In the last issue of Orlando Weekly
, an ad ran for an upcoming event hosted by the Titusville Rifle and Pistol Club, the Florida Machine Gun Shoot. Many of our readers – and many people who've never read Orlando Weekly before – have contacted the paper via email and social media to express their displeasure. As the publisher of the paper, I oversee both the editorial and sales departments, which operate independently. I have been responding to individual emails personally, but I'd also like to share that message here.
Most of these messages have mentioned the recent Pulse nightclub shootings, and see this as the paper taking a side regarding the issue of gun control versus supporting and consoling our community. It is noteworthy that our first two issues following the incident were completely focused on this tragedy, and we are dedicating space in every issue of Orlando Weekly
, running up until the one-year anniversary, to profiling one of the 49 victims. We spearheaded a fundraiser which raised over $90,000 for the Pulse employees and the One Orlando fund. We have worked tirelessly, above and beyond what even we thought possible for a tiny staff our size, around the clock to get information out to our community, to console our community, to help the victims and honor those that passed. And there is more yet to come that we intend to do. We also helped publicize a gun-control rally that happened in the wake of the tragedy.
We will not condone assault weapons, gun shows or dealers, or current laws that allow largely unregulated sales. But ads run in our magazine regularly for things that are controversial, that we may not agree with, but that are legal and whose existence is protected by our nation's laws. Our editorial content at times says things that are controversial and that not everyone at the paper agrees with or condones. But we accept advertising and air the opinions of political candidates with whom we disagree, for policies for which we disagree, and for products which we do not endorse or condone, because we believe in people's rights to do these things, as long as they operate within the law. Many brought up, "Where do we draw the line?" which is a very valid point. Do we draw the line at abortion? Do we draw the line at political candidates or parties that support ideas we find offensive or dangerous? Do we draw the line at medical marijuana? Do we draw the line at companies that support causes to which we are personally opposed? We do not wish to assemble a censorship board to evaluate the content of all ads and editorial and apply personal values to their censorship.
Furthermore, refusing the ad based on our personal beliefs on this highly contested issue we find somewhat analogous to a bakery refusing to sell a cake for a gay wedding because, though LGBTs have every right to marry, the baker holds strong personal beliefs against it. It too is a highly contested issue for which people's personal values run deep. We cannot rebuke these discriminatory practices when it suits us, and take part of in them when it serves us. If the product is for sale – and in this case, the product is ad space – as long as the seller is purchasing with valid tender and to our knowledge has no intention to use it for any illegal purpose, our policy is to avoid censorship or discriminatory practices based on race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or our paper's (or personal) stance on a particular topic, at all costs.
I do appreciate our readers reaching out to us, and I hope you can understand my position on this matter.