Sunday, March 22, 2009

Response to Unprofessional “Editorial” in San Diego City Times

By LEO E. LAURENCE • Copyright © 2009 by Leo E. Laurence • All rights reserved

Editor’s Note: On March 17, 2009 the City Times, the official student newspaper of San Diego City College, published an editorial entitled, “City Times editors respond to Zenger’s,” which was a direct attack on Leo E. Laurence’s piece, “Forty Years Later, Gay Lib Pioneer Still Struggles; Zenger’s Associate Editor Challenges Homophobia at City College,” in the March 2009 Zenger’s. The City Times editorial — which carried the unusual disclaimer at the end that it represented “the opinions of the City Times editorial board and not necessarily the opinions of the entire staff” — made several incorrect assertions about Laurence and indicated at least one willful misreading of the article to which it was supposedly responding.

Laurence drafted the following reply, which he was not permitted either to publish in the City Times or post to the paper’s Web site. Laurence’s original article can be read on this site at, and the City Times editorial attacking him is currently posted on their Web site at

The “hit piece” that masquerades as an editorial in our [the City Times’] last issue is designed to inflict damage.

It may be nearly unprecedented in American journalism for a newspaper to publicly attack one of its own staff members in print, and (1) without first interviewing that reporter and (2) offering that staffer the opportunity to respond in the same issue.

The hit piece was unprofessional, poorly written and even violates the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), of which I am a longtime member and on the SPJ’s National Committee on Diversity.

I am also active in the local chapters of the Latino Journalists of California and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.

The SPJ’s ethics code requires professionally written articles to be (1) factually accurate and (2) fair. Both basic principles of journalism are violated in the “editorial.”

There are too many factual errors to list. But every fact in my published story in Zenger’s Newsmagazine — a community publication and which is challenged in the “editorial,” is well documented.

Unfortunately, the editorial board didn’t do its basic research and verify its facts.

Fairness requires a journalist to check with all sides of an issue to produce balanced coverage.

And “it’s not even good writing,” said a senior police officer with a journalism education. Because of his official position, his name is not used.

After “coming out” in the journalism class early in the semester, I have been the victim of escalating alleged homophobia. Our college staff, however, has treated me as a troublemaker, not a victim.

Therefore, I filed a 10-page, sworn complaint with the district. Chancellor Dr. Constance M. Carroll personally assured me that the lengthy complaint will be treated seriously.

Because I believe my personal safety is at substantial risk, the campus police are now involved and a formal Police Report is being produced. I believe I could be hit on campus with a bloody beating. Homophobics, like racists, are dangerous!

No student should be scared in class, yet I am in journalism.

This newspaper’s editorial board consists only of the various student editors, including one who is included in the police investigation.

Clearly, the “editorial” does not state the opinion of all of this newspaper’s staff members. Indeed, many of my journalism classmates — and numerous college staffers and faculty — are openly supporting me, solidly. My community support is expanding.

Though the City Times published a sympathetic article on an anti-Proposition 8 demonstration in the same issue as the hit-piece editorial, my editor and publisher at Zenger’s, Mark Gabrish Conlan, told me, “This demonstrates their [the editorial board’s] priorities. In my opinion, they just put the Prop. 8 story in to try to demonstrate that they are not homophobic.”

While the newspaper covered the Gay marriage story, it completely ignored the 40th anniversary of the worldwide Gay Lib movement on the same day, March 5.

I am a serious student and want to study. But publication of that unprofessional “editorial” is only adding fuel to the fire, dangerously.