This photo, taken by Bill O’leary, ran on the front page of the Washington Post on May 4 and with this article. It sparked a number of letters to the WaPo ombudsman as well as subscription cancellations.
It has been a very exciting week for same-sex couples in the District, and the Washington Post wanted to make sure to capture the joy that city residents were sharing around the date that licenses for same-sex marriages would be accepted. As part of news coverage of that, the Post ran the above photo of Jeremy Ames and Taka Ariga kissing outside D.C. Superior Court on the front page of one of last week’s print editions.
Yesterday, Ombudsman Andrew Alexander shared some unfortunate news on his blog: a few readers were offended by the intimacy of two men reveling in the moment. He included several quotes from this feedback that don’t necessarily agree with the joy of the moment, and he noted that nearly 30 subscribers cited the photo as a reason to cancel subscriptions. Kudos to Alexander, though, for handling it incredibly well with his classy response:
Did the Post go too far? Of course not. The photo deserved to be in newspaper and on its Web site, and it warranted front-page display.
News photos capture reality. And the prominent display reflects the historic significance of what was occurring. The recent D.C. Council decision to approve same-sex marriage was the culmination of a decades-long gay rights fight for equality. Same-sex marriage is now legal in the District. The photo of Ames and Ariga kissing simply showed joy that would be exhibited by any couple planning to wed – especially a couple who previously had been denied the legal right to marry.
There was a time, after court-ordered integration, when readers complained about front-page photos of blacks mixing with whites. Today, photo images of same-sex couples capture the same reality of societal change.