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Readers respond after editor launches ‘gay kiss’ debate

A regional newspaper has seen a huge online reaction after urging people to comment on its “gay kiss” splash which caused sales to plunge.

The Bristol Post led its front page on Monday 31 March with the wedding of Mike McBeth and Matthew Symonds, who tied the knot after the legalisation of gay marriage came into effect.

Editor Mike Norton turned to the public for their views after revealing that the front page lost the paper thousands of sales.

In a blog he asked readers whether he went “too far” by illustrating the story with a picture of the happy couple’s first kiss.

The issue prompted national interest with Mike giving an interview on Radio Four’s PM programme when he confirmed his newspaper sales team believed the splash had lost the sales.

Now nearly 100 comments – many debating the issue, some supporting the front page and others opposed to it – have been posted in response to his blog.

Jacobdog commented “It’s funny how an image depicting love gets people so upset while images showing women as sex objects pass without comment in our national papers every day, pretty messed up values in my opinion.”

And Pete303North wrote “I heard Mike Norton on Radio 4 just now. He was asked if he would print the picture on the front page again if it were again newsworthy. He ducked the question and Eddie Mair let him off the hook. I think we should be told.”

Jacko110584 wrote “It’s the same old thing I couldn’t care less about a gay couple getting married, well done but to have it plastered all over the newspapers is pointless.”

Meanwhile welshexile said: I would have thought that the reason you lost thousands of sales was pretty obvious. Many people didn’t buy your paper because the sight of two men kissing was distasteful to them.”

In his original blog Mike wrote: “I’m a Bristolian, brought up in South Bristol. Real Bristol. One of the things I love about my home town is how characterful, tolerant and non-conformist its people are. So I thought Bristol was ready for that picture.

“But, boy, was I wrong. We lost thousands of sales of the paper. Which surprised me. Because, on the day, we received just nine phone calls of complaint.”

“I’ve asked a lot of people about that picture, friends and relatives from all walks of life and all parts of the city. Absolutely no one I’ve spoken to admits to finding it offensive.

“But, clearly, what people say and what people do are different. Of course, I knew that. But I didn’t think it would apply in this case.

“So – at the risk of attracting every troll in the vicinity – I’ve decided to ask the internet. I want to hear from the people who didn’t buy the paper because of that picture.

“Tell me why. I ask only that you are reasoned and honest. But I want to start a dialogue and genuinely understand why the picture put you off.”


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  • April 9, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Is Mike Norton in the right job ? As editor of the local daily paper he prints two men snogging on the front page and is amazed most people find it distasteful. Then he attacks local people for not being ‘tolerant’ enough. If he was editor of Gay Times, I might find his attacks acceptable. But he isn’t. Bristol had a fine reputation as a bastion of tolerance long before he and, indeed the modern Post, ever came along. In my view, it is still one of the most tolerant places in the UK to live. But he crosses the line both with that front page and with his subtle follow-up attacks on readers for apparently not being broadminded enough. Many local people are angry with him.

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  • April 9, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Good for Mike, the newspaper is reflecting what is happening in society – it says more for the readers who clearly don’t get it.
    I led p1 once with a man holding a finger to the camera after being jailed for murder. We got caned – but everyone missed the point that it was his attitude to society.
    The gay kiss was a good story, as I said reflecting what was going on and in a non-sensationalist way.
    Big deal

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  • April 9, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    BristolUnited, why do “most people find it distasteful”? Why is it different to showing a heterosexual couple kissing? Or is Bristol really not the tolerant place that it likes to think it is? You can’t say Bristol is tolerant and that most people in the city find the photo distasteful. Anybody who finds the photo distasteful really belong in the non-tolerant pre-1960’s.

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