In last week’s County Press, the often provocative weekly columnist Charlotte Hofton, managed to spark both local and national outrage after the paper ran an article titled, ‘Pride parade – do a deal?’
Charlotte had picked up on the news that the first Pride event on the Isle of Wight was being planned for 2017. As reported by OnTheWight at the end of November, ideas and views on how the event might look were being canvassed through an online survey.
However, the tone and content of Charlotte’s article have upset a great many people, both on and off the Isle of Wight.
Her column has been described as patronising, ill informed, homophobic, outdated, ignorant, divisive, bigoted, littered with sarcasm and passive aggressive tones, supporting negative stereotyping and making those in the LGBT+ community feel like they are ‘open game for attack’.
The paper’s editor, Alan Marriott, said when responding to one of the objectors,
“Charlotte was distraught to be thought of as a person of prejudice.”
Living in the digital age
Gone are the days of something being published in a local paper and it not spreading further than the print readership. In this digital age, news travels fast and the Internet provides a great many platforms for people to express their views on.
Reaction to the column started on Friday via Twitter and spread among the LGBT+ community pretty quickly.
Over 100 1* ratings
As well as comments on social media, the CP received over 100 ‘1 out of 5’ ratings on its Facebook page with people making their disgust and outrage about the column known.
The response of the editor to these bad reviews has caused problems of its own. After commentors noticed the same response appearing multiple times, some of those who received the copied and pasted reply reacted with further disappointment – adding fuel to the fire.
Huge number of complaints
CP Editor, Alan Marriott, confirmed to OnTheWight the paper had received “a huge number of complaints” about the column, mostly expressing disgust and suggesting Charlotte is anti-LBGTQ or lacking in understanding of the issues.
However, the article remains on the CP Website, unedited and without any reference to a response published by the editor on Monday morning ahead of a blog piece on the Huffington Post by Steve Taylor.
Some have pointed out that the CP article is not marked as an opinion piece, so many reading it could easily confuse it with news.
Hit the Huff Po
In Steve’s Huffington Post Blog (he’s the Co-Chair of UK Pride Organisers Network, Board member European Pride Organisers Association, Deputy Director Pride in London) he says that after tweeting the CP to say they “should be ashamed of publishing a column of such hatred”, one of their reporters replied saying Hofton ‘often divides opinion’.
He points that figures from the Office for National Statistics report that 49% of 18-24 year olds describe themselves as something other than ‘straight’, so coming across Charlotte’s column may leave them feeling they’re open game for attack.
A piece was also published by LGBT+ campaigner, Daniel Browne, in online magazine The Gay, who was equally condemning of the column.
Lambasted from all angles
The lambasting wasn’t just reserved for Ms Hofton for her column, the editor of CP was also criticised for allowing the article to appear in the paper and be posted online.
He defended his position,
“Many people would have disagreed with Charlotte’s views. However, I believe it is better to air views we disagree with, debate and challenge them rather than censor them.”
“I am sorry if the County Press upset and offended the Island community. It was certainly not what we intended.”
Response from IW Pride
Organisers of Isle of Wight Pride told OnTheWight,
“As a group the organisers of Isle of Wight Pride have read and shared the many positive comments that resulted from the column written by County Press journalist, Charlotte Hofton.
“The strength of feeling felt not only by people within the LGBTQ+ community both on the Island and from further afield, but also from colleagues, family members and friends reflects the committed need to deliver a successful Pride event for local people.
“It also demonstrates the need to provide education and information to tackle ignorance and to support not just LGBTQ+ people, but also their friends and families.”
They finished by saying,
“The results of the recent questionnaire that will shape how Pride will look will be discussed by the group in January 2017.
“Pride will be above all things an inclusive event for Island people to come together to celebrate diversity and distinctiveness. The group looks forward to sharing this information in the New Year.”
By way of showing Island-based support, this Saturday Bagel Wrap in Ryde are ten years old – to celebrate they’ve create Rainbow Bagels and will be donating £1 from each Rainbow Bagel to local charities.