March 31, 2015

Although The Indianapolis Star suddenly made national news Tuesday with its bold front-page stand calling for a fix to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the newspaper had been talking over the decision since Sunday, Star editor Jeff Taylor tells Poynter.

The decision to take over the front page involved several higher-ups at the newspaper, including opinion editor Tim Swarens, publisher Karen Ferguson and Taylor himself. They knew they wanted to make a big statement on an issue that was important for the state and city, he said.

So, they discussed publishing a front-page editorial — and the decision to take over the front page — by phone and email Sunday afternoon. On Monday, they met one final time to confirm their choice.

“It wasn’t a snap decision,” he said.

So far, Taylor says, the reaction has been largely positive, although he says he’s heard from readers on social media and elsewhere who reacted negatively to the front page. No particular reaction has stood out in the hubbub following the publication of the editorial.

“I’ve been so busy this morning, I really haven’t had time to think about that, to be honest with you,” he said.

In response to critics who say the editorial compromises the paper’s ability to report on the issue objectively, Taylor points to the paper’s decision to publish dissenting views, which he says were popular items on the site. He also points to a story that recently ran in The Star that shows the law is “probably not as bad as the critics fear and it’s probably not as clear-cut as the proponents would like to believe,” he said.

“I think our record up till now demonstrates that we have covered this issue offering perspectives from both sides,” Taylor said.

Although Taylor has only been at The Star for less than three years, he says he can’t remember another time the newspaper devoted the front page to an editorial.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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