Friday, May 09, 2014

"Queen James" and editorial issues in Newton

I couldn't help but wonder, after Newton Daily News editor Bob Eschliman (left) lost his job Monday because of an anti-gay rant on his personal blog, how a newspaper editor in a town like Newton would have fared 20 years ago had he or she been outed publicly as gay.

It's fairly likely, I'm guessing, that serious consideration would have been given in the offices of publishers and owners to firing him (or her), based the perceived potential for outrage among readers and advertisers if one of those people were left in charge of local news coverage.

So the fact that Shaw Media moved rapidly to suspend the anti-gay Eschliman, then fired him, is another of those signs that the times, they are a changing.


 In case you missed it, Eschliman was fired after an online rant about the "Queen James version" of the Bible, a title guaranteed to outrage some, especially those Christians who identify the King James Version as the only acceptable translation.

Eschliman probably could have gotten away with a calmer condemnation of the product, but after an apparent severe attack of the stupids started throwing terms like "Gaystapo" around. 

Here's a hint for anyone on any side engaged in debate about a controversial issue --- stay away from Nazi imagery. Its use allows you to be identified immediately as an idiot no matter what your sexual orientation.


Although there were a few mutterings here and there about perceived violations of Eschliman's First Amendment rights, few rushed to his defense.

In the first place, his right to speak his piece wasn't abridged. He did that, then discovered that there always are consequences. These can be harsh --- especially if you work for someone else.

Newspapers generally are anxious to preserve the impression that they can cover the news objectively. Conservative Christians certainly can and do manage that. But online (or published) rants about the "homosexual enemy" or on other inflammatory topics tend to undermine credibility.

Newspeople traditionally have been encouraged (or ordered) to be very careful about expressing personal opions that might affect that precious credibility.

Savvy media types also are fully aware --- as all bloggers should be --- that someone always is watching. In this case it was national media critic Jim Romenesko who blew the whistle on Eschliman.

Had the editor chosen to apologize for the inflammatory nature of his comments, perhaps he could have salvaged his job. But that apparently didn't happen. So he was fired, which from the Shaw Media perspective most likely seemed the only practical way to defuse what could have turned into an ugly situation.

Another fact of life in this day and age is that those of us who are LGBT no longer turn tail and run when attacked, but instead turn around and bite back --- quite effectively in most cases. 


I doubt I'd have chosen "Queen James" for a title if issuing a gay friendly version of the the holy writ. But there are precedents for this.

King James (James VI of Scotland and James I of England) commissioned what now is known as the KJV in 1604 to ensure a translation of the Bible that conformed to the teachings and practices of the Church of England, of which he was head.

So it always seems a little odd that American protestants are so enthralled with what so obviously was the ultimate Anglican document of its time.

Although married to Anne of Denmark, King James was perhaps even more widely known for his passionate romances with a series of dashing young men. So much so, that he sometimes was greeted in public with, "God save the Queen."

And publishers of the Queen James version are quite right about another thing --- introduction of the term "homosexual," not invented until the 1890s, is a recent innovation in scriptural translation.

Although biblical authors, whoever they may have been, certainly were familiar with sex acts involving people of the same gender, those who engaged in them were looked upon as heterosexual people behaving badly --- not members of a free-standing sexual orientation capable of such dangerous innovations as love and marriage.

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