The problem with free speech today is that it works both ways; it has no boundaries and should be accepted as such, and it forces us to question what’s acceptable and what’s not. The BPD officer who decries a quarterback’s refusal to stand and respect America in support of the BLM movement often feels that his ability to speak honestly about his own personal reality is stymied. This isn’t the world we live in. It’s the world we’ve created for ourselves.
The media suffer from the same bipolar conundrum. We want the press to be free but we question that freedom, and then suddenly the free press isn’t so free and it’s censored no matter how. But is that really unexpected and does it compromise our ability to be free?
When I started publishing words 20 years ago this September, I was absolute about my right to print whatever I wanted. I encouraged writers who agreed with that philosophy and who were more than eager to oblige regardless, and we did exactly that. Over the years, however, that ideal has evolved, and truth be told, I’ve censored myself, my writers, and this company as a whole. The reasons have been varied: sensitive topics, personal relationships, and yes, advertisers. The reality is, we grew from a ’zine into a business, and we had staff that relied on the business for their livelihood. Granted, most would say that the meager pay we occasionally peeled off of our losses wasn’t exactly a livelihood, and I would agree. But it was enough to avoid starvation and build a resume, and that was enough to think twice about how something we said could impact our friends, readers, and especially our advertisers. That may not sit well with some, but I don’t care if people question it, or question us.
I’ve never allowed a positive review of any business or band to run because we were paid for it or were afraid of losing ad dollars afterwards, but we’ve avoided news and arts features that could potentially harm our advertisers’ business. I’ve never allowed a news story to be killed because someone told me to not run it, but I’ve pulled articles that I felt could harm us or create an unsafe environment for the staff. I’ve censored us so we can have the freedom to choose not to.
It’s always been a gut call and usually as we go to press but I don’t regret a single decision. While rare—maybe once a year, so 20 all told—I stand by them all… because free speech works both ways; it should be unfettered whether you choose to say it or not.
Jeff Lawrence, DigBoston Publisher + Editor
OH, CRUEL WORLD
Dear FedEx Office Print & Ship Center,
Who in the fuck do you think you are with those prices? On shipping and now on copies too! This isn’t yet another rant about the often lazy and incompetent employees who (kind of) work there. No, this is about your scumsucking company charging more than four bucks for a double-sided print on colored cardstock, which is utterly insane. Printer consumables have gotten a lot cheaper over the past few years, all while your prices have skyrocketed. You’ve always been gaugers, but at least I used to stock up on staples and tape and whatever else wasn’t bolted down to make up for being ripped off. Short of walking off with one of your machines, I’m not sure how I’ll ever compensate for these outrageous new prices.