Your Advocate: Political agendas have no place in news selection
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We capture the good and the bad, the glad and the sad, a newspaper editor once said. We leave it to you to decide whether to laugh or cry.
Although readers sometimes see political motivations behind what news goes in the paper, we truly try to reserve our opinions for the Viewpoints page only. We know you don't want anyone twisting the news to fit a particular agenda.
With this in mind, our ethics board first discussed in 2009 whether we would allow an engagement or wedding announcement from a same-sex couple. The issue arose because some states had begun legalizing gay marriage, and we predicted it would be only a matter of time before someone requested placement of their news in the Victoria Advocate.
We decided we would allow an announcement from a state where same-sex marriage had been legalized. It also is worth noting that these celebration items are paid announcements.
Recently, Darron Cardosa, a 1985 graduate of Stroman High, contacted the newspaper to announce his engagement to Mark Alan Jones. They planned to wed in New York City, where they now live.
We published the announcement March 18. We knew it would upset some readers and please others, but that was not our intent. Rather, we wanted to allow one native son to share his news, just as we do every day for hundreds of Crossroads residents.
Cardosa told me by phone last week that he was surprised by how much the announcement in his hometown newspaper meant to him.
"I guess I love Victoria more than I thought I did," he said. "I was really proud when it showed up in the paper."
He laughed that he regressed back to 1983 when he was thrilled to see his photo in the Advocate for being president of Stroman's drama club. He shared his memories of growing up in a different world from where he lives now as an actor, writer and design associate for a furniture store in New York.
His parents, Lionel and Nellie Cardosa, involved him in many aspects of community life, he recalled. His father served for almost 35 years as a principal at Victoria schools, including DeLeon and Shields elementary, while his mother worked almost 20 years at First Victoria National Bank.
They regularly attended many Victoria events, including the Armadillo Festival, chili cook-offs and the stock show. "It was always very homey," he said. "It was almost idyllic, but you don't realize that when you're 15."
He recalled an Armadillo Festival treasure hunt published in the Advocate when he was about 15. Every day, a new clue revealed a little more information. At one point, he said, he searched around the gazebo in DeLeon Plaza, but didn't find the clue there.
"I was so upset because I could have won an armadillo," he said. "That's such a small-town story. To me, it was such a big deal then."
Even bigger, he said, was his childhood anguish at feeling different from everyone else. He shared his own political motivation for publishing the announcement when I told him I had talked with one reader who canceled his subscription because he didn't want his children exposed to something contrary to his faith.
"That's the main reason this should be in the paper or the news - so kids can see that," he said. "If I had known of other gay people when I was 14 or 15, it would have made my life so much easier."
The community's response to the announcement has been overwhelmingly positive, Cardosa said.
"I have to admit it really surprised me," he said. 'I didn't know what to expect, but I did expect more negative comments. Honestly, growing up in Victoria, I was picked on a lot for the way I was."
He and Jones have moved up their wedding from September to Monday. The day marks their 21st anniversary as a couple.
He said his parents didn't hesitate to offer support when he told them he wanted to publish the engagement announcement in the Advocate.
"They know, as I do, that people don't get used to seeing things until they start seeing them," he said. "Somebody has to be the first one. They were proud and happy. They are proud and happy I've been with my partner for 21 years. Who does that? That's the main thing they're happy about."
We respect some might not be happy. As I told the reader who politely and thoughtfully shared his reasons for canceling his subscription, I understand his desire as a father to do what he thinks is best for his children. Our newspaper's mission, though, is to reflect and serve our entire community. We can't do that if we're picking and choosing only certain political or religious views to be included in your Advocate.
Chris Cobler is the editor of the Victoria Advocate. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 36-574-1271. He also has office hours from 9-10 a.m. weekdays in the Advocate Internet Cafe, 311 E. Constitution St.