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From the Publisher Selling Sex

In an e-mail boxing match, a reader wins the round.
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THE REASON WE HAVE A LETTERS PAGE and why it’s always filled, is that some readers will always disagree with us about something. We welcome dissent, and while we enjoy letters of praise, our policy is to give precedence to the protesters. Generally we run the letter, stifle any urge to respond, and move on to the next topic. But recently Dan Penetti of the Dallas Association for Decency, the local anti-pom group, engaged me in a colloquy that raised substantive points I thought worth sharing. Questions of taste, which we make every month, sometimes involve questions of morality, as Dan points out.

Wick: Why do you still accept ads from the Million Dollar Saloon and The Men’s Club? Oh, I know the ads are “tasteful,” nothing provocative, and that they run in the entertainment section. But why allow D Magazine to be pulled down to their level? I’m not here to tell you whose ads you can accept, but I do wonder what your standard or policy is.-Dan

Dan: I tend to take a fairly libertarian view toward these things, both personally and professionally. On the professional level, asapublisher who often deals in controversy, I give wide latitude to others who choose our magazine to make their points- within certain aesthetic guidelines, It would be hypocritical of me to champion the First Amendment on the one hand, then deny it on the other.-Wick

Wick: Allow me to reply with the obvious: D Magazine is not the government. I understand that as an editor you have a kinship with those who fight for the right to print what they want and not have the government tell them what they can or cannot do- I’m with you on that. But what’s the relevance? The First Amendment gives you the right to determine what’s printed in your magazine. It is your choice. You are a private business choosing to accept money from another private business. All I’m asking is why you’ve made this particular choice. What’s the standard?– Dan

Dan:The standard is based on two questions. Is it legal? Is it offensive? If the answers are yes to the first and no to the second, I generally will allow it to be published. The ads in question meet these criteria, and therefore as a private business I accept the transaction.-Wick

Wick: The businesses are legal, and the ads are tasteful. I applaud you on your decorum. Pornographic magazines are legal, Yet 7-Eleven made the decision years ago not to carry them. That decision resulted in a loss of revenues. But 7-Eleven was concerned about larger questions that were raised by the presence of these magazines and the image it gave to their stores. Considering D Magazine’s high quality, I would think you would be concerned about those same questions. Where would you draw the line? Adult bookstores? They’re legal. The Ku Klux Klan?-Dan

Dan:To argue ab extremis is a legitimate rhetorical device in a debate, but it doesn’t help much in practical decision making. The fact is that these clubs do no social harm. They are entertainment spots, The choice on whether to patronize them belongs to my readers, not to me.-Wick

Wick: They do social harm. If you could see the drug and alcohol abuse, the cases of prostitution, and the sense of personal worth’ lessness that we encounter in our ministry for dancers trying to escape the financial lure of those places, maybe you’d agree- But now you don’t. So let’s rephrase this from a negative to a positive: Do they promote a social good? I thought the reason for D Magazine’s existence was to encourage the best in our community. As a journalist, you hold high standards for this city. Why won’t you hold to the same standards as a business?-Dan

Dan: Because it would require me to pass judgment on the moral excellence of every institution that advertises in our magazine, a role I hereby officially eschew.-Wick

Wick: But you can’t. By eschewing the moral judgment you make it.-Dan

Do I? I believe Dan is right: I do. And since I can’t make amoral judgment in favor of the clubs, I’m left with no alternative but to make one against them, So I reverse myself. We will accept no new advertising from these kinds of businesses, and we will run the current advertising only through the existing contracts.

My purpose in sharing this interchange is not to encourage my readers to deluge me with e-mail. Rather, it is a reminder that self-examination never hurts anyone.