LGBT Leaders Tackle Media Coverage of Community as Pride Month Gets Rolling

By: Karl Frisch

Washington D.C.–(ENEWSPF)– With LGBT Pride month now underway, complete with an official presidential proclamation, Media Matters contacted various LGBT advocacy organizations and leaders for their thoughts on media coverage of the LGBT community thus far in 2010. Below you’ll find what they have to say, but what do you think? Leave a comment and let us know. You can find more about media coverage of the LGBT community in 2010 by clicking here.

Jarrett Barrios, president of Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD):

Mainstream media have a responsibility to include fair and accurate images of the LGBT community. As our community makes strides to legal equality, it is more important than ever that media take this responsibility seriously and not merely report on the issues, but on the individuals and couples impacted by pending legislation. It’s these images and stories of our community that are in the minds of voters and lawmakers in states where LGBT equality is under debate.

Robin McGehee, co-founder of getEQUAL:

Simply acknowledging the existence of LGBT people doesn’t tell the complete story about the positive impact we’ve had on the fabric of society.  You can’t underestimate the importance of a lesbian couple, in their own words, expressing the love they have for their child or a same-sex couple talking about how their love is like any other love.  It’s no secret that the greatest advancements in LGBT equality come when we are able to openly and honestly talk to others about our unique, yet oftentimes common, personal stories.

I am still amazed at the lack of coverage that Dan Choi and Jim Pietrangelo’s action against DADT at the White House fence received. I think about media attention around issues that are important to right-wing conservatives and the air-time and commentary that they generate and it just demonstrates how unbalanced our media truly is and how conservatives benefit from the extra talk-time. 

Sean Eldridge, communications director of Freedom To Marry:

Too much of the media’s coverage goes to the "horse-race" of how marriage battles are going, instead of exploring the real stories of how millions of Americans are harmed by being denied the freedom to marry and the vital safety net of protections and responsibilities that marriage brings. As people like President Clinton and Laura Bush show in describing their own journey to support of the freedom to marry, coverage of committed couples, their stories, and why marriage matters — and the conversations that such coverage prompts — is the key to helping the public understand that marriage discrimination harms many, while helping no one.

Michael Cole, press secretary of Human Rights Campaign (HRC):

If there’s one thing that’s clear about the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, it’s that when we tell our stories, we win.  With the new CBS News poll showing 77% of Americans know someone who’s gay or lesbian we have made strides in helping our fellow citizens understand we’re an integral part of our society.  But the media has a responsibility to amplify those voices and bring stories to light – particularly of still underrepresented communities including LGBT people of color and transgender people.  Nothing beats back the hateful rhetoric from the far-right like the real life experiences of our community.

Sharon J. Lettman, executive director of National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC):

In recent years, Black press outlets have made tremendous strides in covering lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) stories. For instance, the June Issue of Essence magazine includes a Father’s Day tribute to a Black gay couple with two adopted children. Their story is told with respect and dignity for the contributions they make to their community. In the same issue there’s a second article in which a lesbian couple talks about the values they are instilling in their children. Just a few short years ago this type of coverage did not exist. 

Most of the progress that we see is at the national level. We still have some work to do in convincing regional Black press outlets that it is their journalistic responsibility to cover Black LGBT issues in ways that are both fair and inclusive by empowering them to know that their readership is much broader than their perceived conservative Christian base. Their readership also includes concerned Black LGBT people and allies who are becoming increasingly vocal about the need for positive portrayals in media about LGBT people of color.

Rea Carey, executive director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are intertwined in every issue, every community, everywhere, all the time. Media coverage, especially in recent years, has begun to reflect this reality, with relatively greater inclusion of our issues, our voices, our personal stories. Has it been enough? Absolutely not, but we look forward to continued progress in ensuring our community’s voices are included not only in media coverage of LGBT-specific issues, but all issues.

Paul DeMiglio, senior communications manager of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN):

As advocates continue pushing for the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in Washington, SLDN – along with our repeal coalition – continues to educate the media and tell the stories of our brave gay and lesbian patriots who serve in silence every day under this law.  Opponents of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal rely on myths from the past to spread fear about open service, despite the overwhelming majority of Americans who see through these distortions and understand that open service is right for our service members and good for our military.

Michael Adams, executive director of Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE):

SAGE has been heartened by the increased interest in our constituency and our issues – in both mainstream and LGBT media – but we certainly have a long way to go. The recent release of our report "Advancing Equality for LGBT Older Americans" is a terrific example. We enjoyed fair and extensive coverage by the AP, Chicago Tribune, Advocate, WGN and other media, but it also prompted right-wing response. Our hope is that the mainstream media, reporters cover aging issues and the LGBT media are able to grapple with our issues more and recognize the importance of covering our growing aging population. And as that happens we expect the right-wing media will take notice, too.

Michael Silverman, executive director of Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF):

The media has a responsibility to fairly represent the transgender community. As the transgender community moves from the margins to the mainstream, it is urgent that the media portray transgender people accurately, and report on the ways that they are affected by discrimination and by legislation designed to lessen that discrimination.  These stories about real transgender people and the struggles they face have the power to shape the debate over transgender rights.