People like Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Osbourne and organizations like the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Gill Action Fund have come forward to urge a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Hotel Bel Air and other hotels that are part of the Dorchester Collection of posh hostelries. The reason? The hotels are owned by the Sultan of Brunei, who has announced his intention to implement a version of Islamic Sharia law that calls for flogging women who have abortions and stoning to death gay men and women.
But while the actions of the Dorchester Collection’s owner are provoking outrage across the nation and the world, you’re not likely to hear about it if you depend on the Beverly Hills Courier or the Beverly Hills Weekly for your news.
How could those newspapers turn a blind eye to the fact that two of that city’s most famous hotels are owned by a man who condones the torture and murder of people for being who they are? How could they ignore the calls for a boycott and the demonstration in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel that took place last weekend Well, John Seitz, senior editor of the Beverly Hills Courier, explains it this way: “We hardly want to promote that,” he told WEHOville. “We don’t particularly want to promote boycotts of our institutions here … We try to promote our local businesses.”
There is a chamber of commerce and dozens if not hundreds of public relations firms in Beverly Hills whose job is to promote businesses (at least if the PR firms are paid for it.) Someone should tell Mr. Seitz that the job of a newspaper, and that of a news website, is to report the news without fear or favor.
Let’s hope that Paula Kent Meehan understands that. She is the philanthropist who is buying The Courier from Clifton Smith, the cantankerous publisher whose denial of climate change is but one of many indications of his detachment from fact-based reality. Let’s also hope that Ms. Meehan explains the role of a newspaper to John Seitz, who seems much more qualified for a job in PR than as the senior editor of Beverly Hill’s most prominent newspaper. The Beverly Hills Weekly, which also hasn’t reported the call for a boycott of the hotels, so far hasn’t explained what it sees as the role of a newspaper. Both Publisher Josh Gross and Editor Nancy Yeang failed to returned calls from WEHOville seeking comment as to why they don’t seem to see the boycott as a story.
As the boycott of the Dorchester Collection hotels continues to grow, perhaps the citizens of Beverly Hills should consider another boycott — this one of local newspapers that see their job as comforting the comfortable rather comforting the afflicted, to adapt a line from the brilliant Finley Peter Dunne, a journalist who couldn’t be bought.