A column about his experience sitting next to an overweight airplane passenger will be the last one Alan Linda writes for the Fergus Falls Daily Journal.
The newspaper last week expressed regret for printing the column and said it had parted ways with Linda, an unpaid community columnist who has written the “Prairie Spy” column for the paper for 30 years.
“I’ve gotten an overwhelmingly positive response over the decision,” Tim Engstrom, the Daily Journal’s editor and publisher, said Monday. “People say it’s the right thing to do.”
In an editorial last week, the newspaper’s editorial board explained the decision to cut ties with Linda, an Otter Tail County resident whose humorous columns have run in several other Minnesota newspapers over the years.
“Last Friday, his column was about sitting next to a larger person on an airplane,” the board wrote. “In the column, he called the person ‘fat’ and went on to describe a lack of sympathy for the man’s weight issue.
“Not only did this offend many of our readers, it offended us,” the editorial said. “Bullying others is not OK. Body shaming is not OK. … The list goes on, but you get the picture. Let’s debate the issues, not make personal attacks on people.”
The staff made a bad decision in publishing Linda’s column, the editorial said.
Asked to comment on his release, Linda emailed that he didn’t understand what the dispute was about.
Engstrom said he has no doubts about how his readers feel.
“When you’re a community newspaper like the Daily Journal, you’re close to the community,” he said. “They really let you know about things.”
Body-shaming is a behavior that once may have been acceptable, but isn’t any longer, Engstrom said.
“Personally, I think it’s a generational thing,” he said. “I think at one point you could talk about someone wearing glasses as a ‘four-eye,’ or make fun of a person’s weight or the color of their hair. Now people are, ‘No bullying, no body-shaming.’
“It all goes into the category of what’s acceptable these days, along with racism and homophobia. They’re kind of asking adults not to act like children.”