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May 07, 2013 7:53 am

EDITORIAL: Billboard backlash

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Problems with how the message was delivered

Last week a graphic billboard showing dead wolves rekindled the region’s hotly contested wolf debate once more.

We ardently support First Amendment rights, but also understand why the billboard was removed after only a few days.

In this case, there were problems with the way the message was delivered.

Freedom of speech comes with a responsibility. We respect individuals and organizations who identify themselves and proudly stand behind whatever argument they’re making, no matter how controversial it is.

Brandishing a bloody image that is sure to offend beneath a cloak of anonymity undercuts the integrity of the message.

Project: WOLF, the group that purchased the billboard, did not provide any contact information on the website the sign directed visitors to. The billboard company, Lamar, was then stuck with receiving dozens of angry phone calls and emails that instead should have been directed at the group that designed and purchased the billboard.

There’s a reason newspapers require authors of letters and columns to give their full names. Just go online to see how vicious and savage arguments become when anonymity prevails and accountability is lost.

After comparing the billboard to an image from a Canadian hunter, the Tribune believes the photograph was altered to make it appear more bloody.

The billboard did renew the unpleasantries between wolf hunters and wolf lovers, but arguments from either side are not new.

What made this situation unique was how the controversial message was delivered — with illustrated bright red blood dripping down a billboard along a popular Cody street. Apparently little consideration was given to how young children would respond to such a graphic image easily viewed from a vehicle’s window.

The wolf debate will continue as it has for years, and it’s likely this latest round will only fuel further passion from each side. We encourage those on both sides to continue exercising their freedom of speech, but to do so with civility — an endangered concept in America today.

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