May 12, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Perhaps one silver lining from the horrible tragedy that is Brian Betts' murder will be a review by the Washington Post of its antiquated policy of when to report a story subject's sexual orientation. We've seen the issue arise in the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court (more on that later) but the Post ombudsman took it on in connection with reporting on the killing of the popular D.C. high school principal, who was closeted by the paper's coverage even though he was out to friends and family before his death.
The Post's policy is:
“A person's sexual orientation should not be mentioned unless relevant to the story... When identifying an individual as gay or homosexual, be cautious about invading the privacy of someone who may not wish his or her sexual orientation known.”
The policy in and of itself is fine, but the application of "relevant" has resulted in setting a bar that is much higher if a person is gay than it is for those who are straight. My guess is that no WaPo reporter even consults the policy before reporting that a murder victim, or beloved principal, or prominent businessman or politician is heterosexual. And yet the kid gloves come on before a reporter will broach those same story subjects if they are rumored to be gay.
I have long held that the same rules ought to apply to everyone, period. If the Post is doing a feature on a high school principal, then he/she will of course be asked if he's married, partnered, etc. The reporter ought to ask the question and print the response, whatever it is. "Outing" comes into play only if a reporter delves behind an answer, or a non-answer, into the private life of the person -- something I agree should be very rare and only necessitated by the person's sexual orientation being highly relevant and newsworthy.
In the case of a murder victim like Betts, his sexual orientation ought to be reported without hesitation if he was out to friends and family -- as was the case here. The fact that the victim was apparently lured into meeting his killers on a phone sex chat line makes the information even more relevant -- both to his story and as a public safety message for the gay community at-large.
February 26, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Your mean-spirited, vaguely mysogynist, anonymous-sourced hatchet job on Sarah Palin and Meg Stapleton actually induced the first feelings of sympathy I've ever felt for either.
Can't wait for the book.
February 14, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Why is it that every time it seems the momentum is growing to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, some poorly sourced news article appears predicting the process of repeal will take longer and longer to accomplish?
The last few days brought news that:
- An updated survey of Military Times readers, mostly veterans historically hostile toward open service by gays, showed an even split on the question.
- New polling showed fully three-fourths of Americans generally favor repeal of DADT, including a majority of Republicans and conservatives.
- Lt. Dan Choi, whose outspoken and passionate advocacy as a gay Army reservist has made him the face of DADT repeal efforts, was invited to participate in drills with his unit even though he has been facing discharge over the policy.
- Moderate senators on the Armed Services Committee threw their support behind the review of the policy announced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
- Former Vice President Dick Cheney, the voice of GOP conservatives on issues of national security, came out in favor of the review as well, and signaled that the time has come to end the ban:
"When the chiefs come forward and say, ‘We think we can do it,’ then it strikes me as it’s time to reconsider the policy, and I think Admiral Mullen said that,” Cheney said during an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
Cheney said the U.S. military supported “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993 when the law banning open service was put in place, but said “things have changed, significantly, since then” and predicted the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as it currently stands.
“I see that … Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint of Chiefs of Staff, has indicated he is belief that we ought to support change in the policy, so I think that — my guess is the policy will be changed,” Cheney said.
When Karl pressed Cheney further on whether he personally supports repeal, Cheney said said “it’s partly a generational issue” and he’s “reluctant to second guess the military” because “they’re the ones that have got to make the judgment on how these policies affect the military capability of our units.”
And yes despite all these positive developments, an AP story by Anne Flaherty in today's New York Times predicted "a complete repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy is probably years away":
The two officials appointed to lead a yearlong internal assessment -- Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, and Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson -- met for the first time on Feb. 9.
As that study gets under way, officials were expected by mid-March to suggest ways to relax enforcement of the law. Of particular interest is minimizing cases of ''third party outings,'' where a service member is kicked out after being reported by others to be gay.
The protracted time line is about more than giving military leaders time to assess the impact on troops and put new rules in place. The multiyear process also is a strategic way of getting troops used to the idea before they have to accept change. Politically, the time line puts off congressional debate over lifting the ban until after elections this fall.
The entire story is sourced to unnamed "senior defense and military officials," and fails to abide by a New York Times policy that requires at a minimum that such anonymous sources explain why they will not talk on the record.
Shoddy journalism aside, the article suggests shoddy activism as well. The Human Rights Campaign website shows no public statements or pushes on DADT since Feb. 5, further contributing to a sense that our "inside the Beltway" gay groups are as out of the loop on the process for DADT repeal than they were on pressuring the president and Congress to raise the issue last month.
At issue at this point is not whether Don't Ask Don't Tell will be repealed, but when. Now is the time for HRC and the other D.C. gay groups to shine.
The entire argument in favor of having a well-resourced organization of inside lobbyists like HRC, and in particular well-paid leaders like Joe Solmonese and David Smith is that they know how to massage the process and leverage our efforts to win our equality sooner than we would otherwise.
Will they mobilize the gay community and our progressive allies to prevent the Pentagon review to delay the legislative process toward repeal? Will they, at a minimum, succeed in making a moratorium on DADT discharges -- all discharges, not just so-called "third party complaints" -- an amendment to the Defense Department budget bill?
Or what will it take for the millionaire activists of Gay Rights, Inc., to earn the salary or be replaced?
February 04, 2010
Posted by: Chris
On the subject of the Q&A that President Obama had with House Republicans in Baltimore last week, and with Senate Democrats yesterday, there is a movement afoot to institutionalize something like the weekly Question Time the British prime minister has with members of the opposition in Parliament. You can sign an online petition at DemandQuestionTime.com.
The White House is already signaling resistance to the idea -- no doubt Rahm Emmanuel's handiwork -- and Harry Reid proved just how quickly a great idea can be spoiled by gamesmanship. Yesterday's Q&A with Senate Democrats just so happened to feature moderates facing re-election this year, each of whom asked tough questions of the president that they can now use in campaign commercials back home.
Am I the only one hoping very much that the Republicans unseat Reid this year so we can take our chances with Dick Durbin at the Senate helm?
If you missed last week's at times remarkable exchange, I strongly encourage you to view the video below. As someone strongly sympathetic to the president, I thought he made mincemeat of his critics, but whatever your politics, the largely respectful and meaningful exchange is the type that has been so sorely lacking in Washington for years now.
(Top: House Republican leaders John Boehner of Ohio, Eric Cantor of Virginia and Mike Pence of Indiana watch President Obama address their caucus last week in Baltimore, via New York Times).
June 16, 2009
Posted by: Chris
Update at the end of this post:
Tongues are wagging about the apparent delisting of Planet Out, Inc. -- which trades under the symbol LGBT -- from the Nasdaq stock exchange. A post today on Queerty speculates that Planet Out's stock was yanked because the company failed to comply with a 15-day warning from Nasdaq about maintaining a minimum of $10 million in capitalization. I wonder if that's really the reason, or if something less sinister is afoot.
Obviously there've been quite a bit more than 15 days since the March warning from Nasdaq, which makes that the unlikely trigger. Today's date does figure prominently, however, in a June 4 filing by Planet Out with the SEC. In that document, the company's management reveals an amendment to the merger agreement inked between Planet Out and Regent Entertainment Media -- which owns here! TV as well as the Advocate and Out magazines, formerly published by Planet Out.
Under the terms of an amendment to the plan filed back in April, either party could pull out by the end of May if the other party had not been able to complete the merger. The June 4 filing extended that pull-out deadline until yesterday, June 15. So was Planet Out delisted because the merger fell through or because it finally went through?
We now have our answer, courtesy of a press release announcing that the PlanetOut merger with Regent Media/Here Networks was successfully completed. That's great news for gay media, considering survival at this point is an accomplishment in the current economic environment and the steep decline of media business fortunes:
New company will operate under name Here Media Inc.
June 16, 2009 (LOS ANGELES, CA and SAN FRANCISCO, CA) – Here Networks LLC announced today the completion of the business combination of Here Networks LLC and its publishing affiliate, which includes the LGBT publications The Advocate and Out, with PlanetOut Inc. (formerly-traded under the ticker symbol, LGBT). The new public company resulting from this business combination will be named Here Media Inc. with Stephen P. Jarchow serving as Chairman and Paul Colichman serving as CEO.
On Wednesday, June 10, 2009, the holders of a majority of the outstanding shares of PlanetOut Inc. common stock voted to approve the proposed business combination.
“The close of this deal represents an exciting moment for LGBT consumers across the globe,” said Stephen P. Jarchow and Paul Colichman. “We look forward to bringing new features that will enhance the user experience and keep our customers engaged.”
Here Media now becomes the premier global company for providing news and entertainment to the LGBT community. The company is also uniquely positioned to provide advertisers opportunities to reach its niche audience across platforms including television, online, print publishing, and filmed entertainment. Here Media’s unmatched reach positions the company as a leader in creating an interactive relationship with consumers across all its iconic brands.
Jarchow and Colichman, along with current PlanetOut Inc. Chairman Phil Kleweno, will serve as the initial board of directors of Here Media.
About Here Media
Here Media, Inc. produces and distributes niche content across all platforms worldwide. Here Media’s iconic brands distribute gay media and world cinema programming with universal, humanistic appeal. Its distribution platforms include theaters, television, VOD, broadband, online, print and mobile. It earns subscription, advertising and licensing revenue from its award-winning content.
Here Media owns and operates a variety of media assets including:
Here Studios, a full service motion picture studio. Here Films, a motion picture distribution company. here! Networks, a premium television network featuring programming that appeals to a gay and lesbian audience airing in 96 of the top 100 US markets, including every top 10 market. Iconic print brands including Out, Advocate and HIV Plus, as well as Alyson Books. Online properties including Gay.com, Planetout.com, Advocate.com, Out.com and SheWired.com which provide broadband video and social networking.
Paul Colichman is Chief Executive Officer of Here Media and Stephen P. Jarchow is Chairman. Together, they have produced and/or distributed over 200 motion pictures including Academy Award® winners “Gods and Monsters” and “Departures."
June 08, 2009
Posted by: Chris
I had to smile when I read a post welcoming me back to blogging from a somewhat unlikely source: Michael Petrelis. It was something of an understatement for Michael, a longtime gay, AIDS and human rights activist, to write that we have had "a sometimes adversarial acquaintance over the years."
During my tenure editing Southern Voice in Atlanta, the Washington Blade and the other publications in the Window Media family, Petrelis left me his share of screaming voice mails. He was usually complaining about our decision not to give what he considered adequate coverage to a story or, more frequently, to source stories from outside the usual Beltway suspects.
He was a pain in the ass, frankly, to me and my reporters, but then again, that's what the long lost art of activism is all about. I still differ with him on his methods at times, as well as on substance occasionally, but then and now Michael was at times spot-on in his criticism. I particularly took to heart his complaint that we should never do a story about HIV/AIDS without at least one quote from someone living with the disease, and I worked with the reporters to make it something of a rule for our coverage.
Anyway, Michael has long been an ally -- along with Andrew Sullivan, the Gay Patriot folks and my co-blogger Kevin -- about the massive waste of potential and resources that is the Human Rights Campaign. It was on this point that Michael welcomed me back to blogging. And I have to say, thanks Micchael, it's good to be back.
(Photo of Michael Petrelis protesting U.N. secretary general via Clinton Fein)
June 06, 2009
Posted by: Chris
Oprah routinely grabs viewers with the sort of tales of the strange and absurd that might be found a few clicks over on Maury Povich or Jerry Springer: women who leave their husbands for other women.
Newsweek Magazine ("Why Health Advice on 'Oprah' Could Make You Sick")
June 05, 2009
Posted by: Chris
Me thinks they doth protest too much, our friends at the Human Rights Campaign. Trevor Thomas has fired off an angry response by Blackberry to Jason Bellini's Daily Beast report alleging HRC cut a deal to delay pressing for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell until next year. Wrote Thomas:
This story is not only an outright lie, it is recklessly irresponsible. HRC never made such a deal and continues to work with congress and the administration on a full range of equality issues including a swift end to the military's shameful ban on gay servicemembers.
Considering that Bellini's claim to a go-slow deal on DADT was (a) sourced to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, and (b) confirmed on camera by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, thereby (c) confirming what Beltway gays have known for months, it appears that (d): HRC's Thomas, while using his Blackberry, was in fact talking out of a much lower extremity.
April 30, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
The good news is that after many years of being excluded during the Bush administration, the LGBT press is again being invited to White House press conferences. Last night, Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade was there. At the presser before, Lou Chibbaro of the Blade was in attendance. I'm told they will be alternating attendance at the press conferences.
I can't wait until one of them is called upon. I hope they don't waste their opportunity with a question on ENDA or Hate Crimes. We already know what the president will do with those bills.
I think they should go for a general mulit-part question that asks Obama what his roadmap for achieving LGBT equality is and also for a timeline. They should specifically cite equality in the workplace, the military, couples recognition, and immigration. Last night the president proved he can handle (and even relish in) such multi-part questions when he had to write down the various components of the New York Times reporter's question, then ticked off the answers over the next 5 minutes. That's what I would like for our "gay" question.
Even though Deb Price was called on by President Obama last night, she did not ask an LGBT question. I only know Deb by her LGBT column and assumed that was her main area of interest. I didn't realize that her main duty was as a mainstream reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Thus her question was about the auto industry. Within a few seconds I was very excited, then rapidly let down when she started her question.
I think we will have better luck with Chibarro or Johnson.
February 23, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
If an Oscar were given for best acceptance speech while receiving an Oscar, Dustin Lance Black would win my vote. Black, who won the Academy Award for for Best Original Screenplay for "Milk," brought tears to my eyes with a brief description of his own personal struggle of being gay in a hostile world, then gave hope to millions of young gays by paraphrasing Harvey Milk, asking them to love themselves and assuring them that very soon they would have equal rights federally across this land.
February 10, 2009
Posted by: Chris
I wrote recently about how economic woes have accelerated the difficulties facing the media industry in general and gay media in particular. Window Media, the company I co-founded back in 1997 and where I headed up editorial operations for more than a decade, has been no exception.
The latest news, reported in Gay City News -- a longtime competitor to Window's New York Blade and HX Magazine -- is that Avalon Equity Partners, the New York-based venture capital firm that has funded Window's growth since 2001, has been put into receivership by the Small Business Administration. The SBA took the drastic step after Avalon failed over a period of time to maintain adequate reserves relative to the $38 million the SBA has put into Avalon.
The SBA will now take steps to sell off the assets of Avalon to satisfy its debts and to return as much money as possible to the fund's investors. It's unclear the impact that will have on the gay publications that are owned by companies that, while in Avalon's portfolio, are not owned outright by the VC firm.
Although the term "Window Media" is often used to describe the whole range of publications related to Avalon, the company Window Media LLC owns only the Washington Blade and Southern Voice newspaper in Atlanta. A number of original investors in Window, most residents of Atlanta, retain their ownership in Window, as do I and as does William Waybourn, my co-founder. So while Avalon owns a controlling interest in Window Media, the Blade and SoVo are not "assets" of Avalon, per se.
The same is true of other publications in the Window Media "family," including those owned by Unite Media LLC: David Atlanta magazine, the South Florida Blade (formerly Express Gay News), and 411 magazine in Fort Lauderdale. Also, Unite entered into a joint ownership arrangement with HX Media that publishes HX, the New York Blade and previously published the New England Blade (formerly In Newsweekly) and HX Philadelphia. Then there's Genre magazine, which may well be owned outright by Avalon.
Much has been written over the years about whether the consolidation of gay media titles was a positive development for the publications or the communities they serve. The reality has varied greatly, depending in large part by the staff at each publication, the source fund doing the aggregating, and the communities themselves. In some cases, consolidation saved publications that would have otherwise folded, or at least preserved them for a number of years longer than they would have. In many cases, consolidation resulted in greatly improved editorial quality. In some cases, unfortunately, consolidation has meant an unrelenting focus on the bottom line, without regard to the way in which editorial quality and commitment to community are integrally important to the economic health of these publications.
The news about Avalon is still fresh, although the receivership actually occurred way back in August 2008, and there will be more no doubt to report. At this point, it's unclear whether the troubled status of the money source behind these eight gay publications will trickle down or not. I'll let you know more when I do.
January 19, 2009
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: I've updated this post to correct a couple of errors. I originally reported that editorial positions in addition to Mike Fleming's were eliminated by Window Media last week in D.C. and Atlanta. They were actually eliminated last fall. In addition, Mike's leap from sales to editorial came earlier than I remembered, when he moved to New Orleans in 2001 to take over the editorial reins in that office, not when he subsequently moved to Atlanta, as I originally related. Sorry for the errors!
PlanetOut isn't the only gay media conglomerate undergoing change and laying off top staff. The Window Media family of local gay publications last week eliminated several positions in Washington and Atlanta, including that of a key editorial position, just five months after eliminating two other editorial positions in Washington and Atlanta. Last week's casualty was Mike Fleming, editor of David Atlanta magazine and arts editor of Southern Voice, the city's gay newspaper.
I know both the company and the editor very, very well. I co-founded Window Media way back in 1997, and Southern Voice was our first publication, purchased in August of that year. I remain a co-owner of the company. Only a few months after SoVo, we added the Houston Voice and Mike Fleming was brought on board in April 1998 as the local publisher. That same day, I hired Matt Hennie to be the paper's new editor.
The two soon became best friends, but the Mike-and-Matt-Show was terrific professionally as well. Together and supported by a small but dedicated staff, they revitalized a dying gay newspaper and raised it to higher standards that ever before.
They would both go on to serve in a number of key positions over a decade of involvement with Window Media. Matt came back to Atlanta, working as my managing editor at SoVo and later taking over the publication when I moved to D.C. in 2001.
That same year, Mike decided to "jump the fence" to the editorial side, a rare move in an industry that (usually) treats separation between sales and editorial like the Constitution (usually) treats church and state. Mike won over skeptics, myself included, tackling with gusto, talent and a genuine commitment to the community the editorial challenges of our two publications in New Orleans, and later in Atlanta at Southern Voice and Eclipse (later David).
Matt eventually moved on from SoVo, jumping a different fence into the P.R. world, though he has returned to his roots with the terrific new site Project Q Atlanta. Mike soldiered on, even as both publications he cared about struggled through shifting priorities and difficult economic times.
The Atlanta LGBT community is better for it, just as the communities in Houston and New Orleans were previously.
Now Mike has been "downsized," and if you read his very personal final editor's note in David -- written without any idea that it would be his swansong -- it's almost eerily prescient:
A wise person once said, and a talented young man recently reminded me, "Change, and the world changes with you." We've been hearing a lot about change lately. …
Have you done any real introspection lately? What steps can you take, not just in the New Year as some resolution you'll break, but to find permanent solutions to long-term issues you drag around? You need to be the best you can be if we're going to pull this off.
And speaking of you, it's not all about you. Another funny thing about "we" is that one of the best ways to help ourselves is to help each other. That's something I don't think enough of us incorporate into our lives, and it's crucial to realizing the dreams of America's new era.
Mike goes on to practice what he preaches, taking a hard look at his own life and what he can do to give something back. I hope he realizes, even as he says goodbye to 11 years with Window Media, that he and Matt both have already given back immeasurably to the communities they love.
We all -- but especially your's truly -- owe them a huge thank you for that.
(Photo of Matt Hennie, left, and Mike Fleming via Facebook)
December 14, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Well, it came to my attention today that Mark has taken his shots at me as well, if stealthily so. His criticisms came in a comment in response to a post on Queerty about Donald Hitchcock's suit against Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee. (It will be very interesting to see what comes of that litigation once Barack Obama's people are in full swing at the DNC.)
As the unnamed Blade editor that Mark so roundly condemns, I can't resist responding. Mark is understandably thin-skinned about how the trained journalists who report and edit the news at the Blade have for years separated news from opinion and observed the separation of editorial and sales.
As Mark will remind you within the first five seconds of practically every conversation, he is both PGN publisher and editorial czar, and as such he regularly runs roughshod over "high principals of Journalism" (otherwise known as "high principles of journalism") by using the paper to pursue his own personal agenda, politically and financially.
Regardless, since Mark was so thankful the Blade had a new editor, I'll note in response the glaring factual error and 15+ grammatical/spelling/usage errors in his comment:
It is very conceivable that the democratic [sic] Party or any other person [sic] who appreciates fair and unbiased journalism would at that point not appreciate The D.C. Blade [sic]. The Blade at that point to my understanding was more like the National enquirer [sic] or the Globe then [sic] a publication that upheld the high principals [sic] of Journalism [sic and ironic!]. Gee, wasn't this the paper that put a male hooker on it's [sic] cover as a columnist [wrong!]? and [sic] that editor claimed he knows journalism. [sic] Thank the leaders of windows [sic] Media for replacing him, or was it a resignation? Anyway at that time, i'd [sic] line my birdcage with the blade [sic]….. I't [sic] is beneficial to the entire LGBT community that it is getting back on it's [sic] feet, and it's [sic] long nightmare of bad editors is hopefully behind it.
Remind me again who needs a better editor?
(Photo of Mark Segal via PGN)
October 03, 2008
Posted by: Chris
We already know that public opinion is moving rapidly toward support of full marriage equality for same-sex couples, but sometimes it still catches me surprise. Take the discussion on CNN's "Situation Room" just a few minutes ago, when journalist lion Carl Bernstein offered his thoughts on the gay marriage discussion in last night's vice presidential debate.
After pointing out that the impression left by Sarah Palin, supporting at least basic rights for same-sex couples, doesn't square with the McCain/GOP position or even her own view, Bernstein said he suspected Joe Biden didn't offer his actual view either.
Over the years, I've grown accustomed to bracing myself when I hear one white-haired politico talk about what another white-haired politico thinks about gay issues, especially marriage. And so I was surprised when, instead, Carl Bernstein said what we gay folk having been saying (and hoping) for years -- that (paraphrasing here) even though Biden stated his opposition, "inside Joe Biden's head, he probably has no problem with gay marriage."
September 19, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Is it just me or is there something a bit screwy about the Obama campaign's relationship with the gay press? First, Obama avoided gay media interviews during the primary -- save for a 15-minute chat with the Advocate to defend himself in the Donnie McClurkin flap.
He caught quite a bit of flak as a result, especially from Philadelphia Gay News owner/publisher Mark Segal, who published a Hillary Clinton interview on the front page alongside blank space symbolizing Obama's supposed snub. Segal, a long-time activist who is regularly accused locally of using the paper to promote his own views and himself, neglected to inform readers that he was a Clinton donor.
Now, in the last week, Obama has responded to questions from two GLBT publications, but both "interviews" were outside the norm. First, there was an email Q&A with the Washington Blade, which the questions placed curiously enough by Bill Kapfer, the publisher of Genre Magazine and a co-president of Window Media, the Blade's parent company (which I co-founded).
Then today we have an actual live Q&A with -- drum roll please -- none other than said activist/non-journalist/Clinton donor Mark Segal. Maybe it's just coincidence, or maybe it's just publisher types horning in on big interviews, or maybe it's a calculation by the Obama camp that non-journalists are less likely to throw the hardball questions. (Think Sarah Palin's chat with Sean Hannity.)
If that's the case, it paid off with Segal. The "news" from the interview picked up by the mainstream media was Obama's response to whether he would, in Segal's words, "end 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' by attaching a signing order to a military appropriations bill." It was the same errant question Segal asked Hillary back in March, ignoring the fact that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was codified by Congress and cannot legally be undone by a "signing statement," "executive order" or other unilateral action by the president.
Obama's response was nonetheless thoughtful, even if it was taken as something as a retreat by some:
I would not do it that way. The reason is because I want to make sure that when we reverse “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it’s gone through a process and we’ve built a consensus or at least a clarity of that, of what my expectations are, so that it works.
My first obligation as the president is to make sure that I keep the American people safe and that our military is functioning effectively. Although I have consistently said I would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I believe that the way to do it is make sure that we are working through a process, getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff clear in terms of what our priorities are going to be. That’s how we were able to integrate the armed services to get women more actively involved in the armed services.
At some point, you’ve got to make a decision that that’s the right thing to do, but you always want to make sure that you are doing it in a way that maintains our core mission in our military.
I read Obama as talking more about timing than giving the Pentagon a veto over repeal of the notorious policy, and there's every indication in recent years that the military is already "there" on junking "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," even if (the Democratic-controlled) Congress lacks the will to pull the trigger.
There were two questions in the brief chat that broke a bit more ground. Segal asked Obama another somewhat cryptic hypothetical: If a constitutional challenge is brought against the Defense of Marriage Act, would Obama instruct his attorney general to file a brief supporting the claim?
Again the question is based on a legal fallacy -- that the president can order the Department of Justice to join one side or the other of a constitutional claim. Even George W. Bush's A.G. recognizes his professional independence to determine constitutional questions.
Obama, whose biggest policy difference with Hillary Clinton during the primaries was his support for full repeal of DOMA, was once again patient with his response:
DOMA was an unnecessary encroachment by the federal government in an area traditionally reserved for the state. I think that it was primarily sent as a message to score political points instead of work through these difficult issues.
I recognize why it was done. I’m sympathetic to the political pressures involved, but I think that we need to bring it to a close and my preference would be to work through a legislative solution.
I would also point out that if it’s going before this court, I’m not sure what chances it would have to be overturned. I think we’re going to have to take a different approach, but I am absolutely committed to the concept it is not necessary.
Easily the best question Segal asked was on foreign policy, pressing whether Obama would raise mistreatment of GLBT citizens as a human rights issue in dealing with foreign countries. Obama's response was very encouraging:
I think that the treatment of gays, lesbians and transgender persons is part of this broader human-rights discussion. I think it is not acceptable that we would in any way carve out exceptions for our broader human-rights advocacy to exclude violations of human rights based on sexual orientation. I think that has to be part and parcel of any conversations we have about human rights.
I certainly can't imagine John McCain giving that kind of answer, but then again the only question McCain would likely answer the same as Obama was the softball about whether he and his wife would attend a gay friend's commitment ceremony. Any politician with half a brain and/or half a heart would say yes to that, right?
Audio of the Obama interview available here: Download Obama.mp3 .
Posted by: Chris
I am very happy to tell you some good news about a good friend of mine who has bounced back from some tough times.
After a hiatus of several months, my friend Richard Quest -- one of the few openly gay anchors on CNN or any other news channel -- is back on the air. He is once again hosting "CNN Business Traveller," which airs on CNN International. (Mondays at midnight here in Rio De Janeiro, and Mondays in the AM in Europe and elsewhere. Check the schedule here.)
Unfortunately, it appears "Business Traveller" doesn't air in North America, but you can still check out Richard's inimitable -- and un-imitatable -- style by watching clips online.
So far no official word on Richard's other CNN show -- "Quest" -- and it appears CNN has disabled the link for the show on its site. I'll see if I can find out more.
Regardless, CNN should be commended for sticking by one of its most talented anchors, and Richard should be commended for working through an incredibly difficult time, made tougher by nasty bloggers -- many of them gay -- who found it more interesting to violate his personal privacy than recognize the contribution he makes by being openly gay in an industry where most are still hiding. (You listening, Anderson?)
UPDATE: Just thought I would add a note about another openly gay news anchor, formerly of CNN, who went through some very tough times of his own.
I've also had the pleasure on a couple occasions to meet Thomas Roberts, a regular on CNN Headline News for many years, and just found out via Google and Wikipedia that he's been back on the air for a while now, covering the Hollywood celebrity beat for "The Insider." He talks all about it in this Advocate cover story from back in May.
Kudos to Thomas, as well, for bouncing back from adversity. I hope he is enjoying his (somewhat) new beat.
September 04, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Considering all the hits she took in her short time in the spotlight, the feisty speech served notice she can give as good as she gets. Palin is an engaging public speaker, certainly more effective than John McCain and those who preceded her at the podium last night.
For Republican partisans and others turned off (or envious) of Barack Obama and his adoring masses, the speech was a clear home run. A woman's softer delivery is better suited for using humor to mock and belittle because it doesn't come off as mean-spirited -- so long as it isn't shrill.
To that extent, Palin's dismissive tone about an opponent she seemed to pity more than dislike harkened back to Ann Richards' legendary stemwinder against George H.W. Bush at the 1988 Democratic convention. ("Poor George, he can't help it if he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.") Then and now, the anti-elitist rhetoric was the perfect red meat for energizing the base.
I was a Republican back in those days but at least interested in what the other side had to say. I remember laughing along with Richards -- how could you not like her? But in the end, all those raucous applause lines Richards delivered so well had done little to convince undecided voters to ditch Bush (despite his frighteningly unqualified running mate), much less pull the lever for Michael Dukakis. I would say the same about last night.
That's my sense about Palin's speech, which included surprising little substance about the economic issues that will decide the election. She did, at least, come off as a more formidable campaigner than Dan Quayle, though she wind up as tarnished by scandal as Geraldine Ferraro.
What's more, Sarah Palin is no Ann Richards. Last night at least, she came off half as genuine and twice as smug. Andrew Sullivan absolutely hit the nail on the head when he compared Palin to Tracy Flick, the annoyingly smirky candidate for student body president that Reese Witherspoon played so brilliantly in "Election." (Speaking of annoying, it really rubbed me the wrong way to see Cindy McCain chortling along to Palin's shots at Obama, the supposed elitist. Talk about someone born with a silver foot in her mouth.)
If that seems like way too many comparisons, it's because Palin remains an empty vessel at this point, partly because she's still unwilling to submit to tough questioning by the "media elite." (This weekend's Sunday talk shows will feature McCain on "Face the Nation," Obama on "This Week," and Joe Biden on "Meet the Press." Notice anyone missing?)
Time will tell if I was off-base in my first reaction, thinking McCain had "blown the election" by selecting someone so clearly unqualified. At this point, I agree with those (including conservatives) who point out the Palin pick ultimately says less about her than it does McCain's reckless, knee jerk approach to decision-making.
September 03, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Barack Obama makes history as not only the first black presidential nominee, but the first with two dads! Those Log Cabin boys must be feeling pretty darn foolish right about now!
Somewhere in Washington, Ted Koppel is turning over in his, er, bed. Hair perfectly intact, natch.
August 31, 2008
Posted by: Chris
As Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Louisiana coast, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper is there on the scene in his tight T-shirt to give viewers the blow by blow. Unfortunately for Cooper, a longtime closet case, the annual gay bacchanalia Southern Decadence was canceled this afternoon in response.
All hope for Anderson isn't lost, however, since many of the gay boys who apparently "packed Bourbon Street" just last night are no doubt still there and even more stir crazy.
For those who believe that God uses hurricanes to express disapproval with His peeps, the message here is clearly mixed. On the one hand, this is the second time in four years that a tropical storm took out SoDec, since Katrina did the same in 2005. On the other, the Katrina aftermath was a disaster for an anti-gay White House, and Gustav has already claimed as its victim the first day of the Republican National Convention.
(For a good laugh or disgust -- you choose -- check out this Gustav thread from the arch-conservative FreeRepublic.com. It's since been pulled -- the Freep moderator explained, "We really really REALLY don't need this" -- but Google has it cached for posterity's sake.)
(SoDec photo via David Dust's blog)
August 14, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I want to extend congratulations to my former colleagues over at the Washington Blade for a big prize won by the paper and reporter Joshua Lynsen. The National Newspaper Association, a "mainstream media" organization that includes publications large and small, awarded Lyons and the Blade first place in the Best Newspapers Contest among non-daily papers with a circulation of 15,000 or more, for "Best Feature Story."
The article in question, "A new kind of fight" published in March 2007, told the inspiring coming out story of gay Marine Eric Alva, now retired, who lost his leg as the first official casualty of the Iraq War:
It was a late autumn evening when Eric Alva, now a retired Marine staff sergeant and the first U.S. service member injured in the Iraq war, decided to come out as gay.
The decision, Alva said, came after his partner noted Alva lost his right leg while defending freedoms neither man could fully enjoy.
Alva said the words his partner spoke then in their San Antonio, Texas, home have stayed with him.
“Look at the rights that people are being denied,” Alva recalled his partner saying. “And look at the rights that you are fighting for. Look at the rights that you put your life on the line for, for this country. And yet you don’t get any of them.
It was a great introduction for a Marine whose service proved all sorts of hypocrisies about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," as Josh reports how even after Alva's homosexuality became known, it was a non-issue for his unit. (The photo of Alva here, by the Blade's Henry Linser, accompanied the winning article.)
Again, congrats to Josh and to Kevin Naff, his editor, and the rest of the Blade staff.
August 13, 2008
Posted by: Chris
This week has not been a good one for PlanetOut, the struggling giant of gay media. First came notice from the NASDAQ stock exchange that the company had failed for 30 consecutive days to maintain the minimum market value ($5 million) of publicly owned stock and as a result is facing "delisting" -- removal from the exchange, where it trades under the symbol "LGBT." PNO has 90 days to rectify the problem by meeting the $5 million mark for 10 consecutive days.
Planet Out's management responded by saying it would monitor the situation and if the picture doesn't look any rosier, the company will ask to be moved to NASDAQ's Capital Market for smaller publicly traded companies.
The downsizing of PlanetOut isn't just in stock value, of course. Just this afternoon, the company announced that it had completed the sale of its magazine, book publishing and soft-porn business, which includes LPI, Inc. (Advocate, Out and their websites, Out Traveler, Alyson Books) and Spec Pubs, Inc. (Men, Freshmen, Unzipped and the now defunct  magazine).
The new owner, Regent Entertainment (here!TV, Gay Wired) gets the marquis titles for a song: paying $6.5 million in exchange for not just LPI and Spec Pubs but also $6.5 million in advertising on Gay.com and Planet Out's other remaining properties. What a bargain -- considering Planet Out paid more than $31 million to acquire the same titles just three years ago!
At this point, all eyes are on Regent to see what changes they'll bring to the Advocate and Out, especially. Both publications have struggled alongside their gay and "mainstream" counterparts (Instinct, Genre, Time, Newsweek, People, Us) to stay relevant in the age of instant internet info gratification. From what I've seen, the quality of both pubs has improved considerably under the current editors, and the sale at least insures the fate of so much of national gay media isn't so intertwined. (Although Regent is itself another conglomerate).
The news isn't all gloomy for PNO. Financials released yesterday showed the company had stemmed the bleeding somewhat in losses, from a rate of around $800,000 per month for the last year or so to "just" $932,000 for the entire quarter ending June 30. With the high overhead print pubs out of the picture, a leaner meaner PlanetOut has a shot at turning the corner, or at least making itself more attractive for an acquisition.
Apparently some investors think so as well. After trading between $2.00 and $2.30 for several weeks, LGBT finished at $2.65 yesterday. It's a tiny fraction of early, heady days of $12 a share -- before a 1-to-10 reverse stock split to save the stock when it was trading below $1 per share. But it's something.
August 09, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The story of John Edwards' adulterous affair finally broke through the mainstream media barrier yesterday, after being almost completely ignored by every outlet except by the National Enquirer, which broke the story almost a year ago, and conservative media like Fox News and the National Review.
To hear the complaints from the right, the MSM refused coverage because Edwards is a Democrat, a ludicrous assertion when you consider the saturation coverage Bill Clinton received not just as president but as a candidate for the office. In fact, the only media actually motivated by Edwards' politics were the likes of Fox and National Review, who no doubt would have ignored the story if a Republican presidential candidate was the focus.
More directly on point, the MSM has almost completely ignored the juicy details concerning the way GOP nominee John McCain dumped his first wife, who underwent a debilitating car accident during his four years of captivity, when the lovely (and mega-wealthy) Cindy Henley came into the picture.
Slate was one of the few outlets not from the right to touch the Edwards story before yesterday, speculating that the reason for the kid glove treatment wasn't Edwards' partisan affiliation but his sexual orientation. Comparing Edwards' late-night shenanigans outside the Beverly Hilton a few weeks ago to Larry Craig's notorious foot-tapping in the Minneapolis airport stall, the differing treatment could mean only one thing:
So why hasn't the press commented on the [Edwards at the Hilton] story yet? Is it because … news organizations want to investigate it for themselves before writing about it? Or are they observing a double standard that says homo-hypocrisy is indefensible but that hetero-hypocrisy deserves an automatic bye? That's my sense.
I'm inclined to disagree, especially with the idea that the Enquirer was doing the job the MSM should have by staking out the Beverly Hilton at 3 a.m. For one thing, the MSM refused to cover the Larry Craig story when it was at the same, speculative stage. Even though Mike Rogers and other outing activists had publicly accused Craig of being a closeted hypocrite, all but Craig's hometown paper refused to touch the story.
It was the right call on both Craig and Edwards because tracking down rumors of hypocrisy concerning public figures should not reduce reporters to late-night stakeouts of hotel lobbies or restroom stalls. Even hypocritical public figures are entitled to some zone of privacy to live their lives. The official can certainly be asked about the rumors, but once denied there's no story absent public evidence to back it up.
In Craig's case, it was his arrest and guilty plea; in Edwards' it was his own admission. Keep in mind that Edwards spilled his guts not because of tabloid coverage, as he claimed, but because the MSM was closing in on the story, including payments apparently made by to Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young, the putative father of her "love child," by the Edwards campaign finance chair.
So as satisfying as it might be to use the example of Edwards to bemoan the MSM's reluctance to do its job, it's actually an example (like Craig) of the system working pretty much the way it should.
July 12, 2008
Posted by: Chris
When last we checked in on Dan Renzi, "Real World: Miami" alum turned editor of the Express Gay News, South Florida's gay newspaper, he was editorializing about how his Latino boy toy didn't speak English very well. We hoped against hope that his curious selection to run a serious newspaper might result in young Dan exploring the big bad world that exists below the surface he is so used to barely scratching.
Alas, the early returns aren't encouraging. This week's "editorial" is about how he took the day off from his Express duties to work as a stringer for Us Weekly, trying to gather dirt on baseball phenom Alex Rodriguez, rumored to be having an affair with Madonna. Is this was "E-List" celebs do in their spare time? Dig dirt on those with higher listings?
Dan's gift of gab is well-suited for his blog "How was your day, Dan?" or even for 411, the lifestyle mag produced out of the same Fort Lauderdale offices as the Express. But readers of South Florida's only serious gay publication deserve better than an editor who has decided to treat his editorial column "like it's a big blog post from now on. Screw the politics and the news is unnecessary."
July 11, 2008
Posted by: Chris
This year's presidential election will be putting old-line journalism to the test, seeing as how both parties have nominated media darlings from the primaries. Supporters always complain their opponent is escaping media scrunity, but this year the charge may hold weight -- in both directions. We'll see whether traditional media will wake up to their responsibility or further tarnish a reputation left in tatters by failures post-9/11 and in the run-up to the Iraq War.
So supporters of John McCain are no doubt right to complain that Barack Obama has gotten largely glowing press treatment, but it's also true that a fawning press corps lets McCain get away with murder. Leave it to the blogosphere to fill the gap, especially on this McCain meme that Obama is a "flip flopper."
Obama has, of course, been moving to the middle, in substance as well as in rhetoric, and it's certainly fair game for McCain to point it out -- especially since Obama has set a higher standard for himself and his "new politics." But McCain is still the pot calling the kettle black -- no, I'm not a racist -- on the issue, considering his own extreme makeover from party "maverick" to line-toeing standard-bearer.
The Carpetbagger Report has done a nice job of doing what the mainstream media has not -- compiling McCain's flip flips -- on more than 60 important issues of domestic and foreign policy. Some items on the list are actual flip-flops more than others, but it caught my eye that gay marriage made the list:
This one turns out to be more inartful rhetoric than a flip-flop, and the list compiler knows it since both the "allowed" and "shouldn't be allowed" links relate to a single McCain appearance back in 2006 on MSNBC's "Hardball" college tour.
A February 2007 profile of McCain captures his political highwire act that day, complete with backstage tactics:
“Should gay marriage be allowed?,” Matthews asks.
“I think that gay marriage should be allowed, if there’s a ceremony kind of thing, if you want to call it that,” McCain answers, searching in vain for the less loaded phrases he knows are out there somewhere, such as “commitment ceremony” or “civil union.” “I don’t have any problem with that, but I do believe in preserving the sanctity of the union between man and woman.” It may not be clear just what McCain is trying to say, but it’s easy to see how his words could be skewed in a direction that the Republican right might not like at all.
Fast-forward to the next commercial break, during which McCain and Matthews reposition themselves from the stage to the auditorium floor to take questions from the students. McCain’s longtime political strategist, John Weaver, a lanky, laconic Texan, moves in to whisper some advice. The next question is about the pending federal farm bill, and McCain repeats his long-standing opposition to certain agricultural subsidies.
But then, out of nowhere, he adds, “Could I just mention one other thing? On the issue of the gay marriage, I believe if people want to have private ceremonies, that’s fine. I do not believe that gay marriages should be legal.” There: he said it, the right words for his right flank. It might seem that this audience, the sons and daughters of a socially conservative and culturally traditional bellwether state, would accept, if not approve of, what McCain has just declared. But they are the Wi-Fi wave of the future, and they can smell a pander bear as surely as they can a hog lot. They erupt in a chorus of deafening boos. “Obviously some disagreement with that last comment,” McCain says tightly. “Thank you. It’s nice to see you.”
Moments later, McCain remounts the stage for the program’s final segment, and he bores into Weaver, standing quietly in the wings, with a cold look that seems to mingle irritation at Weaver’s whispered advice with regret that he took it, and demands, almost hisses, “Did I fix it? Did I fix it?”
The problem is with Matthews' original question, which taken literally is asking McCain whether the government should be able to prohibit gay couples from conducting private marriage ceremonies that have no legal significance. McCain answers it literallly and then has to circle back to make semi-clearer that he was referring to civil marriage, not private ceremonies.
McCain's original answer to Matthews, left out of the Vanity Fair piece, is really more about having it both ways than it is about flip-flopping:
On the issue of gay marriage, I do believe, and I think it’s a correct policy that the sanctity of heterosexual marriage, a marriage between man and woman, should have a unique status. But I’m not for depriving any other group of Americans from having rights. But I do believe that there is something that is unique between marriage between a man and a woman, and I believe it should be protected.
You can be for limiting marriage to heterosexual couples and you can be against "depriving any other group of Americans from having rights," but you can't be both -- because limiting marriage to straights is, of course, depriving gays from having the same rights.
An earlier Carpetbagger post also calls McCain inconsistent for opposing a federal marriage amendment while supporting an even more draconian version in his home state of Arizona. The two positions are fully consistent, however, when you remember that McCain's only problem with the federal amendment is that it violates the principles of federalism, under which marriage is defined at the state level -- including by draconian amendments to a state's constitution.
Ironically, John McCain has, in fact, flip flopped on gay marriage -- just not in the way Carpetbagger suggests. His full-throated opposition to the federal marriage amendment back in 2004 as "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans" -- meaning states' rights, not non-discrimination -- has since given way to wishy-washiness:
If the Supreme Court of the United States rejects the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional; if state legislatures are frustrated by the decisions of jurists in more states than one, and if state remedies to such judicial activism fail; and finally, if a large majority of Americans come to perceive that their communities’ values are being ignored and other standards concerning marriage are being imposed on them against their will, and that elections and state legislatures can provide no remedy, then, and only then, should we consider, quite appropriately, amending the Constitution of the United States.
Although flip-flop isn't really a fair characterization of McCain's gay marriage views, it does seem to be an example of how he avoids reversing himself by taking multiple positions on the same issue simultaneously.
June 19, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I expected some bitchy reaction to my post earlier today about the curious selection of "Real World" alum Dan Renzi to be the editor of the Express Gay News, Fort Lauderdale's LGBT paper. Discussing Renzi's "unusual" journalism cred, I pointed to his stint as queen bitch on the gay blog Queerty, and I wondered out loud "whether the content-'lite' snarkiness of reality TV and Queerty will play well" at a community newspaper with so many politically serious readers.
No reax as of yet from Renzi himself, but the Queerty queens pretty much flipped a gasket:
Homo blowhard Chris Crain doesn’t approve of Real World alum Dan Renzi’s editorial appointment at Floridian fag-rag Express Gay News. And who would? Consider Renzi’s coverage of gay marriage in California: “Who wants to write a story for me about the whole gay marriage thing?” Nice. And, yes, we know Renzi once edited this very blog, but he doesn’t anymore - one guess why.
In the years since he left, new folks have helped redirect this site. Crain knows that, of course, but still used his column to take a shot at us. Thanks, Crain, you dick.
Actually, I would agree that Queerty's reporting has improved quite a bit since Renzi's departure. Just yesterday I listed it among the 15 sources I look to for gay political news.
Funny enough, the anonymous (scared?) author of the Queerty post shared my concerns about Dan Dan the editor man and went on to proved my point (with an exclamation point) about just how tired and vacuous the catty queen stereotype has become.
(More evidence of that last point: "Pissing match between Chris Crain and Queerty Leaves Real World-er Dan Renzi Soaking Wet")
Posted by: Chris
About a month ago, Dan Renzi of "Real World 5: Miami" fame was named the new editor of the Express Gay News, the lesbian and gay newspaper for Fort Lauderdale and South Florida. It's a paper I know well, since I oversaw editorial operations there from 2003 to 2006, after Window Media's sister company purchased it about five years ago.
I was lucky enough to find a great editor for the Express; long-time gay journo Mubarak Dahir compiled an excellent record of serious, entertaining and well-rounded coverage. He was succeeded last year by Phil LaPadula, who had been a reporter at the paper dating back to before our purchase of it.
Now comes Renzi, famous mainly for his bitchy tirades more than a decade ago on "Real World." My personal favorite was the haughty lecture he gave his Miami castmates about how "superficial" they were for choosing an original fashion line as their business project. Disgusted at their shallow display, Dan quit the project and sought more depthful employment as, wait for it, a fashion model.
But hey, he was a kid back then, and thank god there weren't cameras falling my closeted conservative self around at the ripe old age of 22. Still, Renzi's journalism credentials -- a few freelance articles and a stint at Queerty -- are certainly unusual.
I'll let you be the judge about his early days as Express editor. His first big story, of course, was last month's landmark California Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. Renzi posted this at the time on his personal blog:
Who wants to write a story for me about the whole gay marriage thing?
I'm thinking it will be more interesting as a column, that is not just a regurgitation of facts. Great, gay people can get married in California now. That's it for the facts.
Yeah, that pretty much sums that up. Then there was his editorial on the subject in the current issue:
The “gay marriage” topic has been beaten to death, with so many pictures of gleeful gays galavanting along the streets of the Golden State, holding hands and kissing romantically, happy to join the world in matrimonial bliss. But now the dust has settled, and we can sit back and think…marriage? Really? …
As I’m sitting here in my bed typing this, I just looked over at this man lying next to me watching TV. Marriage?...really?
Just so you know, I can sit here and type about him without him noticing. He doesn’t read, or speak, much English; we have more of a “yes-or-no” relationship, which is blissful in its simplicity. “Do you want dinner? Do you like Chinese?” That’s about it. Watch, let’s type something to him right now. Hi. Do you like your show on Telemundo? What is this talk show host yelling about? Why is he wearing a viking helmet? Telemundo is crazy. You are very sexy in my bed. You don’t know I am typing about you and it doesn’t matter. When I am finished typing this I am going to give you besos. Nope, no reaction.
I'll leave it to Latino readers whether they find that little passage offensive. My own partner spoke no English when I met him in January 2005, and I didn't know Portuguese. But we did get by in Spanish and within weeks we were both learning each other's language. Equal partners learning how to communicate; that's sort of what a real world relationship, married or otherwise, is all about, right?
Fort Lauderdale may have a Spring Break, Sodom by the Sea reputation, but it's actually home to a mature, well-read, political attuned gay population. I can't help but wonder whether the content-"lite" snarkiness of reality TV and Queerty will play well in this Peoria.
June 18, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
I nearly died last night watching mainstream TV coverage of the first same-sex marriages in California. On the NBC Nightly News, they featured the above report on a couple from Houston who went to California to get married. During the interview, this couple said they were doing it because they could not marry in their home state of Texas.
Then one of them added the following explanation: "There's over 1100 rights that married couples have immediately once they sign those papers."
How embarrassing --- from coast to coast. What this couple did was convey totally incorrect information to the over 12 million viewers that night, information that made it sound like we now have all our rights through marriage in California. The fact is that even if a same sex couple marries legally in California, they will receive none (zip, zero) of those 1100 rights that couple misled the nation into believing they had.
It's hard to believe that this couple was so uneducated to say what they said on national TV. They performed a tremendous disservice to the community. And it was sad to see NBC not catch this error.
Just imagine if the couple had done their homework and said, "Yes, we are getting married, but alas, because of the Defense of Marriage Act, we will receive none of the 1100 federal rights and benefits that an opposite sex couple gets the minute they sign the papers. Things just aren't equal yet!"
What an opportunity lost.
So, if you go to California to marry and someone puts a camera in your face, please say something smart to help the cause.
Posted by: Chris
It's a bit depressing to see Kevin Naff, my former colleague and successor at the Washington Blade, lowering the bar even further for the two HRCs: Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Human Rights Campaign.
Kevin endorsed Hillary back in January -- based not on her gay rights superiority but on her supposed general election prowess -- so I guess it's not surprising that he still had her back as she bowed out last weekend:
[Clinton] delivered her belated concession speech, promising her full support of Obama. And, contrary to the Obama camp’s claims during the primary campaign that she shies from mentioning gay issues in front of non-gay audiences, Clinton referenced her gay supporters, not once, but twice.
“Eighteen million of you from all walks of life — women and men, young and old, Latino and Asian, African-American and Caucasian, rich, poor and middle class, gay and straight — you have stood strong with me,” Clinton said.
She continued, “We all want an America defined by deep and meaningful equality — from civil rights to labor rights, from women’s rights to gay rights, from ending discrimination to promoting unionization to providing help for the most important job there is: caring for our families.”
Kevin never explains why exactly we should be impressed that Clinton waited until she was withdrawing from the race to remember her gay and lesbian supporters. Color me less than impressed. If anything, it suggests her conspicuous failure to mention gays in literally thousands of campaign appearances was a calculated ploy not to risk her support among "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans."
Now that she's out, Hillary pivots and remembers the gays, just as she frequently forgets her maiden name when running for national office and then remembers it when she's not.
Kevin's defense of the other HRC is even more curious to me because I know he knows better. Kevin takes a shot at Andrew Sullivan and Michael Petrelis for pointing out that the Human Rights Campaign leadership supported HRC the candidate far more than Barack Obama, now of course the nominee.
Mostly, Kevin seems put off that aspects of Andrew and Michael's posts had already been reported at various times by the Blade. When he gets down to substance, Kevin points out that some HRC board members also gave money to Obama. A stronger counterpoint, made by HRC Board member and lobbyist David Medina, is that Obama refused donations from registered lobbyists.
Regardless, Kevin ignores the weight of evidence -- pointed out by Andrew, Michael and your's truly (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) -- that HRC has had more than its thumb on the scale for Hillary throughout the primary season. Crediting HRC as he does with not out-and-out endorsing Hillary does not a sound rebuttal make. Are we measuring fairness by such low standards these days?
Finally, it's disappointing to see Kevin dismiss as silly Andrew's point about HRC's obsession with commercializing the movement; selling trinkets of equality -- like its latest, a T-shirt designed by Christian (I'm sorry for my "hot tranny mess" tagline) Siriano -- over and above the actual hard work of passing gay rights legislation.
Instead, Kevin credits HRC with the House passage of ENDA this session. To the contrary, there is no greater condemnation of HRC's ineptitude and "Dems or bust" "strategy" than the debacle over trans-ENDA and the failure to get either that bill or the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act through both houses of Congress -- despite majority support in both chambers.
Have we really lowered the bar so far that we thank HRC for so little, so very late? The movement does not need more apologists for either HRC. We need more pressure not less on the organization, the candidate, as well as Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, to once and for all deliver on the long-delayed promise of federal gay rights protections.
Kevin is usually at the forefront of doing just that; I hope he'll "find his voice" again soon.
May 26, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Well, it's misleading and inaccurate. The article is about "30 conservative black Pentecostals from Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., dining with 30 activists from Soulforce, a pro-gay religious group."
So why are the conservatives labeled "Christians" in the headline and not the gays? Soulforce is non-denominational but much of its membership is Christian. The group's founder, Mel White, is a Christian minister himself and a former ghostwriter for Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.
An accurate headline would have been: "Conservative and gay Christians not of one accord."
Clearly there's a limit to what we can expect from the "new and improved" Washington Times, still the most homophobic big city newspaper in America.
May 17, 2008
Posted by: Chris
You may have already seen this priceless video clip showing conservative radio talk show host Kevin James making a complete ass of himself Thursday on MSNBC's "Hardball." From the get-go he is hyperventilating -- literally yelling -- about how President Bush was completely justified in comparing Barack Obama, at least by insinuation, with Neville Chamberlain, the infamous British prime minister and other "Nazi appeasers" from the late 1930s.
Chris Matthews tries 28 times -- I didn't count, but others have -- to ask James to explain what it is exactly that Chamberlain did so it could be compared with Obama's willingness to sit down for talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. James tries desperately to avoid answering, except to insist that Obama is "exactly the same" as Chamberlain. Eventually he admits he doesn't know what exactly Chamberlain did and Matthews pretty much lays him to waste.
I'd almost feel sorry for James, if he weren't so clearly deserving of the humiliation. The video clip is all over the Net -- just one version of it on YouTube has been viewed more than 250,000 times -- but the reaction in gay Washington circles has been more one of jaws dropping.
Could this really be the same Kevin James, who with his then-boyfriend raised huge sums of money in Los Angeles to support a number of gay political groups, including the Campaign for Military Service -- which later became the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network -- to support President Clinton's effort to end the ban on gays in the military?
I'm not familiar with James on-air schtick, but I'm mighty curious whether he feigns opposition to gay rights or if his Ditto Heads even know he's a big ole homo. Or maybe he's Tammy Bruce in drag?
April 29, 2008
Posted by: Chris
As if all the recent drama over at PlanetOut wasn't enough, blogger-journalist Michael K. Lavers posts today about signs of trouble at HX Media, Inc., which recently shuttered its HX Philadelphia title and now may be struggling in Boston:
The long-time office manager [at the New England Blade/HX New England, formerly IN Newsweekly] left a few weeks ago, and rumor has it additional terminations and resignations have once again left the newspaper scrambling. This writer anecdotally saw HX Media CEO Matthew Bank's away message on his Facebook profile as 'is going to Boston' over the weekend. Something must be going on in the Hub!
Mike also has the whole backstory, including the angry departure of three long-time freelancers late last year, and the subsequent legal drama when the paper's associate publisher and two sales reps planned their launch of a rival pub while still employed by HX.
HX Media, Inc., is something of a cousin company to Window Media LLC, the company I co-founded with William Waybourn in 1997. Mike has some pretty harsh words in his post today about the way HX founder Matthew Banks has run things since his company merged with the New York Blade some years back.
I've never met Banks, though I do know firsthand the trials and tribulations -- and the sometimes daily draaaaamaaa -- of running local gay publications on a shoestring budget. I also know the perils of trying to group those publications together and still remain faithful to local readers and advertisers.
To the reckoning of Mike, a former New York Blade staffer himself, and many others closer to the action, Banks and the HX team in New York haven't struck that balance in Boston or even with the New York Blade. In the midst of a recession and slowing print ad sales, let's hope the critics or wrong or the HX ship rights itself -- for the sake of the communities they serve.
April 25, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I blogged last week about tough times from my old friend Richard Quest, the openly gay CNN anchor who was arrested for being in Central Park after hours and possession of crystal meth. Now for some good news.
For one, he's entered a rehab program that was part of a deal he agreed to with prosecutors that will result in the charges against him being dropped. For another, CNN has issued a supportive statement that suggests his job will be waiting for him once he is well. The Guardian reports:
"At this time, CNN's primary concern is for his health and wellbeing. We look forward to Richard returning to CNN International," the broadcaster said in a statement. A CNN spokesman declined to "speculate" on when Quest would return to the network he joined in 2001.
Despite the legendary appetite for sleaze in the London tabloids, they've largely steered clear of exploiting Richard's arrest for prurient readers. The same can't be said for Rupert Murdoch's New York Post and Fox News Network. The latter was particularly egregious, unsurprisingly. Greg Gutfield penned a sophomoric column that accuses Quest without evidence of being in Central Park to have sex:
Although Quest has been released, we at "Red Eye" feel his arrest is unjust. Here was a man going the extra mile for a story, in hopes of shedding light on an issue others are too frightened to get near. Quest is the Woodward and Bernstein of park sex and we need to stand up for him.
For those of you willing to help out with our cause, we'll be meeting at Bryant Park at 3 a.m. I will be wearing magenta overalls with a hole in the back.
No question in my mind as to which news network should be more troubled by the on-the-job conduct of its employee.
April 20, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I read the news today and oh boy (that's a Beatles reference, for you young'uns). My old friend Richard Quest, who anchors CNN's "Business Traveler" and his own show "Quest," was arrested in Central Park last Friday for being there after-hours and for possession of crystal meth.
I have known Richard since college. When I was an undergrad at Vanderbilt, Richard was there working on his LLB, a master's degree in law. We were both "tunnel rats," working in the student media offices in a tunnel of the student center. I was editor of the school paper, the Vanderbilt Hustler (we had the name first) and then Versus, the student magazine. Richard was a DJ at WRVU, the college radio station.
Richard was one of a kind, even back in the '80s. (Yes, we're that old.) A Brit from Leeds with a big curly 'fro easily stood out on our conservative, Southern campus. His hilarious, quirky personality was contagious and I had a total blast every time we hung out together.
He even recruited me to do the sports portion (stop laughing) of his regular news reports. I'll never forget the time he invited me to guest DJ with him, even picking the records to play. I violated every rule of college radio; I'm not sure the station's reputation has yet recovered from the Styx triple-play I inflicted on Nashville.
Even then, it was clear Richard's personality was way too big for radio. So it was only mildly surprising to hear he turned up as a regular on BBC, although that staid network seemed a bit of a misfit. A few years after, I would catch him as a late-night anchor on CNN, where the broadcast time allowed him to be more himself. (I remember Anderson Cooper in his ABC late-night new gig, too, around the same time.)
Right about that time, Richard tracked me down. During one of his trips to CNN's Atlanta headquarters, he picked up the Southern Voice, Atlanta's gay newspaper, and saw I was the editor. We eventually met up when I was visiting London and renewed our friendship. Turns out we were both closet cases at Vandy -- one of dozens more I never would have imagined at the time. Richard is openly gay in an industry where others lack the courage to be. (Are you listening, Anderson?)
The great success and fame (especially outside the U.S., where he is on-screen at CNN multiple times daily) hadn't changed Richard at all. He was and is the same cheeky, genuine, unique person he was then.
As difficult as I know this time must be for Richard, and the knives are certainly out for him, I have zero doubt that will recover from all of this. He's already agreed to a six-month drug treatment program that will result in the charges being dropped.
Hopefully CNN will stand by "one of the most instantly recognizable members of the CNN team." Living outside the U.S., I have been able to view both of his shows much more often. "Quest," in particular, tackles unusual subjects in an entertaining way, and with a depth that is unusual for fast-paced cable news.
Whatever CNN decides, I am sure Richard will survive and thrive; he's got way too much talent going for him, and I wish him nothing but the absolute best.
April 17, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I almost hate to offer any criticism at all about the new Out magazine piece, "Washington's Gay War," which purports to expose the "ancient hypocrisy" of closeted gay Republicans working in the political world.
That's because the Out of old -- not the engaging, original Out under Sarah Pettit, or its cheeky reincarnation under James Collard, but the "Us/People" years with Judy Weider at the helm -- wouldn't touch politics unless there was a gay-for-pay celebrity somehow involved.
After years of Hollywood pablum, it's at least encouraging to see Out editor Aaron Hicklin paying attention to more serious stories out of Washington. But talk about an appallingly bad job… Author Charles Kaiser ("The Gay Metropolis") was the one tasked with shedding some insight on the phenomenon of closeted gay Republicans. So who did he talk to: Barney Frank, outing activist/ blogger Mike Rogers, an unnamed Democratic political consultant and a gay Washington Post reporter.
What about an actual living, breathing gay Republican (closeted or otherwise)? Wouldn't they be at least relevant? Could Kaiser not find the number for Log Cabin?
The result was a 2,800-word, one-sided hack job that failed to report even one single new fact. J. Edgar Hoover? Terry Dolan? Jeff Gannon? Stop the presses! Kaiser even retells the story about Lee Atwater insinuating then-House speaker Tom Foley was gay (based on his Barney-like voting record) without ever acknowledging the possibility that (hello?!?!) Foley might actually be an example of a powerful Dem who lived a gay double life.
The sole interesting exception was the article's opening vignette, which actually outs a gay Democrat -- not a Republican. Longtime Hill staffer Rob Cogorno was already out about being gay but said he was floored when Barney told a Capitol Hill crowd at Cogorno's going-away party that he hosted (in outrageous drag) the Miss Adams Morgan pageant.
Those of us familiar with the annual MAM extravaganza know how absolutely paranoid many of its participants -- Democrat and Republican alike -- are, so that little story was at least interesting. But how in the heck does it show gay Dems are more out that gay Republicans?
We can only hope that Hicklin stays interested in gay politics and Washington. (I'll admit to being a very irregular reader during his tenure, given my geographic disadvantage.) The magazine length is perfect for truly digging into some serious and interesting stories, but with at least some interest in all sides of the subject and breaking new ground.
Posted by: Andoni
I am so angry over how bad last night's debate was that I am writing a letter to the president of ABC News. Here is the address in case others also wish to write:
President, ABC News
7 West 66th Street
New York, NY 10023
If you wish to call to complain, use the number I suggest below because the normal customer relations line (818-460-7477) is overwhelmed, and you won't be able to get through. What you do is call the ABC News Radio number in the box below and ask for ABC News Television. They patch you right through. And you actually get to talk to a real person!
(Ask for ABC News Television)
April 14, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
I hate 30-second sound-bytes in politics. I would argue that they don’t serve America well, but I also realize there’s not much I or anyone else can do about it. Unfortunately, these snippets of information and opinion have become a big part of our political discourse and often determine who is elected president. I would blame sound-bytes from giving us George W. Bush, for example, rather than Al Gore.
The most recent example of how sound-bytes serve the public poorly is from San Francisco, where Barack Obama told supporters that he encountered "bitter" people in small town Ohio and Pennsylvania who were "clinging" to guns and religion because of their difficult economic situation.
That sound-byte from San Francisco does not reveal the depth with which Obama has thoughtfully considered this issue.
The question is whether YouTube and the Internet have helped us evolve to the point we can get around these sound-bytes to see for ourselves the full statement or what a person’s position really is? Are we seeing the dawn of a new era of politics don't rely on the 30-second bytes the MSM chooses for them?
For America’s sake, let’s hope so. The results next Tuesday in Pennsylvania will offer some indication.
April 10, 2008
Posted by: Chris
With a decent story for Obama to tell, gay editors from Dallas to San Francisco to Boston have been left wondering why Obama doesn’t take it directly to their publications, as Clinton has done with increasing frequency since Super Tuesday.
“It doesn’t seem to match what he says at these other events,” said Cynthia Laird, news editor at the Bay Area Reporter in San Francisco. “It is very disappointing to me.”
The reason for Obama’s distance is unclear. In keeping with his campaign’s managed approach to the media in general, Obama has communicated with the gay press on his own terms, placing ads in local gay newspapers and writing op-eds. And with more interview requests than Obama can fill, aides likely do a cost-benefit analysis of each media outlet and the audience it reaches.
She notes that some gay press entities are asking to be treated like MSM without observing the same rules of objectivity and neutrality -- the complaint I've registered here.
Responding to the Politico piece, the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder suggests the gay press take a chill pill:
Arguably, it is more important for Obama to speak about gay issues to general audiences than it is for him to speak about gay issues before gay audiences.
That's mixing apples and oranges, actually. I would agree that Obama talking about gay issues to mainstream audiences is more important in determining whether he's genuine in his support for gay rights, rather than viewing us as just another special interest. But that's a bit beside the point concerning the gay press snub. These brief encounters with mainstream audiences do not allow for the kind of in-depth questioning that comes from a "specialty press" interview.
The gay community has been plagued since Bill Clinton by Democrats with campaign bromides who don't deliver in office. The long primary campaign season is an ideal time for those generalities to be fleshed out into policy details. Candidates may have limited time, as Ambinder points out, but over the many months of campaigning there ought to be a spare 20 minutes here and there to get down to specifics.
That said, even as an alum of the local gay press, I don't buy into the idea that it's a snub of "the LGBT press" if a candidate only talks to the Advocate. The local gay press shot itself in the foot with the Resnick and Segal hijinks of this campaign season, but there are plenty of local LGBT publications -- the Washington Blade, Southern Voice and (most of) the other National Gay Newspaper Guild papers, certainly -- that employ quality journalists who can conduct a proper, probing interview.
The point is whether the tough questions get asked and answered. In Obama's case -- between the HRC-Logo forum and the two Advocate interviews -- I would say they have been.
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: The portion of this post that reports the LPI sale did not include Specialty Pubs turns out not to be correct. For details, check out my subsequent post.
The gay media conglomerate PlanetOut dropped a bombshell yesterday, announcing that it would sell off its magazine and book publishing business, including marquee titles like the Advocate, Out and Alyson Books, to Here Networks for a pricetag of $6 million. The deal should be formalized by the end of the month and the sale completed by Aug. 31, the San Francisco Business Times reported:
PlanetOut … wants to return its focus to its web sites gay.com and planetout.com, which have been contributing a smaller percentage of its revenue recently.
The company's online segment has been contributing less to its revenue for each of the last three years. In 2005 it accounted for 87 percent, in 2006 54 percent, and in 2007 51 percent. Magazine publishing's portion of total revenue rose in each of those years, from 13 percent in 2005 to 46 percent in 2006 and 49 percent in 2007.
The sell-off is the latest chapter in the de-coupling of gay media, just years after a trend toward conglomeration. PlanetOut Inc., was itself the result of the December 2000 merger with PlanetOut Corp. (planetout.com) and Online Partners (gay.com). Only months earlier that year, Liberation Publications., Inc. (LPI), which published the Advocate, Alyson Books and soft-core "adult" titles under the name Specialty Publications, had purchased rival Out magazine. Then, in November 2004, PlanetOut Inc., bought LPI, for $
32.1 31.1 million (or about $ 36 35 million in 2008 dollars).
Just four short years later, with PlanetOut struggling financially, the sales price for LPI is only a fraction of what PlanetOut paid, likely reflecting the difficult economic market for print publications generally, and nationwide magazines in particular. These have been challenging times for the Advocate, published biweekly, and Out, published monthly, when local gay publications publish weekly and the Internet is on a 24-hour news cycle.
Here Networks didn't buy LPI's "adult" Specialty Pubs division, though it's unlikely that was based on content since the pay-TV network shows similar content. Those who know LPI well say that Specialty Pubs was long the profit center for the company, but magazines like Men and Freshmen have suffered from online competition as well. But since the LPI that Planet Out purchases is not the same LPI it sold, it's difficult to say how steep a haircut PlanetOut took on the pricetag.
That mystery is compounded by the unusual structure of the deal, which involves the payment of the $6 million as pre-paid advertising to be spent by March 2009. Here will also be assuming the liabilities of LPI as well.
The sale of LPI could be seen as an important part of CEO Karen Magee's effort to refocus San Francisco-based PlanetOut on its core online business, including the sale last fall of the RSVP Vacations gay cruise company to competitor Atlantis Events. It's interesting to see Here moving in the opposite direction, expanding from on-demand TV to print media with an online component.
Time will tell which company is making the right bet financially, or whether PlanetOut is simply selling off its old media division on the way to making itself more attractive for a buyout -- something the company announced in January it was seeking. News of the sale improved PlanetOut stock price, up 18 cents (7.9 percent) to $2.45, a split-adjusted price.
For a quick history of PlanetOut and LPI, follow the jump:
April 09, 2008
Posted by: Chris
He did sit down for the Human Rights Campaign-Logo forum and was the first to accept the invitation. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson and most of the other Democratic presidential contenders did as well. Obama also talked to the Advocate during the whole Donnie McClurkin flap, though the interview was limited to that subject.
Since then, Clinton talked to the Advocate, the Washington Blade, did a joint interview with the Dallas Voice and two Ohio gay papers, and last week talked to the Philadelphia Gay News. PGN, in particular, took umbrage that Obama declined to be interviewed, publishing a half-page of blank white space on the front page to reflect where his Q&A would have been.
PGN Publisher Mark Segal also took Obama to task on the editorial page, never revealing that he was an early Clinton supporter, having donated $1,000 to her campaign in early 2007.
The Advocate interview should be up on the publication's website by tomorrow, according to a report in the Dallas Voice, and Obama campaign spokesman said it had been arranged before the whole PGN flap.
April 03, 2008
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: At the end of the post.
Hillary Clinton has once again granted an interview with the GLBT press, and the Philadelphia Gay News has done everything it could to reward her for the effort -- from a redesigned website that features the interview before the rest of the site, to a front page print edition that includes a segment of blank white space to reflect Barack Obama's failure to face questioning.
Unfortunately, like the Blade and Gay People's Chron before it, PGN did not come to the table with completely clean hands. The interview -- and all the website and print trimmings -- were the handiwork of PGN publisher Mark Segal, who has already donated $1,000 to the Clinton campaign. Has the gay press joined Fox et al in completely abandoning the idea of neutrality? At least the Blade editor's endorsement was public record; Segal doesn't disclose his Clinton ties to readers.
The interview itself makes little news, asking two or three different ways whether gay couples should get equal federal legal recognition, something Clinton (and Obama) has been on record supporting for almost a year now. I was pleased to see that one of those repetitive questions was pegged to immigration rights, to which she responded:
I think that that’s one of the biggest problems that we’ve got to contend with. Even states that have civil unions, domestic partnerships or even marriage laws are running into roadblocks with the federal government when it comes to federal benefits and privileges. Of course, immigration is a federal responsibility and I am going to do everything I can to eliminate any disparities in any benefits or rights under our law at the federal level so that all people will have available to them every right as an American citizen that they should, and that would include immigration law.
There was no follow-up about why, if she feels that way, that Clinton (like Obama) has failed to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, which would do just that. Despite all the questions about federal recognition, Segal and his co-questioner also failed to ask why Clinton supports repealing only half of the Defense of Marriage Act, when Obama supports full repeal. Considering it's the only actual policy difference between the two on gay rights, the omission is pretty glaring.
Several of the questions displayed a poor understanding of the law, like asking if she could simply wave away "Don't Ask Don't Tell" with an executive order or a "signing statement." No, she explained patiently.
In a humorous aside, Hillary backed away from promising she would march in a Gay Pride parade as president -- do we really still crave affirmation that much? -- blaming it on the Secret Service, as if the Commander in Chief answers to them. The questioner praises her for marching in our parades as First Lady, though she only did so once -- in June 2000 in New York City -- when she was kneedeep in her campaign for the U.S. Senate there.
The highlight of the interview, and the only real news, was an excellent question about what Clinton would do as president in response to governments -- from allies like Egypt and Iraq to enemies like Iran -- that treat their own gay populations brutally. Her answer was strong:
I would be very strongly outspoken about this and it would be part of American foreign policy. There are a number of gross human-rights abuses that countries engage in with whom we have relations and we have to be really vigilant and outspoken in our total repudiation of those kinds of actions and do everything we can, including using our leverage on matters such as aid, to change the behavior so we can try to prevent such atrocities from happening.
The State Department already documents human rights abuses against gays around the world and it is the basis for asylum claims under existing law. But a proactive president like Clinton describes could be of incalculable benefit to gays abroad.
Mark Segal, the PGN publisher, is digging himself deeper into the credibility hole. Here's an exchange of an interview he gave to the Philly Daily Examiner:
You guys seem to really be behind Hilary …
I did not say we are behind Hilary. I’m personally on the fence. The space was left open to show that we are willing to feature him equally.
You could cut the suspense with the knife, trying to figure out who Segal/PGN will endorse -- there is no separation between editorial and sales since Segal runs roughshod over both. The only real question is whether he'll come clean with readers that all his shenanigans this week were behind a ruse of objectivity, given his previous $1,000 donation.
March 30, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Deborah Howell tackled the issue after a Washington Blade story quoted friends of Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers who were upset the Post ignored that Rogers was effectively the first openly gay soldier killed in the Iraq war. Rogers was out to many friends and was active in AVER, a gay veterans group.
Howell's look behind the scenes in the Post newsroom was quite telling:
For The Post, Rogers's death raised an unanswerable question: Would he have wanted to be identified as gay? Friends also struggled with that question but decided to tell The Post that he was because, they said, he wanted the military's "don't ask, don't tell" rule repealed. …
[The reporter] first wrote a story that included his friends talking about his orientation; some at the paper felt that was the right thing to do. But the material was omitted when the story was published. Many editors discussed the issue, and it was "an agonizing decision," one said. The decision ultimately was made by Executive Editor Len Downie, who said that there was no proof Rogers was gay and no clear indication that, if he was, he wanted the information made public.
It's fascinating to see journalists aggressive as those at the Post deferring to (some) friends and family rather than applying the same standards of newsworthiness they would to any other story. The Post stylebook even incorporates the views of the story subject into the editorial decision:
"A person's sexual orientation should not be mentioned unless relevant to the story . . . . Not everyone espousing gay rights causes is homosexual. When identifying an individual as gay or homosexual, be cautious about invading the privacy of someone who may not wish his or her sexual orientation known."
I'm not sure what "evidence" Downie needed to to prove Rogers' sexual orientation. Ex-boyfriends? Love letters? Did the reporter search for them? Yes it's true that heterosexuals can join gay rights groups and have gay friends, and that is true. But still why wasn't Rogers' participation in the group, which was confirmed, in and of itself newsworthy, along with what his gay friends had to say about him?
Howell eventually concludes in the last paragraph of her column that the story should have included Rogers' sexual orientation, but she cushions her criticism:
The Post was right to be cautious, but there was enough evidence -- particularly of Rogers's feelings about "don't ask, don't tell" -- to warrant quoting his friends and adding that dimension to the story of his life. The story would have been richer for it.
Cautious OK but the way the story was handled suggests a real double standard, however well-intentioned, is at work here. My own belief is that real reason for the omission -- which has been an ongoing issue with obituaries at the Post that I've written about a number of times over the years -- was signaled in the opening line of Howell's column:
What should a newspaper print about a person's most private life in a story after his death?
Rogers' being gay was his "most private life"? Why is the sexual orientation a gay person his "most private" secret when it is a routine fact treated with no privacy expectation whatsoever with heterosexuals? Howell acknowledges that Rogers kept his romantic life -- not sex life, which is private, but romantic life -- only as private as he needed to in order to comply with "Don't Ask Don't Tell."
I'm not of the school that the press "owes us" our heroes and thus should report sexual orientation more frequently. But I do believe the same editorial standards ought to apply to gay and straight alike.
March 26, 2008
Posted by: Chris
You may have heard about the libel lawsuits that occasionally are brought here in the U.S. when the media reports that someone is gay -- as if that is a defamatory in and of itself. Of late courts have generally done the right thing, allowing the claim to go forward when the plaintiff is in a heterosexual marriage or can otherwise prove that reporting he or she is gay actually is an attack on their reputation.
Not so in Morocco (big surprise, right?). The courts there have issued one of the largest libel damage awards ever against the media after an article reported that "a judge" -- and unnamed judge -- attended the reception that followed a gay wedding:
[The article] quoted a police source saying that an unnamed judge in the town attended the party, a sensitive issue in Morocco's mostly conservative society. [The newspaper] apologized for suggesting a judge was present at the gay party, after its police source informed the paper that the judge had been confused with a person with the same name.
The paper did not name the judge in its report but all four judges [in the town] sued the newspaper for defamation. A Rabat court on Tuesday ordered [the paper] to pay them [about US$200,000] each.
Sounds like Tom Cruise's kind of country.
March 21, 2008
Posted by: Chris
It's very gratifying to see today that the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association is speaking out publicly in defense of the watchdog role of the LGBT press, even when covering political "friends" of the gay rights movemement like Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee.
I concluded my post last week about the DNC's contempt for the gay press with this:
The Democratic Party has enjoyed a major resurgence the last several years, attributable almost entirely to the utter disaster of the Bush presidency and the inspirational (until recently) presidential primary. Dean will no doubt ride that wave as long as he can, but it is long past time for gays and gay groups to speak out against the contempt and disrespect with which Democratic Party officials treat the gay press.
Where is the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association when the gay press needs it?
Afterward, I contacted Eric Hegedus, the group's president, to see where NLGJA stood, and to my very pleasant surprise he told me last weekend that the group would come forward with a strong statement in support of the LGBT media and press freedom. That statement is published in today's Washington Blade, in the form of an op-ed that encourages the gay press to "keep up the good fight" in watchdogging the DNC, party chair Howard Dean and his controversial staff chief Rev. Leah Daughtry:
In the end, the LGBT media deserve as much respect and attention as mainstream media, and I have just one message to [editor Kevin] Naff and the Blade, as well as other journalists working in LGBT press: Keep up the good fight. Continue to do your job, follow your ethics, question political motives and open the public's eyes and ears regarding how governmental process works.
There’s a reason journalists subscribe to the tenet of a “free press,” whether in mainstream or niche media. It's our job to cover politics, bureaucracy and governmental leaders, not to mention our communities, and we have no room for apprehension and scare tactics in our pursuit of the truth.
This isn't a matter of journalists working in the gay press simply circling the wagons. NLGJA consists almost entirely of gay journalists working in the mainstream media -- including all of the top newspapers, TV networks and new media -- and the org traditionally shies away from anything that resembles "activism." In fact, this is the first time in my decade of affiliation that I remember NLGJA ever speaking out for the LGBT press; it's important and very welcome.
Hegedus is careful not to take sides on the particular factual dispute here -- whether Daughtry sent lawyers to the Blade offices in an attempt to intimidate the paper from covering her and the DNC -- but NLGJA is offering a crucial defense of the independence of the LGBT media against attempts to disrespect and intimidate. He acknowledges that LGBT press is criticial because it can cover gay issues in a way that the mainstream press effectively cannot. (Although it was nice to see that the Washington Post awoke yesterday from its gay slumber long enough to cover Dean and the bias lawsuit brought by Donald Hitchcock.)
If only the gay men and lesbians with influence within the DNC apparatus could see beyond their partisanship long enough to join the NLJGA and stand up against the contempt shown by the party for the LGBT press -- and the movement and LGBT constituency itself.
March 19, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Me thinks the bullies of the world are protesting too much when they claim the word "gay" has been transformed into an innocuous insult that means "lame" or "stupid." On its face, it doesn't excuse using a word that describes a group of people as an insult. Would it be OK to use the names of other groups that way?: "That shirt is so Jewish!"
A new survey of schoolteachers in the U.K. confirms that "gay" is only one in a series of homophobic words that top the list of student insults. Here's the list of insults, according to the British Association of Teachers and Lecturers; the percentages indicate what proportion of teachers heard the particular word on a regular basis:
- Gay (83%)
- Bitch (59%)
- Slag (45%)
- Poof (29%)
- Batty boy (29%)
- Slut (26%)
- Queer (26%)
- Lezzie (24.8%)
- Homo (22%)
- Faggot (11%)
- Sissy (5%)
Of the top 11 insults, eight words (including Brit slang like poof and batty boy) are explicitly homophobic, and three words (bitch, slag and slut) suggest promiscuity and are usually used against girls.
And yet somehow the adult "experts" are buying into the claim by kids that gay has been 'de-gayed' and isn't anti-gay when hurled as an insult:
One reason for this increase in use could be because "gay" has partly lost its sexual connotations among young people, says slang lexicographer Tony Thorne. While still pejorative, for the majority of youngsters it has replaced words such as "lame".
"I have interviewed scores of school kids about this and they are always emphatic that it has nothing at all to do with hostility to homosexuals," says Mr Thorne, compiler of the Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. "It is nearly always used in contexts where sexual orientation and sexuality are completely irrelevant."
Whether or not the teens who use "gay" intend it to be homophobic, it's place at the top of a list of other popular insults -- almost all explicitly anti-gay -- suggests otherwise. So does the history of how it became an insult:
"In the early 19th Century it was used to refer to women who lived off immoral earnings," says Clive Upton, professor of Modern English Language at Leeds University. Around the 1970s it was claimed by the homosexual community as a descriptive term for their sexual orientation, now its most popular meaning. By the 1980s it was finding its way into schools as a playground insult.
"Every generation grows up with a whole lexicon of homosexual insults, in my day it was 'poofter' or 'bender'," adds Thorne. "They were used much more because they were considered more offensive than 'gay', which is more neutral."
I've noticed how the use of "gay" as an insult has come out of the playground and crept into pop culture, including films and TV shows. I hope our friends at Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who've done a bang-up job the last several years consigning "fag" to the dustbin of unacceptable slurs, can reclaim the word gay from being further cheapened as an insult that is somehow not homophobic.
(Photo of bullying via BBC)
March 16, 2008
Posted by: Chris
With all the sniping and strong-arm tactics being employed against the Washington Blade and the gay press generally by Howard Dean, his chief of staff Leah Doughtry and the Democratic National Committee, it's worth taking a look at the coverage that was allegedly so one-sided that it reduced these political professionals into crude intimidation and immature name-calling like this:
"I use the Blade and the other gay papers in the bottom of the birdcage." (Julie Tagen, DNC Deputy Fianance Director, March 2007)
"The Blade is the New York Post of the gay and lesbian press corps." (Dean, Sept. 2006)
"The Blade is the Fox News of gay journalism." (Dean, March 2008)
The Blade coverage at issue includes about 20 articles over three years -- that's less than 1 out of 8 newspapers over the time period. There's a lot there, but this summary offers a good sense of the underlying controversies, as well as whether the Blade's coverage was inaccurate, unfair or one-sided, as alleged:
- Dean woos gay Democrats (Feb. 18, 2005): Howard Dean is quoted the day before he was elected DNC chair promising gay Democrats to expand the party's gay outreach efforts and slamming Republicans for pushing state ballot measures banning gay marriage. Both issues will emerge later in controversies surrounding Dean's DNC leadership. The article quotes Jeff Soref, chair of the DNC’s Gay & Lesbian Americans Caucus, defending a separate interview Dean gave the same day to the Associated Press, in which he identifies the party as opposed to gay marriage, although the 2004 platform is neutral on the issue, supporting "full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits and protections for these families."
- Dems abolish gay outreach post (Feb. 3, 2006): One year later, the Blade reports that Soref has publicly quit his post in protest over Dean's September 2005 decision to abolish the party's constituent outreach desks, including the post of director of lesbian and gay outreach. The story notes that Dean had pledged in his campaign to
become party chair to retain the gay outreach
post in a questionnaire from Soref's DNC gay caucus. The DNC defends the decision by pointing to the hiring of Donald Hitchcock as director of the DNC’s Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council, which Soref complains is essentially a fund-raising position.
Note: DNC staffers later complain the headline doesn't explain Dean abolished all DNC outreach posts, including the one for gays, though that is made clear in the lead paragraph of the article. No allegations of factual error are made subsequent to publication.
- Democrats still committed to equality for gays by Howard Dean (Feb. 10, 2006): In a letter to the editor, Dean responds to the Feb. 3 article by denying he abolished the LGBT outreach post, arguing that the DNC's new structure -- which replaced all the outreach posts with "American Majority Partnership" under the supervision of his office, includes gay issues in its scope.
Note: The Blade stood by the Feb. 3 article as reported. Dean did in fact abolish all the "political desks" as part of his restructuring, which the story reported in full context and with the DNC's explanation of it, as well as criticism from Soref.
- Dean seek to reassure gay Democrats (Feb. 24, 2006): The focus was on a Feb. 15 statement by Dean defending his decision to replace the outreach desks with a new structure, along with a Feb. 13 appearance by Dean at a meeting of gay Democrats in New York City. Critics are also quoted on the outreach desk decision, as well as on the release of the DNC's annual grassroots report, the first under Dean, which makes no mention of gay issues unlike in the past.
Note: The article includes balanced quotes from Dean's statement, DNC staffers, Stonewall Democrats and gay DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias. No allegations of factual error are made subsequent to publication.
- Activists confront Dem senators (March 17, 2006): Gay activists meet with eight Democratic senators, including Hillary Clinton and Majority Leader Harry Reid, to complain that Democrats haven't tried to defend gays on marriage and other issues, as well as Dean's decision to eliminate the outreach posts.
Note: The article quotes activists who attended the meeting recalling the statements they made in the meeting, along with Reid's spokesperson.
- Prominent Dem slams party on gay rights (April 27, 2006): Paul Yandura, a prominent gay former staffer in Clinton White House who also worked on the Clinton and Gore presidential campaigns, releases a public letter slamming Dean's strategic decisions on gay issues, including what Yandura claims was a failure to counter anti-gay marriage ballot measures in the 2004 and 2005 elections. Yandura, who is Hitchcock's domestic partner, urges gay donors to stop giving to the DNC.
Note: The article was precipitated by Yandura's letter, not a Blade "attack," and quotes liberally from the DNC in response to Yandura's criticism. Blade publishes correction on one minor point: The DCCC, not the DSCC, omitted sexual orientation from its non-bias statement.
- Dean fires Dems' gay outreach chief (May 3, 2006): Dean fires Hitchcock one week after the Blade's article on Yandura's open letter to donors. The article quotes Yandura claiming the firing was in direct retaliation for his public criticism of Dean, along with DNC staffers denying a connection. The story also reports Hitchcock's replacement will be longtime gay Dem Brian Bond.
Note: The article also quotes Tobias, the gay DNC Treasurer, defending the decision. No allegations of factual error are made subsequent to publication.
- Dean slams gay marriage on '700 Club' (May 10, 2006): Dean reaches out to evangelical voters by appearing on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" and misstates the party's 2004 platform as affirming marriage is between a man and a woman. In fact, the platform was neutral, supporting "full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits, and protections for these families." The story includes Dean's subsequent clarification.
Note: Dean's decision to go on the "700 Club" was itself newsworthy, along with how he misstated the platform on gay marriage. The DNC responded internally by telling leading gay donors that Dean's interview was with the ABC Family Network and was broadcast by Robertson. In fact, it was an "exclusive" with Robertson's CBN News for "The 700 Club," as video of the interview makes plain.
- Party seeks to reassure angry gay Democrats (May 19, 2006): Story extensively quotes Tobias and DNC spokespersons defending Dean's decision to be interviewed for "The 700 Club," as well as several gay critics, including National Gay & Lesbian Task Force director Matt Foreman.
- DNC rejects affirmative action status for gays (Aug. 18, 2006): Reports on decision by top DNC officials to reject a proposal by the party's Gay & Lesbian Americans Caucus to add gays to the affirmative action "goals" used to select delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Instead, Dean was cited endorsing the addition of gays and persons with disabilities to "inclusion programs" that acknowledge both groups have been underrepresented on delegate slates. The article quotes a number of leading gay Dems praising the result, as well as Hitchcock criticizing it.
- Dean dismisses Blade as 'New York Post of gay press' - IN LA magazine (September 2006): In a wide-ranging interview with Karen Ocamb of IN LA about the DNC's delegate selection controversy and the Hitchcock lawsuit, Dean says, "First of all, we consider the Washington Blade to be the New York Post of the gay and lesbian press corps. They’re not credible and they have somebody who has an agenda which is certainly not favorable to the Democratic Party so we simply don’t give them any credence."
It was at this point (coincidentally!) that I left as editor of the Blade, succeeded by Kevin Naff, who had worked with me as the paper's managing editor for several years.
- DNC gay caucus to push for more delegates in '08 (Feb. 2, 2007): Previews Dean's speech to the DNC's Gay & Lesbian Americans Caucus, noting in the second paragraph that exit polls showed 80 percent of gay voters backed Democrats in the 2006 congressional races. The article also reports that the Caucus will press state Dem parties to set voluntary "goals" for openly LGBT delegates to the party's national convention.
Note: Almost all sources in the article are in support of Dean and the DNC.
- Democrats pledge to push gay bills
(Feb. 9, 2007): Reporting on the DNC's annual winter meeting Feb. 2,
and the party's pledge to introduce a gay and trans-inclusive ENDA and
hate crime bills in 2007. The article quotes
Dean's speech before the party's Gay & Lesbian Americans Caucus
thanking gay supporters for their help in the 2006 elections. The
second half of the story quotes Hitchcock criticizing Dean for saying
there is no exit polling on gay voters, as well as Log Cabin responding
to a swipe from Dean in his remarks. Gay Dems are then quoted defending
Dean from those criticisms.
Note: The full text of Dean's speech on LGBT issues was included as a sidebar to the article.
- Former gay outreach adviser sues DNC (June 8, 2007): Reporting Hitchcock's suit against Dean, the DNC and Tagen, alleging he was fired because of statements made by Yandura, his domestic partner, which represented a form of anti-gay discrimination since public criticism by heterosexual partners and spouses are tolerated by the party. The article quotes the DNC's counsel and the answer filed by the DNC and Dean to respond to the allegations in the lawsuit, as well as Tobias, who defends Dean and the DNC.
- Dean asks gays to 'vote Democrat'
(Aug. 31, 2007): In an interview with the Blade, Dean cites '07 state
legislative gay rights victories in Iowa, New Hampshire and Oregon to
make the case for gays to support Democratic candidates in the 2008
elections. He also pushes the DNC's compromise position on gay delegate
selection to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Note: The story quotes Dean at length, along with Log Cabin's director in response, as well as gay Dem activists largely backing Dean on the delegate selection compromise.
- Mediation ordered in gay man's lawsuit against DNC (Oct. 12, 2007): A brief article notes the court ordered the parties in the Hitchock litigation into mediation and reprises allegations and denials to date.
- DNC disparages gay press (Jan 10, 2008): Recounting internal DNC email exchanges that complain about coverage in the gay press and suggest "punishing" the Blade by giving exclusives to the Advocate. Julie Tagen, DNC Deputy Finance Director, says in one email, "I tend to use the [B]lade and the other gay papers in the bottom of the birdcage."
- DNC lawsuit ensares lesbian activist (Jan. 17, 2008): Quoting legal documents, reports accusation by Hitchcock's legal team that lesbian DNC volunteer Claire Lucas was evading testifying in the lawsuit by claiming she isn't a D.C. resident -- even though she claims a homestead tax deduction for a residence she owns in the District. Lucas' lawyer is quoted defending her, and the article quotes from internal DNC documents from the litigation that show Lucas coordinating criticism of Hitchcock for a letter he wrote published in the Blade in February 2007.
- DNC lawsuit reveals black vs. gay rivalry
(Jan. 25, 2008): Internal DNC emails leaked from the Hitchcock
litigation reveal criticism by Stonewall Dems alleging that Leah
Daughtry, Dean's chief of staff, incited a wedge between gays and
blacks within the party over adding gays to the party's delegate
selection affirmative action guidelines, as well as a Alabama state
House election disputed between a lesbian candidate and an African
Note: The story quotes at length DNC sources defending Dean and Daughry, alongside the criticisms in the emails.
- Painting an unfair picture of the DNC by Rick Stafford (Feb. 1, 2008): A very strongly worded opinion column by the chair of the DNC's LGBT caucus says that the Jan. 25 Blade article was "unfair" and "shameful." Stafford doesn't allege any factual accuracies, but instead argues that additional background would have put the delegate selection Alabama election disputes in a different context -- he also lays out those additional facts in detail.
- DNC seeks to halt leaks stemming from lawsuit
(Feb. 8, 2008): DNC legal filings seek a court order blocking
Hitchcock's team from leaking internal DNC documents that are
"embarrassing, oppressing and damaging" to the DNC and Daughtry. The
article reprises the allegations in the Hitchcock lawsuit and the DNC's
response. A sidebar to the story reports that other internal DNC docs
obtained from the Hitchcock litigation showed party staffers
concerned in March 2007 that Dean should not personally issue a
statement criticizing Peter Pace, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs,
for saying the ban on military service by out gays was justified
because homosexual acts are "immoral."
- Dems' love for us is on the down low by Kevin Naff (Feb. 8, 2008): An editorial that criticizes hand-wringing within the DNC back in March 2007 about whether to have Dean personally criticize Pace. Naff slams Daughtry, an ordained minister, for worrying about fallout if Dean did so, imagining she was worried her "fellow Pentecostal worshippers who also speak in tongues might be offended that the Democratic Party stood up for those sinful gays who are going to hell." Tough stuff but hardly libelous. He also called her to the carpet for trying to undermine gay influence within the party on the delegate selection controversy.
- Do the wrong thing by Kevin Naff (March 15, 2008): An editorial relates how two lawyers representing Daughtry called for a meeting with Naff and Blade Publisher Lynne Brown to complain about the Feb. 8 editorial. Naff claims the lawyers screamed and cursed and later DNC staffers bragged they had succeeded in intimidate the paper from coveraging the Hitchcock suit.
- In an interview with Page One Q, one of the Daughtry lawyers denied screaming, cursing or intimidating Naff and the Blade.
- Gay official seeks end to DNC lawsuit (Feb. 15, 2008): Report focuses on an open letter by Tobias asking Hitchcock to agree to settle his lawsuit against the DNC in exchange for a mutual public agreement of "misunderstandings." The article quotes Hitchcock's attorney declining the offer because it does not include a financial settlement; otherwise the article focuses entirely on Tobias' claims in his letter.
Evaluating this coverage, there are some important points to keep in mind:
- Not one of these articles is "enterprise reporting"; meaning that in each and every case, the story was the result of prominent gay Democrats -- not the Blade -- raising issues about the decisions that Dean and the DNC had made or planned to make. Those public complaints are newsworthy, and it's not the job of the Blade or any newspaper editor to decide whether the Dean's explanations satisfy the criticism. That's up to the reader.
- In each and every story, the DNC and its supporters were offered and took full advantage of equal space within the story to make their case to readers. And although this review is largely limited to news articles, Kevin and I both always made sure to publish letters, columns, Sound Offs etc from the DNC and its supporters.
- Coverage of ongoing disputes like these walks a fine line between doing enough stories to cover the issues in detail and doing too many so that it appears the paper has some sort of "crusade." Week to week, editorial decisions were based on newsworthy developments that week. Over the last three years, the DNC has alternatively complained that the whole story wasn't being told and that too much attention was being paid to the story.
- Readers and story subjects are obviously entitled to their views about the quality of the journalism in the Blade's coverage. But the immature name-calling and strong-arm tacitics of the DNC, Dean, Daughtry et al go beyond the pale and would be inconceivable if directed toward other niche journalists, in the Latino, African American, feminist, labor press etc.
It's important that gays generally, but especially gay Democrats and those influential within the party's appartus -- Andy Tobias, are you listening? -- speak out for respectful treatment of the independent gay press. They do themselves, their party and the gay rights movement no favors by standing by while Dean and top DNC officials treat our community press with such contempt.
March 14, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Just when you think the Democratic National Committee couldn't possibly mishandle gay relations any worse, they somehow manage. The latest attempt to intimidate gay critics into silence would be shocking if it were not so depressingly true to form.
Kevin Naff, my former colleague and successor at the Washington Blade, writes in an editorial today:
What happens when a gay person dares to criticize a Democrat for failing to keep promises and honor commitments? I got a taste of the Democratic wrath last month, after criticizing DNC Chair Howard Dean and his chief of staff, Leah Daughtry in an editorial. …
In response, Daughtry sent two lawyers to the Blade’s offices to berate me and our publisher, Lynne Brown. The meeting was beyond contentious and featured lots of red-faced cursing and threatening of lawsuits.
They claimed to represent Daughtry and not the DNC. But DNC officials have gloated behind the scenes that since the confrontation in the Blade’s offices, the paper has stopped writing about a gay man’s lawsuit against the party, his former employer. Donald Hitchcock accuses the DNC of firing him after his partner, Paul Yandura, publicly urged gay donors to think twice before giving money to the Democratic Party.
Of course, to suggest that the Blade would abandon a story because a couple of angry lawyers made a scene in the lobby constitutes wishful thinking. One thing every journalist learns early on is that when people start yelling and making threats, that means you’re onto something.
The real outrage here isn't the attempt to influence press coverage; that happens every hour of every day in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. It's the sneering contempt that Dem officials show for "uppity" gays who dare to criticize the party that sees itself as beyond reproach on any and all gay-related issues, simply because the Republicans are so much worse.
Daughtry, an ordained Pentecostal pastor, should have been dismissed months ago for pitting blacks and gays against each other within the party, but this latest stunt is beyond the pale. And yet she remains Howard Dean's chief of staff and will run the Democratic National Convention.
Can you imagine the DNC treating the niche press of any other interest group -- labor, African Americans, Latinos, women and so on -- in such a manner? Of course not. But this is par for the DNC course under Dean, enabled by influential gays inside the party apparatus whose partisanship causes them to turn a blind eye to the legitimate watchdog role of the gay press and gay activists.
Kevin notes in the editorial that in depositions in the Hitchcock suit -- which the DNC stubbornly refuses to settle for unfathomable reasons -- Dean has apparently referred to the Blade "the Fox News of gay journalism." Another top DNC official, Julie Tagen, was recently revealed to have said in an internal email, "the Blade and the other gay papers for the bottom of the bird cage."
If that sounds familiar, it's probably because during my tenure as editor, Dean called the Blade "the New York Post of the gay and lesbian press corps."
"They’re not credible and they have somebody there who has an agenda which is clearly not favorable to the Democratic Party," Dean said in the fall of 2006, "so we simply don’t give them any credence." This from the same man who was happy to give an interview to Pat Robertson's "700 Club" -- since they're so "credible" and there's no one there "with an agenda" against the Democrats.
The Democratic Party has enjoyed a major resurgence the last several years, attributable almost entirely to the utter disaster of the Bush presidency and the inspirational (until recently) presidential primary. Dean will no doubt ride that wave as long as he can, but it is long past time for gays and gay groups to speak out against the contempt and disrespect with which Democratic Party officials treat the gay press.
Where is the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association when the gay press needs it?
March 13, 2008
Posted by: Chris
THREE UPDATES: At the end of the post.
Remember the tape that surfaced of Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern railing that the "homosexual agenda" represented "a bigger threat" to America than terrorism and Islam and will be "the death knell of this country"? Well it's gone mega-viral, resulting in a cottage industry of rumor and half-rumor to sort through.
First there was the allegation first made in the comments section of a local news story about the controversy that Kern and her husband Steve, a Baptist minister, have a adult gay son named Jesse who they tried to "scrub" from her legislative profile. The Kerns denied their son is gay, according to Queerty:
Our son is not gay. We would still love him if he was, but that would not change the fact that homosexuality is a chosen life style and that we would pray for our son to have a change of heart. My heart goes out to the many parents who have lost sons to AIDs [sic] and other STDs. Those kinds of deaths are tragic because they could have been avoided.
There was no sourcing by Queerty for the Kerns' alleged denial, just as there was no sourcing on the original rumor.
Queerty nonetheless went on to report that a Jesse Jacob Kern, who may or may not be related to Sally and Steve Kern, was arrested for attempted oral sodomy in June 1989, a charge that was later dismissed. At least the charge and dismissal are sourced, although the connection between alleged son and parents is not.
Separately, on page 112 in the comments section to another local news story about the Kern flap, someone identifying herself as Elizabeth posted a letter to Kern she said was written by her teenage nephew Tucker, whose mother was killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The long letter (available in the jump to this post here), is incredibly powerful to come from a teen, chastising Kern for claiming gays represent a greater threat than the type of terrorism that killed 168 people in Oklahoma City:
Had I not had the chicken pox that day, the body count would've likely have included one more. Over 800 other Oklahomans were injured that day and many of those still suffer through their permanent wounds.
That terrorist was neither a homosexual or was he involved in Islam. He was an extremist Christian forcing his views through a body count. He held his beliefs and made those who didn't live up to them pay with their lives.
As you were not a resident of Oklahoma on that day, it could be explained why you so carelessly chose words saying that the homosexual agenda is worst than terrorism.
The letter was so powerful that it's been quickly posted on blogs like OMG, Pam's House Blend and Daily Kos, as well as the blogs for gay rights groups like the Victory Fund and the Human Rights Campaign. Unfortunately, no one has any sort of evidence authenticating the letter, much less Tucker and his aunt Elizabeth. Both OMG and the Victory Fund told me in response to inquiries that they have no idea if the letter is legit, and I have a similar inquiry into Pam Spaulding.
To their credit, the Daily Kos diarist warned there was no verification and Pam's House Blend indicated the source was the comments section to the News 9 story. But more ought to be done to clear up whether the letter and these individuals are legit.
It's really unfortunate, of course, if the letter is a fake. The points about the comparative risks of terrorism and the "homosexual agenda," and even the domestic threat from Islamic extremism vs. Christian extremists, would be perfectly valid even if they weren't made by a teenager who lost his mother in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.
I'll update you if I learn more; in the meantime, all these good folks would be well served by a big fat disclaimer on the letter from "Tucker."
On the "Tucker" letter, Pam Spauling confirms that someone named "Dagon" posted the letter on her blog and I've sent an inquiry to that person, whoever he or she is. This is starting to really smell…
I've now heard back from "Dagon," who originally posted the letter from "Tucker" on Pam's House Blend. He indicated that he has no additional information that would validate the letter and in fact has "reservations" himself about whether it is legit.
I contacted HRC about reservations concerning the "Tucker" letter and the org's blogger posted this somewhat vague update to his Tucker post:
This week has seen an intense amount of coverage regarding Rep. Sally Kern's outrageous comments. Numerous sources have provided a wide array of information. As always, we've tried to keep focused on the very important facts and we're still trying to verify some reports. We're trying to track down the origins of this letter we linked to in this post...as are a number of other sources.
Do we think he's banned from using the "CC" word and linking here? :)
Posted by: Chris
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann weighs in on the Geraldine Ferraro-flap, comparing the former V.P. nominee to Klansman turned Republican David Duke, among other things:
As with most Olbermann rants, there are some solid points buried amidst the overwrought prose, but can he spare us all the drama? Does he really take himself so seriously?
March 09, 2008
Posted by: Chris
There's plenty I agree with in Nicholas Kristof's column in today's New York Times about the use of Muslim rumors as a "slur" against Barack Obama.
Kristof is surely right, for example, that "the most monstrous bigotry in this election isn’t about either race or sex. It’s about religion. The whispering campaigns allege that Mr. Obama is a secret Muslim planning to impose Islamic law on the country." Apparently there are even rumors that the Illinois senator is the Antichrist. How repugnant.
But Kristof commits the usual "multiculturist" error when he conflates intolerance toward intolerance as simply another form of bigotry; in this case, arguing that only a prejudiced voter would reject a candidate because he or she is Muslim:
Even if a prejudice is directed to a matter of choice, like religion or long hair, it’s still prejudice. It’s possible to believe that Catholics have every right to be president while opposing a particular Catholic candidate who would ban contraception; likewise, it’s possible to believe that Muslims have every right to hold office without necessarily embracing the candidacy of particular Muslims who advocate enveloping all women in burkas.
That's simplistic, at least as applied to Islam, when you remember that advocating burkhas is hardly the only example of Muslim bigotry. What if Islam were universally prejudiced toward particular groups? Is a voter bigoted or prejudiced for refusing to a vote for a candidate who is bigoted, simply because that prejudice is rooted in religion?
Prejudice is prejudice, even if it is dressed up as religion. In fact, when it comes to racism and sexism -- not to mention prejudice toward other religions and toward the non-religious -- bigotry is almost always dressed up as religion. And that's certainly the case with anti-gay bigotry.
After 9/11, I assigned reporters at the Washington Blade the task of finding out whether there existed a "moderate" branch of Islam that accepts gay people, gay relationships, and embraces individual sexual freedom. After research into Islam as practiced in the West and elsewhere, they located a very, very small number of individual Muslim thinkers willing to speak publicly in favor of fair and equal treatment of gays and respect sexual freedom. But there was nothing approaching a "reformed" or "moderate" or "progressive" branch of Islam that does so.
While there are Muslim politicians who believe in "the separation of mosque and state," I'm not aware of any whose secular views are separated far enough from their anti-gay faith that they support the fair and equal treatment of gay people and same-sex relationships.
If that analysis isn't accurate, or such a school of Muslim thought has since found favor with significant numbers, then I'd be pleased for someone direct me to it. Otherwise, it is fair to say that a Muslim candidate for public office has a much greater burden of proving that (a) he or she isn't prejudiced toward gays, and that (b) his or her (universally anti-gay) faith won't influence decisions of public policy.
If the test for Muslim bigotry were limited to support for burkhas, a belief by no means widespread among the world's Muslims, then Kristoff would be right that generalizations about faith would be grossly unfair and in and of themselves prejudiced. But he's wrong to insist that gays and those committed to fight against anti-gay prejudice are somehow bigots ourselves if we take note of the long and widespread history of anti-gay intolerance among Muslims -- not to mention the unwillingness of Muslim politicians to speak out against anti-gay bias, the way Obama has repeatedly done so among Christians. (Actually, how very un-Muslim of him!)
Western Europe is already paying the price for following a path of multiculturalism that goes so far as to tolerate everything, including intolerance, and for calling any sort of intolerance bigotry, even if it's intolerance of bigotry itself. Let's not repeat their error here.
March 04, 2008
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.