Is Jeff Koyen a free speech martyr . . .

presslogo.gif Or just a gasbag? I’m strongly leaning toward the latter opinion after reading Koyen’s letter to the New York gossip website Gawker, explaining why he chose to resign as editor of the New York Press rather than take a two week unpaid suspension over last week’s anti-pope cover story.

As Koyen wrote, “I won’t be sent to my room without dessert. Hence, I resigned this morning.”

Koyen refused to go without getting in a few shots. He called publisher Chris Rohland a “spineless alt-weekly weenie” who is too comfortable with his wife and two kids in New Jersey to want to get caught up in controversy, and he accused owner David Unger of being “similarly spineless.”

After thanking his colleagues, Koyen again launched into Rohland and Unger, saying that “Such weak-willed and lackluster men should not be in control of a newspaper, especially not in these times of editorial restriction by way of advertiser dick-sucking. They’re too vulnerable to the appeal of money.”

As Koyen saw it, the publisher and owner had committed two offenses. They had told him to take those two weeks to “think about what this paper should be,” and they had refused to stand up for him in this “battle” of “free expression.”

“Problem is, New York Press already is the paper it should be,” Koyen wrote. “We are iconoclastic, occasionally obnoxious but always intelligent. If you see through the nasty Pope jokes, for instance, you will see a well-reasoned political argument.”

Koyen seized on Rep. Anthony Weiner’s mild comments that he hoped fellow New Yorkers would “exercise their right to take as many of these rags as they can and put them in the trash,” and cried censorship.

The only problem with that interpretation of Weiner’s remarks is that it completely misses the context. Weiner began by saying that, as a free alt-weekly, the Press is “way overpriced.” He then affirmed that “everyone has a right to free speech.” Further, it’s not clear that the congressman was telling New Yorkers to remove bundles of copies from the newsstands to trash them rather than just the one that they’re allowed. In other words, the sanest reading of Weiner’s words would be, “Ugh! This is trash!”

I would be negligent if I didn’t repeat here that even Satanists seem to agree with that judgment.

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  • Stephen A.

    “We are…always intelligent. If you see through the nasty Pope jokes, for instance, you will see a well-reasoned political argument.”

    Why not just make the well-reasoned political argument, I wonder? Most *real* columnists or editorial writers would do just that.

    I also have to point out that, once again, a liberal screams “censorship” when he’s criticized.

    I’ve had a public official say the same thing (“Your paper is overpriced,” etc.) about a free paper I worked for after something he did was exposed to the light of day. We reporters didn’t sweat it.

    I’d advise the same for this chap, but perhaps that kind of maturity is too much to expect from this small-minded big city paper.

    Finally, I’m a guy who can stand the occasional rough language, but some other, less worldly readers here may not be. Just something to consider.