Freedom of the press, as long as you own it: Dayton City Paper shows its true colors

Alternative news weeklies are supposed to be the alternative to the mainstream media- muckrakers, agents provacateurs, the last bastion of free speech. However, with the declines in newspaper reading- even of the free variety, apparently, appeasing the advertisers is now function number 1. Toss in a bit of not willing to go against the political machine- which spends a lot of money on advertising each November- and we now have a local “alternative paper” that isn’t much of either.

Anti-Dean Lovelace ad created by David Lauri

The ad that David Lauri wants to run against Dean Lovelace

Esrati.com reader and local gay and lesbian rights activist, David Lauri writes about his attempt to run ads in Dayton City Paper against Dayton City Commissioner Dean Lovelace, the only commissioner to vote against an anti-discrimination ordinance (Commissioner Joey Williams sidelined himself with an abstention). DCP publisher Paul Noah not only is requiring Lauri to submit the ads, but is now the judge and jury on Mr. Lauri’s very smart purchase of www.deanlovelace.com to wage his anti-Lovelace campaign after learning that Lovelace hadn’t registered his own name despite plans to continue to run for office (Lauri claims he learned of this gaff on Esrati.com)

From David Lauri’s blog:

Paul Noah thinks I was wrong to register the domain name deanlovelace.com. In his email to me he went on to say:

For the record, I have no opinion of Mr. Lovelace or of his record as I know little about him. However, I am disappointed that you decided to use Mr. Lovelace’s domain name for the purpose of campaigning against him. I believe if you would have left his domain name alone and, instead, created and promoted a website domain name such as “VoteAgainstDeanLovelace.com” you would have accomplished the same results without appearing to obviously and blatantly having taken advantage of Mr. Lovelace’s failure to remember to renew his domain name. In all fairness, it’s most likely that Mr. Lovelace had confided in another individual to register his domain name on his behalf and, therefore, it was likely the failure of his confident to renew the domain name. In my eyes, the fact that you had exploited Mr. Lovelace’s domain name expiration by purchasing the rights to it and utilizing it as a resource to campaign against him significantly reduces the credibility of your mission. It is for this reason that the Dayton City Paper may end up declining your request anyway.

I’m a bit surprised by Paul Noah’s righteous indignation at my having created the website deanlove.com. I replied to him to tell him that I could have understood such indignation if I had created a spoof website purporting to be by Dean Lovelace himself but not given that the website clearly states that I own the site and that it is not affiliated with any candidate.

via David’s blog: 201108.

Lauri had also attempted to run ads in the Dayton LGBT Film Festival program- but was rebuffed by the organization because the Downtown Priority Board (an elected, quasi-government organization) is a primary sponsor. Is this the new strategy for quashing political opposition? How can a quasi-government organization legally quash free speech? What kind of First Amendment do we have left? Is the Internet the only place where political speech can be left uncensored?

Lauri has every right to not only own www.deanlovelace.com, where he clearly identifies himself as the site owner- and to post his position on Mr. Lovelace’s record, but he also has every right to advertise anywhere he wants. (Note, his ad does need to say who is paying for it to meet campaign standards before it could run in a newspaper). Political speech is supposed to be one of the most protected forms of free speech in this country, where the right to question and call attention to real issues, or even fake ones (“Swiftboarting” – anyone?). Mr. Lauri probably doesn’t have the time or money to take the legal route to protect his rights of free speech, nor will the ACLU help him out.

The only thing we can do is help him spread his word, and support his efforts via calling attention to the issue- and by telling the Dayton City Paper and their advertisers that we would prefer they move their advertising to the internet- or to media that doesn’t censor political speech.

The tagline the Dayton City Paper uses in WYSO ads is”Look no further, look deeper.” Mr. Lauri made me look deeper into DCP policy and I didn’t like what I found.

I urge all readers of this site to send a note to Paul Noah, [email protected] and tell him why he should not only accept the ad (with the addition of who paid for it) in his paper, but that he should keep his opinion on his opinion pages – and not insert it into political ads.

{UPDATE} 14:00 – I just got off the phone with Paul Noah, who adamantly claims that he’s not refusing to run Mr. Lauri’s ad- but, is claiming his publication hasn’t run any political ads, he doesn’t have a rate card for them, and he is working on getting those things in order for the Oct. 18th issue.

The e-mail exchange between Mr. Lauri and Mr. Noah was too long for me to include- esp. since most of it exists on David Lauri’s site.  In it, Mr. Noah clearly states:

Also for the record, I happen to feel that any person who actively attempts to limit the rights of any individual because of their sexual orientation does not deserve to hold public office.  As for whether or not Mr. Lovelace has, indeed, acted in this manner I am simply uninformed.

But in the very next paragraph, Noah continues to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong with the URL again:

I am interested in your thoughts about my commentary above as I would hope that you consider doing the right thing and play fairly here.  For example, if you would have accidentally forgotten to renew DavidLauri.com and someone else grabbed it from you for purposes against you, how would you feel?

I’ve known Paul Noah for about 3 years- when he stepped in to save DCP. He is politically naive, however, not having a political rate or policy in place at this point is inexcusable.

Mr. Noah has been inundated with calls and e-mails about this article this morning. I asked him to respond on this site, which he chose not to do, even after I asked him nicely to do. In the grand scheme of things, as one commenter has already said- the DCP “stopped being interesting or relevant years ago.” This exercise with Mr. Lauri may be a big part of the reason why.

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