On July 8 CityBeat filed a federal lawsuit against government officials in the city of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Campbell and Kenton counties in Northern Kentucky and Dearborn County in Indiana. We charged them and a coalition of local religious and nonprofit leaders led by Citizens for Community Values (CCV) of violating our First Amendment rights, conspiracy to violate our First Amendment rights and tortious interference with our business relationships.
WNKU-FM News Director Craig Kopp interviews CityBeat Co-Publishers Dan Bockrath and John Fox (broadcast 6/23/08): Listen here.
Read John Fox's editorial "Free to Be True Americans" (published 6/25/08).
Fountain Square Rally
On the evening of June 20, downtown Cincinnati's main public space hummed with hundreds of friends and supporters of the First Amendment at the "Stand Up With CityBeat" rally. CityBeat staff gathered on the Fountain Square stage behind Co-Publisher Dan Bockrath, who read our official statement that we would not change our advertising policies to satisfy a local pressure group.
The statement is CityBeat's response to what happened on June 9, when a coalition of law enforcement officials, politicians and clergy organized by Citizens for Community Values held a news conference at City Hall to berate CityBeat for our adult services advertisements. They sent a letter to us to "appeal to your integrity as a corporate citizen ask that you eliminate the adult services category, and refuse to accept ads elsewhere for sexual services, in both your print and online editions.
Below is more background on CCV's interference in CityBeat's business practices.
Update (6/11/08): Read John Fox's editorial, "Publicity Stunt Targets CityBeat."
Update (6/9/08): A coalition led by Citizens for Community Values held a news conference this morning (June 9) at City Hall to announce that it would be sending a letter to CityBeat asking us to stop publishing adult-oriented classified advertisements in the paper and online.
A story in this morning's Enquirer previewed the event.
CityBeat has issued the following statement in response. If you'd like to comment on this situation, click here for discussion on CityBeat's Porkopolis blog.
STATEMENT ABOUT TODAY´┐ŻS NEWS CONFERENCE
JUNE 9, 2008
According to an article in today´┐Żs Cincinnati Enquirer, a ´┐Żcoalition led by Citizens for Community Values´┐Ż would like for CityBeat to change our advertising policies for both our print publication and our web site. Apparently this coalition is planning to send us a letter detailing its request.
When we receive this letter, we will consider its contents and respond in a timely manner.
We weren´┐Żt invited to attend this morning´┐Żs news conference, so we don´┐Żt know what was said and can´┐Żt comment on what was said.
We find it curious that this ´┐Żcoalition led by Citizens for Community Values´┐Ż would hold a public news conference at City Hall to tell the media they´┐Żre going to ask CityBeat to change our advertising policies. Such a request could have been made privately if this coalition wanted to accomplish its stated goal rather than the obvious goal of generating publicity for itself. CityBeat´┐Żs email addresses are readily available and our phone number is listed in the Yellow Pages ´┐Ż they could easily look us up and get in touch.
Speaking of the Yellow Pages, similar adult services ads ´┐Ż and in fact three pages of them ´┐Ż can be found in the current edition of the telephone directory that´┐Żs delivered to every household in Greater Cincinnati. CityBeat, by contrast, is available only to those who choose to pick it up at 1,200 distribution locations around the area. Contrary to what this coalition expressed in today´┐Żs Enquirer article, the general public´┐Żs exposure to these types of advertisements is much greater via the Yellow Pages ´┐Ż yet it seems to us that CityBeat is being unfairly targeted by this coalition.
We find it ridiculous that local law enforcement officials think they can tell us how to run our business while also asking that we do their jobs for them. Our understanding of the American legal system is that police officers charge suspected criminals with a crime, prosecutors present evidence of the crime to judges and juries, and then verdicts are rendered.
We have cooperated and will continue to cooperate with authorities when any of our advertisers are under investigation. If we're informed that advertisers engage in illegal activities, we suspend their advertising privileges. CityBeat´┐Żs policy is that we don´┐Żt knowingly accept advertising from businesses that engage in illegal activities.
In the case of adult services advertisers, Cincinnati Police Chief Thomas Streicher, Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis and other local officials would prefer that CityBeat employees play judge and jury and deny businesses the opportunity to advertise their goods and services.
Apparently today is ´┐ŻLet´┐Żs Gang Up on CityBeat´┐Ż Day in Cincinnati. Just about every public official listed in today´┐Żs Enquirer article as being a leader of this ´┐Żcoalition led by Citizens for Community Values´┐Ż has been the subject of critical news articles, columns and editorials in CityBeat ´┐Ż one of our most important duties is to report on the actions of public officials. For years Citizens for Community Values has actively tried to interfere with our business operations by working to get distribution points to drop CityBeat.
We make decisions about our business every day and on our own terms. We won´┐Żt be bullied or intimidated by any outside force that thinks they can make those decisions for us.
We look forward to receiving the coalition´┐Żs letter.