Who is Covering the Prop 8 Trial in the LGBT Media?

As the Proposition 8 trial ends its first week–and much of the traditional LGBT media is finally going to press–it’s interesting to look at how the LGBT press is covering the biggest trial yet over same-sex marriage.

Much of the coverage is being provided by two people, Lisa Keen and Karen Ocamb.  The veteran journalists appear to have divided up much of the LGBT media providing any coverage of the trial.  Ocamb–who blogs at LGBT POV–is providing coverage for Frontiers in Los Angeles (her usual home), but also DC Agenda in Washington, D.C.  Keen, at the Keen News Service, is providing coverage for Bay Windows, OutQ News, MetroWeeklyand Windy City Times.

The Bay Area Reporter has bucked the trend, sending its own reporters–co-blogger Matthew S. Bajko and Cynthia Laird–to cover the trial in their hometown. The Boston-based Edge Network is covering the trial with reporter Roger Brigham, who is based in San Francisco. The Advocate is using its West Coast correspondent Andrew Harmon to provide updates, as well as heavy tweeting.

Some traditional LGBT newspapers are providing limited coverage, at least on their websites.  The Philadelphia Gay News had a story by Jen Coletta mid-week and the Gay City News only had a story on the Supreme Court’s decision, written by Paul Schindler. There was limited coverage in the Dallas Voice, and ProjectQAtlanta.

 The challenge for traditional LGBT media is that they are forced to compete with the online world where no one is paying for coverage. While LGBT bloggers are providing extensive coverage of the trial, they are serving as aggregators and piggy-backing on the coverage paid for by traditional media sources. But covering a trial like this costs money and the LGBT media often lacks the resources to devote to paying for coverage.

There is also extensive use of live-blogging and tweets from inside the courtroom.  While this coverage is interesting, it also has its problems.  First, beyond the coverage by the Advocate, none of the blogging is really being done by LGBT journalists.  Instead, we get self-interested advocacy groups–the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Courage Campaign, American Foundation for Equal Rights–providing much of the play-by-play.

Stay tuned.

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17 Responses

  1. Lisa Keen is also covering for us – 365gay – almost daily.

    In addition, we have a roaring live discussion happening today about the trial with our readers – and on Tuesday, we’ll have a live, online discussion with Constitutional law professor Geoff Stone (11 am est)

  2. Thanks for adding that Jennifer. I should have mentioned your coverage. I’m sure I missed other outlets.

  3. Please don’t belittle those live-blogging and tweeting the Prop 8 trial. They are the closest thing we have to cameras in the court.

  4. A lot of people want to feel some connection with the trial that video footage and audio recordings had promised, before they were yanked away by the US Supreme Court. In that regard, I think live tweets from within the courtroom have been a great way to get some modicum of being there. For instance, as mentioned, there are several Twitter lists comprised of various activists, journalists and others for people to follow. I put together one for my blog Gay Rights Media that’s probably the 2nd most followed here http://twitter.com/GayRightsMedia/prop-8-trial-tweets. If you’re looking for live blogging, Teddy Partridge at Fired Dog Lake did an excellent rapid fire transcription for the first four days here http://seminal.firedoglake.com/diary/author/teddysanfran.

  5. If the big media news outlets were interested then they’d be there. The reason that there are a number of people live-tweeting (I’d put the count closer to 8 than your note about 2) and blogging about this case is that there is a gigantic black hole of other coverage. These people are out there on the ground sharing events as they unfold. That is not to be underestimated, whether it’s The Advocate or not.

    It is also several of these same individuals who are providing very worthwhile analysis and higher-level review of the day’s events. As some of these folks are lawyers and community members, I find their insights quite informative. Where is the coverage from serious news sources? If we had some then maybe people wouldn’t be scrambling to fill the gap.

    One huge advtange we get through this live-tweeting is ACCESS. We can’t see — thanks to SCOTUS. We can’t hear. Many of us can’t be there either. But having this play by play helps us participate, each in our own way, in the experience of the proceedings almost as if we were there. That is priceless, and something that most real news outlets have totally forgotten how to deliver these days.

    So how about giving these folks a round of applause instead of insults? How about sending the message to news outlets that individuals will step up and fill the gap of you don’t decide our story is worth covering or will fit in your time slots? (As we know, nothing other than Haiti is happening in the world, right?) Stop whining and get out there and do the good work… or someone else will.

  6. Marcy Wheeler (who is straight) and I (gay) provided liveblogging at FDL Seminal (http://seminal.firedoglake.com/) and Emptywheel (http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/) all week. Additionally, FireDogLake has a rich Prop 8 Hub (http://firedoglake.com/prop8trial/) where we aggregate our own coverage and link to others’.

    FireDogLake coverage includes word-by-word liveblogging, gist where we don’t get every word, and our commentary. I am a gay blogger.

    Next week I’ll be joined by David Dayen ((d-day) who once blogged at Calitics and Hullabaloo (digby’s place). He’ll liveblog at the FDL News Desk (http://news.firedoglake.com/).

    We don’t consider ourselves LGBT media exclusively, but our media credentials for the courtroom do make us real, and folks far and wide have been following our work. Having a 50% gay staff does merit your attention and a mention, I hope.

    There’s a wide variety of views, reporters and commentators providing coverage directly from the courthouse. Sure, video would be wonderful. But we are all doing the best we can and hope to continue to provide a multiplicity of viewpoints.

  7. Michael –

    Thanks for the nod and for taking note of the coverage of the federal challenge to Prop 8. But it’s a bit more complicated than you make out here.

    First about me. I’ve been covering Prop 8 since before it was Prop 8 so it was only logical that Frontiers In LA (the recently merged publication from IN Los Angeles magazine and Frontiers) send me up to cover at least the beginning of the trial. I did a four-page preview in the magazine, including interviews with Ted Olson, David Boies and the plaintiffs. But I have been reporting and writing essays free for my blog LGBT POV with free help from bloggers – including Syd Peterson and Lambda Legal’s Jenny Pizer for legal analysis. I gave Kevin Naff permission to use whatever he wanted from LGBT POV for free for DC Agenda, which I’m happy is up and running.

    We all thought we would be able to Tweet and blog and report from inside the courtroom. On day one that proved to be extremely difficult with spotty transmission. The American Foundation for Equal Rights provided WiFi in the media room for the first few days so a number of reporters – including AP’s Lisa Leff – went there to watch the closed circuit and report out quickly.

    But when SCOTUS said no to any transmission of the closed circuit feed outside the SF federal building, bloggers – as well as a few MSM reporters (such as Howard Minetz from the San Jose Mercury News) became the ONLY ones recording the trial in real time (aside from the court stenographer, of course).

    Now here’s an important point that you might have missed: bloggers – such as Rick Jacobs and Paul Hogarth for the Courage Campaign’s Prop8Trial Tracker and Emptywheel at Firedoglake.com and Shannon Minter doing legal analysis for Pam’s House Blend – have been blogging using their own phone cards. They have been paying out of their own pockets to report out what’s going on. And while there are some personal observations in the reports, for the most part they give us quotes or the approximation of quotes about who’s saying what and why and context. This free service to us cost them money.

    Additionally, prior to the start of the trial, I personally asked the American Foundation for Equal Rights – the group sponsoring the federal challenge – to post as much information, photos, and videos as possible on their website so it would be free and accessible to anyone who wanted it. They have tried to post as much as they can, within the limits of the law.

    The bottom line: covering this trial is costing us – the LGBT press and bloggers – a lot in terms of time and money. With a few exceptions – AP, Reuters, Mercury News, SF Chronicle – the MSM was here for the opening couple of days and then left. But for us – this is the already the civil rights trial of the new century and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get it covered.

    And another point is how extraordinarily well we all worked together to achieve this aim – MSM and LGBT reporters and bloggers – sharing info, sources, contacts, linking to each other, covering for each other. It’s another version of being on the frontlines in a battle. There’s an overwhelming sense of duty to get the information out. We all feel that responsibility deeply – and for that, please – I think those blogging for free in particular deserve our thanks.

    Karen Ocamb, back in WeHo.

  8. Great comments from everyone. My concern about the lack of real reporting at the trial really goes to Karen’s point. We need more independent LGBT media providing coverage and we don’t have enough because it is do expensive.

    As interesting as livebloggng is, it isn’t journalism, especially when done by activists. I have great respect for Shannon, but he isn’t objective and we should be treating activist groups with skeptecism, not relyng in them for reporting.

    People need info on the trial and reporting, not just transcriptioning, We need reporters working the hallways and asking tough questions of people on both sides. That’s what I fear is missing.

  9. I hardly know what to say about this. All I can say is that my tweets represent my own impressions of what I am seeing in that courtroom, unflitered by NCLR or any other organization, based on 15 years as a practicing litigator who has appeared before Judge Walker and many other judges on that same court. To be honest, much of what I’ve seen from… See More the MSM on this case bears little resemblance to what’s really happening there. I sympathize deeply with the plight of traditional journalists but I have no solution to the economic realities that are driving their woes. I’m pretty sure attacking bloggers will not make their problems go away, though. I’d love nothing better than to let the public see the whole trial for themselves on YouTube, without being filtered through me, the gay press, the MSM or anyone else. Unfortunately the Supreme Court has made that impossible. We’re just doing the next best thing. I hope everyone will download and read the full transcript of this trial when it becomes available to the public.

    • I appreciate that NCLR is tweeting for their members and for the public, but that can’t replace journalism. NCLR has an interest in the litigation and was a part of the coalition that ran Noon8. That doesn’t make you an objective source of information.

      If Boiseon is blowing the case, for instance, I don’t have confidence that NCLR or American Foundation for Equal Rights or Courage Campaign can or will tell us that. That’s not their job or in their self-interest. So if that’s what people are relying on for reporting, we run the risk we aren’t getting objective analysis and reporting.

      You are right, it’s better than nothing. And I know people are interested in what is happening inside the courtroom. And I wish it would be televised. But that doesn’t replace independent reporting by journalists who are asking groups like NCLR hard questions, not just posting their tweets without skepticism.

      • Ask away! We’ll answer as best we can. For the record, I think Boies and Olson are doing a near-perfect job so far. If they lose this case, it won’t be because of anything the lawyers did wrong.

  10. Triplett, you twit, a “smattering” of (paid) journalists is at the trial because a “smattering” is now all that exists. The Merc reporter is there alone because almost all the Bay Area papers are owned by the same company, and they want to save money by having the the Merc provide the feed. Oh, and the papers’ parent company, MediaNews, filed for bankruptcy yesterday. Their majority shareholder is now Bank of America. And your drawers are in a bunch because that lone Merc reporter MAY NOT BE GAY????

    • I was talking specifically about the LGBT press, Barbara. I know that the AP, the Merc, and the SF Chronicle are covering it. The NYT appears to have a reporter there. And, of course, the broadcast press is there, although not bringing live coverage. All of that is great.

      My focus was on the LGBT press and the lack of diversity of voices providing independent, objective journalism. There was a time that the LGBT press would have hired freelancers or sent their own reporters. Now, they are relying on Lisa Keen (who is great) and a couple of independent reporters connected with BAR and the Advocate. The fact they don’t–or can’t–is cause for concern.

      • Unfortunately, the LGBT media has contracted right along with the MSM, at least here in the Bay Area. These are the consequences. I’m sure there are Bay Area journalists who’d be happy to cover the trial for nothing — but they have instead to work at non-journalism jobs, if they are lucky enough to have jobs at all.

  11. “If the big media news outlets were interested then they’d be there.”

    So true. Almost the entire courtroom was reserved for journalists. They were there the first day but there have been plenty of empty seats every day since then. If anybody has a press pass they want to give me, I’d be grateful, because I’ve been getting up at 5 a.m. every day to go stand in line with the regular folk.

  12. How could you forget On Top Magazine’s excellent coverage (ontopmag.com)? Is highlighting up and coming gay media not a tenet of NLGJA?

  13. Bob, are you actually in the courtroom? It’s hard to tell from your story whether you are doing first-person reporting or reporting on what others have said or using a transcript?

    And we are all about recognizing different media outlets. My list as not meant to be exhaustive.

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