Gay kiss on frontpage sees newspaper lose 'thousands' of sales

(The Bristol Post)

The editor of the Bristol Post has revealed that a picture on its front page of a gay couple kissing did not have the desired effect.

The Bristol Post's March 31 edition showed a large picture of Mike McBeth and Matthew Symonds kissing after becoming the first gay couple in the city to tie the knot after gay marriage became legal in Britain. 

Bristol Post Editor Mike Norton said the picture was meant to celebrate a historic moment and that he had believed the "tolerant and non-conformist" people of his home city would be ready for such a photo. 

However, in an editorial piece titled "Did I go too far with gay kiss on the front page?", he admits to miscalculating the reaction of Bristolians and suggests that what people are saying may not reflect what they really feel on the matter.

"I thought Bristol was ready for that picture.  But, boy, was I wrong.  We lost thousands of sales of the paper," he writes.

Mr Norton says the loss "surprised" him because on the day of publication, the newspaper only received nine phone calls complaining about the image. 

He has now launched a dialogue with locals to understand what put them off the picture and is inviting them to give their feedback.

"Absolutely no one I've spoken to admits to finding it offensive.But, clearly, what people say and what people do are different. Of course, I knew that. But I didn't think it would apply in this case," he said. 

Several letters of response have been published by the Bristol Post, one from a T Williams saying that it was right to print the picture and "brave in a society that doesn't embrace change, even though people say they do".

A contributor identified only as B D said that although they did not go to church regularly, they considered themselves to be a Christian and felt "sickened" by the picture of two men kissing.

Mr A M Watts wrote that the Bristol Post's "promotion" of gay marriage was "repellent".

"I have no wish to go back to the harsh days of Oscar Wilde, but the reform permitting the activity between consenting adults in private was as far as it should have gone," he said. 

Comments on Norton's editorial reflected a range of views. 

One contributor under the name 'Kermits' admitted fear about the consequences of openly disagreeing with homosexuality: "Truth is, I don't agree with homosexual relationships. I think they're unnatural, but I'm afraid to say anything because of all the media coverage of people getting hauled into court, losing their jobs and businesses."

Others were thrilled by the Bristol Post's coverage.  'Twistedroom' wrote: "You are not wrong, the people are not wrong, it is the culture that is wrong. Hats off to you for putting it on the front cover."

AKG22 wrote that while they personally did not have a problem with the picture, they could understand why others would.

"Obviously in some cases people are just homophobic and therefore would not purchase the paper due to this reason alone, however I feel that the general public may tend to feel uncomfortable at public displays of affection and therefore purchasing a paper with a kiss on the front may put off people from buying it, as they feel it is inappropriate and may get embarrassed to buy it," AKG22 wrote. 

'Jacobdog' wondered why such fuss was being made over two men kissing each other but not about sexualised images of women that are widely used across media: "It's funny how an image depicting love gets people so upset while images showing women as sex objects pass without comment in our national papers every day; pretty messed up values in my opinion."