Mother’s Day story about lesbian couple spurs controversy at Annapolis paper


The “Mama and Mommy” story that ran in the Capital (Screengrab from the Capital )

Criticism of the story, “Mama and Mommy,” came fast and furious in the comments section, such as this one:

“Why does The Capital feel it necessary to show an aberrant "family" situation as a salute to Mother's Day?”

Capital editor and publisher Tom Marquardt quickly wrote a column to address the controversy, but it was never published because of objections from his staff.

For good reason.

Thanks to Jim Romanesko over at Poynter, who obtained a copy of the Marquardt’s unpublished column that went around the newsroom, we can read several passages from it:

There is an old saying in journalism that, adjusted for modern times, goes something like this: Architects cover up their mistakes with vines, attorneys send theirs to jail, businesses write them off, and doctors put them 6 feet under. But a newspaper publishes its mistakes for all to see. And that we did on May 8 with a Mother’s Day story on a lesbian couple raising two baby boys born to them through artificial insemination. The reaction among our readers was swift and damning. In previous years we have written about single moms, poor moms, foster moms and handicapped moms — as well as the traditional moms with big families and heavy workloads. This year was different but difference is not what our readers wanted on a day when dad and kids shower love on the family matriarch. Unfortunately for us, we lost sight of what the readers want to read: feel good stories about people who reflect their values. Newspapers need to mirror its readers — all of them perhaps, but inclusion not at the exception of the majority. Only one reader complimented me for our non-traditional Mother’s Day story. The majority who reacted saw this story as the final liberal straw in their local newspaper or wanted to make a statement with their cancellation.

Marquardt says only one reader complimented the story, but he ignored the comments section of “Mama and Mommy,” which soon filled up with comments in defense of the paper’s decision to run the story. One commenter wrote:

The two women in this article more than deserve to be recognized on Mother's Day just like all mothers do- without such harsh criticism because you don't agree with or understand their lifestyle. Props to The Capital for a great article!Doesn’t sound like the newspaper lost sight of what that reader wanted to read.

Marquardt may have also stirred up more controversy if he had published the column. Commenters on the Poynter story were quick to criticize his apology:

My note to the editor: Don't hide behind the publicity of your profession as an excuse for having vertebrae made of spaghetti. Maybe another old saying is more apt for you, “If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Another comment:

Journalism should be about raising consciousness not pandering to ignorance... They are moms.  It was a story on Mother's Day.  It is very disappointing that the editor is so spineless.

Marquardt defended himself to Poynter, saying “my objection is not the story, but the story running on Mother’s Day.”

The Capital is published by Capital Gazette Communications.

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