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    December 01, 2006

    Schindler's List

    Posted by: Chris

    Gcn It all started as a throwaway comment as things got heated during a panel discussion at this year's National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association convention in Miami. The topic, suggested by Terry Michael of the Washington Center on Politics & Journalism, was "Lavender Press Politics: Too Blue for Red-State Readers?"

    Terry had argud there was a "soft bias" in the gay press that doesn't give a fair shake to Republican, conservative and libertarian ideas. Karen Ocamb of IN Los Angeles magazine took issue with that view, and I focused on how too many gay press editors value clubby membership in their local community "A crowd" over really pressing coverage where their readers have the most influence: within the gay rights movement and the Democratic Party.

    All this proved too much for a staffer at New York's Gay City News, a longtime competitor to our New York Blade. As we went back and forth on the issue, I found myself surprised that the GCN staffer — I believe it was Associate Editor Duncan Osborne, but I'm not sure — would even argue there wasn't a liberal bias to the gay media. After all, GCN and its indy predecessor LGNY always seem so proudly left-wing. Finally, I pointed out that GCN prints ever week a tally of fatalities in Iraq. To me, that's a self-evident case of "you know you're a liberal gay paper when…"

    The panel discussion moved on but GCN Editor Paul Schindler circled back to the issue in Press Pass Q, an online trade journal of sorts for the gay press. There he wrote:

    I am confounded as to when commemorating members of the American Armed Forces who die under fire became a sign of a left-leaning sensibility.

    As the death notices in Gay City News indicate, just over 3,000 Americans have now died as the result of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. The information is all based, as best we can determine from Pentagon data, on fact. Those facts have no political meaning in and of themselves. There are names, ages, hometowns, ranks, and military units.

    All this was completely beside the point I was making. ABC's "This Week" every Sunday airs the list of dead from Iraq, and I would agree there's no "left-leaning sensibility" behind that. But within the gay press, it's so off-topic that it betrays the liberal anti-war bias of the editors. (And I'm no closet defender of the war. I have thought it was irresponsible and unjustified from the start.)

    When Schindler finally tries to make the weekly Iraq War death tally a gay issue, his argument is even weaker:

    Having lived in Brooklyn and worked in Manhattan in the days following 9/11 — and for almost two decades before that — I find it inconceivable that this city’s LGBT community would ever attempt to be able to seal itself off from the horror of that experience, or from the debate about how our nation has responded in its wake. The events since Sept. 11, 2001, have at their essence been a New York tragedy, an American tragedy. And our integration into American life will never be full until our community recognizes its inseparability from the whole of that tragedy. …

    U.S. military policy forbids open service by gay and lesbian soldiers, though we all know that many serve, and some die. We can’t say for certain who the [closeted gay soldiers] of Iraq and Afghanistan are, but their names are somewhere on the lists we print.

    Talk about your bootstraps! A story about gays serving overseas under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," or the difficulties faced by their partners back home, or any number of other "gay angles" to the Iraq War story are certainly fair game for the gay press without being liberal-biased. Efforts by gay rights groups to ally with other progressive groups in opposition to the war — or work on the other side by Log Cabin Republicans — would be as well.

    But it's way too thin a reed to suggest that dedicating space every issue, week in and week out, to these Iraq death statistics is justified because some gays are somewhere on the list. The same logic would justify almost any editorial decision. A gay paper could publish the size of the federal deficit every week (gay tax dollars are included in that tally) or the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. (gays are among those crossing the border). Just as either of those statistics in the gay press, repeated ad nauseum every week, would be evidence of bias — are you listening Lou Dobbs? — the same is true for Schindler's list of Iraq war dead.

    Hearing Schindler try so hard to argue GCN isn't biased makes me wonder why he even bothers. News articles in the pub are often written in first-person and include the writer's viewpoint. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. Objective journalism isn't the only form. But let's call it what it is, rather pulling a Fox News in reverse and protesting way too much.



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    1. republicofm on Dec 1, 2006 10:17:04 AM:

      Here in the Metro Detroit area our gay paper is Between The Lines. They are extremely left leaning, and not only in their opinion section. Granted, they do print the ocassional story concerning the local Log Cabin Republicans, but they are very few, and very far between.

    1. Dan Tietz on Dec 1, 2006 12:22:54 PM:

      Funny Chris should suggest that Schindler doth protest too much. That is what I thought as I read through Crain's post!

      As Chris himself noted, Schindler hasn't "justified" weekly reports of war dead merely or only because "some gays are somewhere on the list." Schindler offered that reasoning, whatever you might think of it, as the last of several reasons, the others of which sounded rather patriotic and reflected the full integration of LGBT persons in American life. So, Mr. Crain, tell us again why you think that is somehow uniquely left-leaning. I think it sounds rather traditionally conservative and old-line Republican.

    1. Talullah Bankbook on Dec 1, 2006 1:34:20 PM:

      Oh Miss Crain lay off Schindler already.

      GCN is the LGBT paper of NYC no one gives a darn about that rag the Blade!

    1. Captain Louis Renault on Dec 1, 2006 1:34:52 PM:

      I for one a shocked that papers reflecting the views of the overwhelming majority of their readers would end up with a larger share of the marketplace.

      What really surprised me is how the WashBlade managed to stay in business when it's so far to the right of its readership. But - that's the benefit of market imperfections. Most people won't target such a small market with their capital; so an effective monopoly is easily obtained.

    1. Citizen Crain on Dec 1, 2006 6:20:46 PM:

      In response to Captain, the reason is that most readers don't seek out newspapers that merely reflect back to them their own politics. They appreciate a wide range of views, including those with which they disagree or find provocative. The publications and (especially) blogs that merely parrot back the viewpoints of their readers are the equivalent of Rush Limbaugh — there for the "dittoheads" who are intellectually lazy and/or need the validation.

      That said, I can't see how the Blade is/was "to the right of its readership." The news coverage is/was balanced and asked tough questions of Democrats, Republicans, and activists on all sides.

      When my editorials took issue with public officials and gay rights groups, it was almost always from the left, because they were not being aggressive enough in pushing gay rights. The editorials might have irritated Democrats, but that doesn't make them "conservative." I regularly challenged the meek treatment the Democrats get from gay groups, but that's a criticism from the left, not the right.

      The opinion pages likewise reflected a wide range of views, with those from the left far outnumbering those from the right. Typically, the criticism boils down to a desire by some not to be confronted with conservative viewpoints, even though they are reflective of the readers since 25% of the gay vote consistently goes GOP.

      Even if only 5% or less voted Republican, the role of a newspaper is to inform and provoke, so the idea of tailoring viewpoints to fit the predilections of the readership is anathema.

      In response to Dan: I don't know why you equate "patriotic" only with conservative and not liberal. I for one believe liberal opposition to the war can be every bit as patriotic as conservative support for it. And if you really believe that a weekly tally of the dead in Iraq, in a gay newspaper of all places, is "traditionally conservative and old-line Republican," then you must have suffered a news blackout during the entire 2006 election season.

    1. Paul Schindler on Dec 23, 2006 10:52:27 PM:


      It's not my list. It's our list. All of ours. Still don't understand your difficulty in understanding that.

      Paul Schindler

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