March 04, 2008
Obama's gay press snub?
Posted by: Chris
Reporter Eric Resnick of the Gay People's Chronicle has posted an angry column complaining that he was mistreated by Barack Obama's campaign when he sought an interview with the Ohio gay newspaper. Resnick complained that the candidate was not made available for a one-on-one interview and he was treated roughly by Robert Gibbs, Obama's national communications director:
I wasn't biting on the crap he tried to feed me, and he got offended. When I stood there not writing any of it down, Gibbs said to me, "Let me tell you how this works. I talk and you write down what I say."
"I'll write down what you say when you answer the question," I responded, adding that "I'm no campaign's stenographer." Gibbs actually took the pen and pad out of my hands and wrote his own answer!
As someone who edited six gay publications over a ten-year period, I would agree with Resnick that it's important such publications have access to newsmakers, including national political candidates.
Unfortunately, Resnick is a walking talking argument for why those publications often don't get the access they rightly deserve. Resnick acknowledges in his column that he was a vocal supporter of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich's presidential campaign and was even elected as a Kucinich delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
He may ask rhetorically whether reporters from the New York Times and the Cleveland Plain-Dealer would have been treated as he was by the Obama campaign. But of course neither of those publications would ever think of assigning as a reporter someone who had been elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention for another candidate.
If the free gay press wants to be taken as seriously as "the big boys," then it ought to play by the same rules. Assign reporters without any connection to any candidate who can ask objective questions. The result will be reporters who are much more respectful than standing in front of the press spokesman for a presidential candidate not writing down what he says. Or saying later in print that they weren't "biting the crap he was trying to feed me."
Taking accurate quotes from sources is not "campaign stenography," as Resnick alleges; it's reporting. Reporters almost never like the answers they get from politicians and (especially) their flaks, but it is disrespectful and unprofessional to simply ignore them until you get the answer you want.
Given Resnick's plain bias and his conduct more befitting an activist than a journalist, it's hardly surprising that he didn't get his interview with Obama. Why put the candidate in front of such a loose cannon who shows so little regard for the rules of journalism? I have a lot of respect for the Gay People's Chronicle, but the paper was was very poorly served by Resnick as a reporter.
Just compare on the one hand Resnick's report in the Gay People's Chron, which fixates on the New Jersey civil unions report and the issue of gay marriage -- even though Clinton and Obama agree on that point -- while making no mention of the fact that Clinton's position in favor of half-repeal of DOMA (which Resnick misstates) is different from Obama's support for full repeal.
Then, on the other hand, you have Editor Tammye Nash's more extensive and even-handed report in the Dallas Voice, which was based on exactly the same 15-minute phone call with Clinton.
Clinton should be credited for giving the interview, her second to the "free gay press," though I would note that her other "free gay press" interview was with Kevin Naff, the editor of the Washington Blade, who weeks earlier had endorsed Clinton for president in an editorial. I have enormous respect for the Blade and for Kevin, but he was the wrong person to do that interview as well.
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