This will be the second month in a row Chronogram is not publishing horoscopes after 23 years of running astrology in our pages. Many of you have written in asking, "Where are the horoscopes?" in varying degrees of curiosity and distress. While I wasn't planning on addressing this issue directly when we parted ways with Eric Francis Coppolino, it's become clear that readers deserve an explanation—my apologies for its belated expression.
In late February of this year, we received a letter to the editor from a woman about Eric Francis Coppolino's column in the February issue, which dealt with #MeToo. I'll get to the letter in a jiffy, but first, a recap of Eric's column. Eric was in general agreement with much of the movement's goals: "It should be clear to men that it's time to take a step back and evaluate our ideas about who and what women are, and how to approach women in social and professional situations." But he also had serious reservations about the #MeToo's movement's power to cause a cultural shift—"Hashtags, protests, and taking out individual accusers is not structural change—and, moreover, not about personal healing."—and he wrote that due process for the accused was often nowhere to be found once accusation were made: "If this is some foreshadowing of 'the future is female,' no thanks—I'll stick to patriarchy. At least there, one has a right to face and question one's accuser."
A note on Eric's writing, in two parts—one on his horoscopes, and one on his column. I may, in fact, be the world's foremost authority on the writing of Eric Francis Coppolino. As his editor of 20 years, I've read every column he's written for us in that time, as well as all 12 horoscopes each month. And while I'm not trained in astrology—I know that Eric's horoscopes are amazingly effective in connecting with people on a spiritual/emotional level. This has made the horoscopes a popular feature in the magazine. And having read almost 150 horoscopes a year for 20 years, I think I've figured out why. Regardless of what you make of an astrologer's process in reading the stars, horoscopes are a written form. One of the reasons Eric's horoscopes are so good is that he's a talented writer. He also follows a formula in his horoscopes, elegant in its simplicity, that's structured like this: You, dear [insert astrological sign here] are facing a challenge. And you have the internal resources to overcome it. That's it! It's an up-with-people message that empowers readers to trust their intuitions and not only cope with what the world may throw at them, but promises that they can thrive as well.
In his columns, Eric has been a bit of a bomb-thrower over the years, not afraid to skewer shibboleths like the cultural proscriptions against masturbation and polyamory. Eric is heedless of being perceived as politically incorrect. He's intellectually wide-ranging and able to synthesize strands of thought from politics, literature, psychology, pop culture, and history into cogent analysis. Eric is also a lover of a provocative stance, and he likes to remind his readers to be unconstrained by cultural mores or defined modes of thinking, as that may lead to greater personal freedom.
But back to that letter we received. The letter writer criticized Eric's piece for "disparaging and condescending" to the #MeToo movement in various ways for four paragraphs. The last paragraph of her letter, however, contained a story about a sexual encounter between the writer and Eric that had taken place 20 years earlier. We chose to publish the letter in the April issue without the final paragraph—with the letter writer's consent.
Once the April issue was published, a friend of the letter writer posted the letter in its entirety on their Facebook page, including the last paragraph describing the encounter with Eric. #MeToo wheels started turning. This triggered an outpouring of stories about Eric, on social media and elsewhere. A meeting was held of those who had stories to share. A spokesperson of sorts emerged. I was contacted by the spokesperson and met with them. I was told that there were serious allegations against Eric brought forward by a number of people, but not specifically what they were. At this point, we engaged an outside investigator to gather information and speak with members of our community, including Eric himself.
Before I speak further about the outcome of the investigation, a few words on due process. We all have our critics, our detractors, those who would like to see us receive a karmic comeuppance of some sort, personal or professional. If the totality of my own behavior was scrutinized under a white-hot spotlight, I'm sure some unflattering stories would emerge. Who could say otherwise? The idea of an investigation and an intentional process is to understand allegations in context and be able to consider the findings with a cool head. As Eric himself has noted, the prime criticism of #MeToo has been a lack of due process for the accused. (A point brought up in S. Lillian Horst's letter to the editor on page 22.) Chronogram chose to undertake a third-party investigation because we did not want to railroad anyone without due process. As I was aware of how the investigation was conducted, I am confident in its integrity.
While the findings of the investigation are confidential, what I found out led me to sever Chronogram's longstanding relationship with Eric Francis Coppolino. It revealed a pattern of behavior not aligned with the values of this publication and the community it represents.
I have a Post-It note pinned to the wall next to my desk with four words written on it: Make choices, have reasons. This dictum reminds me not to be paralyzed into inaction when confronted by tough decisions. Removing Planet Waves horoscopes from the magazine was not an easy decision nor one taken lightly. Perhaps a different editor would have acted differently. I can only follow my own intuition on this matter. We are currently searching for a new astrologer, and hope to have one in place for the August issue.
Chronogram is bigger than any one person. It's bigger than a popular astrologer; it's bigger than me, its editor for the last 20 years. What Chronogram is not bigger than is its ideals and its integrity. As long as I am editor, I will seek to uphold those ideals and safeguard its integrity so it may most faithfully serve its community.