OK, let me just address this right off the bat: you may be thinking that we decided to put an interview with former Chico News & Review columnist Anthony Peyton Porter on our cover as a dig at our rival weekly paper. You may think this is rather petty of us, and perhaps you’re already writing a snarky letter in the back of your head to tell me so. The truth is, while Synthesis does have a history of poking at our friends on the other end of downtown, we hesitated for that very reason.
Unlike some of our previous editors, I don’t really feel a rivalry with the CNR. There are many ways in which our papers are different—in our focus, our style, and the freedom we give our writers (among other things). There are also many ways in which we are the same—we’re both headed by women, and we both support our local artistic community, for example. The way I see it, there’s plenty of time in the week we’re on the stands for people to read both publications, and my job is to put together the best paper I can, regardless of what they’re doing.
The reason we decided to interview Mr. Porter is that all of us here have been reading his column for years, we appreciate his role as an independent thinker, and we wanted to give him a chance to tell the story behind his dismissal.
An interesting little side note to this whole thing: having read the blog version of APP’s From The Edge column regarding Sid Lewis (one of several apparent dominoes that led to his departure from CNR), I must admit I found it rather shocking. To say his opinions were the polar opposite of my own is putting it mildly (there was even mention of my column on the matter in the comments section of his preceding post, “Censorship,” wherein I was chided by a Lewis supporter—somewhat ironically—for being so candid about my experiences and opinions). You can read the column I’m referring to at anthonypeytonporter.blogspot.com, it’s the one titled “Sid Lewis.”
It raised some interesting questions at our editorial meeting about what we would consider too bold [read: controversial] of an opinion to publish, and how we would have handled the situation both as writers and as editors. We let a lot of stuff fly around here, like references to strippers’ buttholes and flagrant dropping of F-bombs, but there is a line (albeit fuzzy and grey) where social responsibility comes into play.
While my initial reaction to his column was to say, “Yikes, this is some really extreme rhetoric that could actually be harmful to victims of sex crimes; I wouldn’t want to print that either,” upon reflection, I think there is value in running content that’s so (for lack of a better term) on the edge. It could’ve made for a good opportunity for a deeper conversation, had it been paired with a rebuttal to his arguments, and it’s interesting to consider how differently two people can view the same subject. Ultimately that’s the value in open and free speech: exploring topics from many sides so we can better understand ourselves; so we can know where we really draw the lines, and why.