Late in the afternoon of Thursday, April 15 the White House sent out a press advisory on President Obama signing a memorandum declaring that hospitals receiving federal funding must allow same-sex couples visitation rights just as they do for heterosexual couples.
It goes without saying this was significant news, especially from a White House and President who have spent the last year deflecting attacks from the LGBT community that it is not doing enough for LGBT rights.
So one would think that the White House press office – which has a staffer assigned to handle LGBT media – would time the release of this news to ensure it makes it onto the front pages of the country’s major LGBT newspapers.
Yet the email from the White House hit my mailbox around 4:37 p.m. – two days past the deadline to make it into this week’s Bay Area Reporter. In fact by dumping this on a Thursday afternoon the White House missed the printed deadlines for all of the country’s major LGBT newspapers this week.
So now editors at these papers must choose whether to go with online only stories about the memorandum or hold the story a week, making it old news for likely a majority of readers.
They could also choose to do both online posts and run stories next week, but some editors loathe doing so. With advertising down and smaller page counts, it makes little sense to reprint a story when it has already appeared online.
I checked several major LGBT Web sites this afternoon to see how the story was being handled.
The B.A.R.‘s Web site has nothing posted, meaning it is being saved for next week’s paper. Whether it makes it on the front page or not remains to be seen.
The Seattle Gay News posted an AP article about the memo on its site today.
The Dallas Voice posted a link to an MSNBC story.
The DC Agenda posted its own story today (Friday, April 16) by staff writer Chris Johnson. But in an email response to questions, news editor Kevin Naff said he was unsure how the paper would handle the story in its printed edition next week.
Bay Windows in Boston posted a story by freelancer Lisa Keen on its news blog today. But it didn’t play it up on its main page, rather the link to the story was barely visible below a larger tease to another health related article from April 8.
The timing of the news is doubly irritating for LGBT papers by the fact that the policy does not go into effect immediately. So there was no reason why the news could not have been held until next week, say Tuesday afternoon, in order to make the LGBT press’ deadlines.
By doing so the White House would almost assuredly gotten stories about a pro-gay move by the President on the front pages of LGBT papers from coast to coast.
In a phone interview Shin Inouye, director of specialty media in the White House press office, told me the news was announced last night because it was ready to go out.
“This was something that had been in the works for months,” said Inouye.
But it begs the question then why not time the announcement to ensure banner headlines favorable to the president? Waiting four more days doesn’t seem like that much of a delay, considering many major news announcements are stage managed to ensure maximum exposure in the press.
Some have suggested that this White House doesn’t care about print deadlines, and certainly doesn’t need the LGBT press in this instance to get the story out.
But this shouldn’t be a print media vs. online media competition. Even if the announcement had come out this past Tuesday to meet LGBT papers’ deadlines for their issues this week, the story would have already been broadcast on various Web sites and in the mainstream press.
It certainly was a missed opportunity by this White House to better manage a pro-gay story at a time when the LGBT press has been filled with stories and editorials demanding more action on the part of Obama and his administration.
And for the record – the drop dead deadline / absolute last chance to get something into each week’s edition of the Bay Area Reporter is noon Wednesdays. The paper is due to our printer no later than 2 p.m. that day, so all news stories have to be filed no later than noon.