Voice vs. Conscience

I am stuck in the middle of a conundrum.

(What do you think a conundrum looks like anyway? What do you think is in the middle? Based on what I see from here, it’s filled with unruly pets.)

Anyway. Some of you may know that I write about autism in a column called Autism Unexpected over at the Communities at the Washington Times. I am not an employee of The Washington Times nor am I under their control. I work with editors at the Communities, but they have never restricted what I write and have, in fact, been very supportive of what I write.

Here’s the problem: The Washington Times publishes some crazy shit. Just about every single belief I have is opposite of and offended by what they publish. About a week ago they published an editorial attacking affirmative action for people with disabilities seeking to enter the federal workforce. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network put out a statement responding to the editorial, which I published in my Autism Unexpected column.

At the same time that I sent that column to my editors, I tendered my resignation. I no longer wanted the ad revenue from my page views going to an organization that was putting forth these offensive words. I no longer wanted to be affiliated with their vitriol.

I expected my editors to tell me they were sorry to lose me. I didn’t know if they would publish the ASAN response. I expected to part ways.

What I didn’t expect was for my editors to fight for me. To go to the Times and ask them to retract the editorial. To say that they were outraged too. To tell me that my voice and my message is too important to shut down.

So now I don’t know what to do. I tend to write different things there than I write here. There are pros and cons to both sticking and leaving. I could make a list here, but I’m curious as to your opinion.

Am I silencing myself by quitting? Am I compromising myself by staying?

What would you do? Should I cool it or should I blow?*

* Name that tune.

30 thoughts on “Voice vs. Conscience

  1. I’m a big follow your heart person. What do you think you should do? I think if you listen to yourself VERY QUIETLY you know what you want to do. Than again, you should probably ignore me since I wrote for them for like, 2 minutes, tops.

  2. Hmmm, I love that your editors backed you up and that they support that your voice is important for others to hear. I would probably NOT do it though, if they are generating revenue from what you write and using it to publicize a message you don’t agree with. (I would equate it to why I decided to stop eating at Chick Fil A).

  3. and in other non-song-name comments — I love that they are fighting for you. If they can get the Times to retract that editorial and maybe even *feature* one of your columns on respect and understanding, I would want you to stay because you are a force for good there. xo

  4. If it was me I would blow. That’s a tough one though. I don’t think you’re compromising yourself by staying but I can see where it would eat at you all the time to be associated with some stuff you disagree with so strongly. I also don’t think you’re silencing yourself by leaving because I think you have a pretty strong voice in the blogging community and the autism community.

  5. that is indeed a conundrum. A local paper has in the past (with my permission) occasionally printed material from my blog…family life in the Valley and stuff like that. Recently the editor went on a tear citing that it is special education in our public schools here that is the reason why California schools are hurting so much. Damn laws forcing them to educate those kids who cost twice as much if not more to educate as the kids we should be investing in…kids like my son are the problem. I went to the paper and asked that they no longer publish my writing because of it. They argued that it was his opinion, not theirs, yada, yada but at least in my little city the editor IS the paper and it’s content does indeed reflect his opinions.
    I am quite impressed that they are fighting so hard to get you back but then again, what you write about is so important and good and it is material that the public needs to read, if anything to counteract the crap like the blowhard editor of my local paper writes.
    Isn’t that tune “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” by the Clash?

  6. You know the situation at the Times far better than any of us do, having been in the trenches there for so long. On the one hand, you’re opposed to much of what they stand for. On the other hand, you have a great platform for sharing your powerful message.

    I think the reaction to your resignation is very telling, and might signal that there are others at the Times who feel as you do. The outcome of this internal fight on your behalf might help you decide as well.

    This is an incredibly tough call, and you’re not over-thinking this by any stretch.

    Do what is right for you. Period. xo

  7. I’m a pragmatic aspie, and therefore I would suggest you stay. The Times and pretty much every other newspaper and media company are facing hard times and many times embrace the idea of “there is no such thing as bad publicity” by doing things that are deliberately controversial to get attention. This is obnoxious and you are quite right to be outraged. But, stopping your column is the equivalent of not voting because you don’t agree 100% with either candidate. The Times is not a single voice with one person making all the decisions and having all the opinions. It is a conglomeration of voices all adding their part to the mix. If you take your voice away, the voice of the times will become a little bit less of what you want it to be and a little more of what you hate. As long as your voice is there and respected, you have influence to make things better.
    Now there are good reasons to leave a place like that. If you ever find that your voice is being silenced or distorted, it’s time to pack up. On the other hand, if you find that you disagree with part of the voices that make up the Times, then I think that the best thing to do is to speak louder, not allow yourself to be cowed into silence.

    P.S. I love your blog and have been working on getting through the entirety of it before joining the current discussion, but this topic seemed important enough it make an exception. Also, whatever you decide, I and many others here will support you.

  8. i believe i understand what you are saying… when you are writing/ creating/putting yourself out there, often times you feel as if where your work is being shown, it is a reflection of you. (ie – the classic guilt by association.) when your core values are compromised, you end up with the conundrum – as you wrote.

    with that said, if you leave… your voice doesn’t get heard. (at least at that venue) i believe many publications produce a lot of *shit* – i think you will get that wherever you go. having a voice… one that is strong enough to have your editors go to bat for you – is amazing.

    to quote lilly from the princess diaries (because i’m a total geek): ‘WOW! Wow is having the power to affect change… make people listen.” that’s what you do stimey – you have the power to affect change.

  9. I wish I had a formula for the easy answer. I think all you can do is examine what your gut tells you AND how you think the decision (either way) impacts your integrity both personally and professionally.

  10. They know a good writer when they see one. You also bring in readers and revenue they others wouldn’t have. Like, um, me. I love that column.

  11. This is tough. Honestly, I don’t know what you should do, I can see both sides of the question here. I do love that your editors went to bat for you, though!

  12. It’s the Mooney Times, the crazy isn’t going to let up, it’s what they do.

  13. I see both sides, but like someone else said, you’re a fantastic voice for the Autistic/Disability community. If they don’t change the content of your articles I would continue to BE the voice of advocacy in your area.

    And yet, I wouldn’t blame you if you quit either. But the first thing I wrote? That’s my gut instinct.

  14. I probably don’t really have a right to suggest what you should do, since I live in the UK, but my gut tells me that having a voice (especially a free one) is better than no voice. If you stay, who knows how many hearts and minds you might educate towards a better understanding of disability.

    Incidentally, my family and I sat and watched the whole stunning opening ceremony of the London Paralympics the other night and have since been watching hours of amazing and totally inspiring Paralympic sport shown live on TV. The UK intends to broadcast over 150 hours of it in fact. Watching it is life-changing.
    Australia will be showing over 100 hrs of live sport also. Meanwhile, I’ve been told that NBC plans to show just 5.5 hrs in total, of highlights and therefore not even live, despite the USA having sent the 3rd largest disabled team (223 athletes)…What message is this sending out to the rest of the world about how the most powerful country on the planet feels about disability?

    I say STAY with The WT and shout for all you’re worth that people are people regardless of their differences and should be valued by society equally.

  15. I’ve just read your rebuttal over on Autism Unexpected btw. OUTSTANDING! Keep doing THAT!!

  16. I think if it were me, I’d just continue to write stuff that directly opposes everything they publish and points out how wrong wrong wrong they are in a multitude of places, pissing them off until THEY fire ME. But I am not a good person.

  17. I don’t think there’s a clear right or wrong and since nobody else is in your shoes it has to be a decision that YOU feel good about. Only you can know all the things you think and feel about the situation, so I think yours is the vote that counts and everyone else will (should) respect it.
    And this is true of so many things in life!

  18. Since you brought it up…it has always amazed me how many truly great and often liberal writers (and bloggers) the Washington Times has writing for them in their columns. I hear about friends, like you, writing for them and I shrug and say “I guess it’s a job”, but I don’t read the columns because inevitably I get offended at something else I see on the way to the columns of the writers I’m interested in. Which is all background to say – there seem to be a lot of awesome writers there, but I don’t actually know what they write, and I’m confused about why they’re there on sort of a baseline level.
    That said, I’m for happiness. If it makes you happy to write columns for the Washington Times, because you know your voice gets heard by probably a bajillion people, or because it’s a place you find professional fulfillment, or it gives you a unique outlet, or for any other reason – then you should keep writing your column. Clearly, your editors are behind you, and I think that’s pretty important.
    And for reference, I’m happy to talk to a Washington Times reporter in my professional life. I don’t shy away from their calls at all because I want them to get accurate information about my side of the argument. I don’t purchase their paper or read their articles online, but I do provide commentary when asked.
    I think you’ll know the answer when you try and craft your next column. Either way, I completely support your decision because you know more about this than anyone else.

  19. Preaching to the converted is easy, but there is more value in speaking up where you are the lone voice calling for sanity. If the Washington Times attracts a certain sort of reader, those readers need to hear your voice even more than the rest of us do. Thanks!

  20. You’ve already made a difference…they know what they published was wrong, and are trying to fix it. Every time someone reads something you write there, you are countering the wrong-headedness and prejudices. Without you, will the readers even hear the right messages, ever? A paper like this actually needs you more than a more sympathetic one! Although… it might be nice for you if you could publish it in other papers or forums as well…then we could happily support other places, and you could still reach the audience you have….
    Whatever you decide, I’m just glad to hear a little more Stimey!!!

  21. in the desert of the Times, you are an oasis. if you can stand it, continue to quench the thirst of the parched. if they are not censoring what you write, and you are reaching a readership that is also reading their editorials, you have a unique opportunity. By writing for them you have a bigger impact against what their editorials stand for, than the advertising revenue has in the other direction. One might even argue you are being subversive. And what’s not to like about subversive?

    you rock Stimey, way to be so dang good at what you do that your resignation is rejected.

  22. I agree with your editors that your voice and message are too important to lose. Maybe I’m being selfish in saying that, though? I refer so many people to your column and am always proud to say, “My friend wrote that.”

  23. I would go with your gut, because you are the one who will have to continue the relationship. I think it is encouraging that your editors are fighting for you, but at the end of the day, it matters most how you feel.

  24. I hate to jump on bandwagons, and I prefer to be unique but I have to agree with most of the people…I think you should stay and keep publishing your views. People need to have access to the voice of reason and your articles might be their only opportunity to hear it…

  25. Think if your words are touching more people because of where you are published. I know that your writing has changed the ways that I interact with children in a valuable way. If your ideas can be heard by more people, then that is better for every child. Hugs.

  26. If what you write for that paper causes even one person to actually think it will have been worth it, but it’s a tough decision. I tend to say/write what I think where ever I am and just accept the consequences, but I’m luck enough to live near Ithaca, N.Y., a very liberal area. Kudos to your bosses for sticking up for you and your viewpoint!

  27. I think it’s important to keep your voice out there even though you don’t agree with the paper’s editorial policy. Who knows? Some right-wing lunkhead might read one of your columns and reconsider his/her way of thinking.

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