desire to keep the paper locally-themed and was not a response to any advertiser’s demands.

Whatever the reason, I’m welcome to continue Reality Chick – but I would need to agree to limit the scope of topics that I write about.

And, while I respect the corporate prerogative to confine the intellectual content of the paper to local issues, it’s probably no surprise … I just won’t do that and thus, this column – my swan song to you, Sarasota.

My desire with this column was always to simply provide a regular space for tackling issues of conscience and consciousness – whether vis à vis an examination of a bad hair day or a discussion of our nation’s struggle to deal with racism. I’ve always strongly felt that the intellectual breadth and emotional spirit of any community does not stop at the city or county line.

The current travails of the national and local economies surely have shown us that what affects the whole affects the part and vice versa. And I can’t imagine more relevant topics to the local community than whom we elect as our next president or how we deal with issues of race as a nation.

Will readers agree? Will they disagree?

Absolutely. And isn’t that the point? Isn’t that the fundamental reason this country was founded in the first place: to create a nation of individual thinkers and doers who could live, worship, work, and play together in spite of – in fact, perhaps to cultivate – diversity of opinion?

It’d be easy for me to conclude by some of the reader response to my column that Sarasota has a closed mind and an intolerant heart or that our local and national newspapers are in a downward spiral of brainlessness, censorship, and worship at the altar of the almighty ad dollar … but I rarely take the easy route.

Instead, I conclude that my interaction with the Pelican Press community has opened my heart in ways I never imagined. I’ve heard from 90-year olds struggling to stay in-home, to 24-year olds worried about their future; from gays wanting to be married, to marrieds wanting to cheat. I’ve heard from folks who live on the same street as me to folks who live in cities across the country. I’ve heard from people who call me names I can’t print here to people who tell me my column deserves national exposure. I’ve heard from high-profile locals living in mega-mansions on the water to blue-collar workers taking the bus and scrambling to hold onto their jobs.

Through it all what I’ve discerned most strongly from the public discourse is this: everyone is vulnerable. Everyone has a heart that beats and hurts and flails and fails, and just often enough – triumphs.

Who among us isn’t precious? And we’ve all got opinions to share – even the guy who thinks my face is fodder for bird cage droppings. Freedom of expression must remain foremost in our minds and hearts if we’re to continue as a great nation.

Whether as local or national citizens, every single one of us is in a struggle to survive and to be respected and to love and be loved. We might be a muddle of contradictions and concerns but I believe that at heart Americans are decent folks — never more so than when we agree to disagree — and that decency will out in the end.

I thank Anne Johnson and Rachel Hackney Brown for their longtime support of this column and its content and for the opportunity to say these final words. I also thank every Pelican reader and advertiser – for reading the paper, supporting it through advertising, and contributing to thoughtful dialogue about important issues.

Going forward the only ones hearing my column might be my cats, but I’ll still be writing. And what I’ll continue to write about is the essentiality of hope.

Here’s hoping at you, kids.

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Posted on April 29th, 2009Comments RSS Feed
4 Responses to Swan song … or why I no longer appear in the Pelican Press newspaper
  1. John W. Perkins
    April 29, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Being censured sucks !

    Reply
  2. John W. Perkins
    April 29, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Being censored sucks !

    (MC, censor my previous comment. The word “censured” is not exactly the proper term.)

    Reply
  3. In my humble opinion, one of the best columns published con-cerning the Wright sermon. When did it become unpatriotic for mem-bers of a democracy to practice a little introspective thought? A tremendous loss for readers of the Pelican Press without computor access! Keep writing about both the larger and smaller worlds, be-cause both will always be relevant.

    Reply
  4. […] a weekly Pelican Press columnist because the newspaper kowtowed to angry advertisers, MC Coolidge recaps her decision, and re-publishes her swan song column. Bookmark […]

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