Radio Silence Isn’t Golden

NPR's Talk of the NationSometimes it’s not what is said, but what is not said that matters. That is often the case when mainstream media tackles LGBT stories.

Last Tuesday, NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” devoted its first half-hour to a discussion of same-sex marriage and Prop 8. The California Supreme Court had predictably upheld Prop 8, and host Neal Conan interviewed a reporter, a minister who supports Prop 8 and a California woman who married her partner before November. It was a lot to cover, and overall Conan did a decent job.

Unfortunately Conan missed opportunities to correct misinformation, and myths that continue to swirl around the same-sex marriage debate, even after years of discussion, were allowed to stand as facts.

Guest Pastor Jim Garlow, minister of Skyline Church in La Mesa California was positively giddy with excitement over the ruling. Sure enough, he spouted the same old rhetoric, but one thing caught my ear. According to him, social science research has established that children do best with a father and a mother. Problem is he’s flat out wrong.

The anti-gay contingent has been cherry-picking research and citing studies of families headed by single mothers to support this claim. But when families headed by same-sex couples are actually studied, social science research shows that children in two-dad or two-mom families do just as well—or even better—than children in traditional families.

It would have taken just a few seconds to correct Garlow’s assertion. Instead Conan asked him about his sermon topic for the following Sunday.

Later, a caller chimed in to assert that opposition to same-sex marriage is not always about religion, an interesting point. He went on to cite the incorrect assertion that same-sex couples can create legal safety nets that offer all the rights of marriage—an idea that has been soundly refuted. In fact, the United States General Accounting Office reported that marriage offers more than 1,000 rights and responsibilities, many of which are not available outside marriage.

Again, Conan neglected to correct that myth.

I’m not a broadcaster, and I certainly appreciate the time constraints and on-the-spot thinking that radio hosts must handle. At the same time, I expect reporters of all kinds to counter misinformation. In particular, these two assertions made on “Talk of the Nation” are low-hanging fruit for any reporter covering the same-sex marriage debate.


2 Responses

  1. Laura-I think the radio host didn’t do his homework. and, in fact, I often think that’s the problem. You cannot counter an untruth if you don’t know the facts.

    The solution, more coverage in mainstream media about gay and lesbian issue.

  2. […] How else can we hold outlets like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, or even National Public Radio (as one of the current pieces up at spotlights) accountable for their coverage of all things […]

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