Gay press gains access to White House


I would like to respond to my fellow blogger Oriol’s question – Does the LGBT media have more freedom than the mainstream media to blur the lines between activism and journalism in terms of how coverage in the LGBT press may be influencing the Obama administration’s attention to LGBT issues.

I would argue it is not some activist bent by LGBT reporters. Rather, it has more to do with the fact that for the first time in years LGBT publications once again have access to the White House.

Not only is there a point person who handles press calls from LGBT news outlets, but publications like the Advocate and the Washington Blade have staff reporters attending the White House’s daily press briefings. During President Bush’s time in office, that access was denied to LGBT newspapers.

And by being in the room at the daily press briefings, LGBT outlets can ask questions about LGBT issues that mainstream reporters may at first overlook or not deem a priority for their coverage. Thus LGBT stories gain more traction within the ranks of White House reporters, who then ask more questions on topics like Dont’ Ask, Don’t Tell or DOMA extending the newscycle on these stories.

The Advocate’s DC reporter Kerry Eleveld attends the press briefings three to four times a week and has applied for full press credentials from the White House. On several occassions Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs has called on her to ask a question, and his response, or lack thereof one, has made national news.

The Blade had its credentials yanked back in 2004 by the Bush White House and couldn’t get its calls returned. As soon as Obama was sworn in, his White House restored the weekly LGBT paper’s press credentials.

Three staffers have credentials – Lou Chibarro, Josh Lynsen and Chris Johnson – and regularly attend the briefings.

The resulting coverage in those publications, as well as other LGBT papers, is thus keeping the President and his team honest, to crib a line from CNN’s Anderson Cooper, on what he promised to LGBT community during the campaign last year.

That isn’t activist journalism. It is what reporters are supposed to do – ask hard questions and keep elected officials accountable to their constituents.

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2 Responses

  1. I would argue that the line between journalist and activist is blurred mainly due to circumstance. The fact is that LGBT journalists are members of minorities who are commonly discriminated against and we’re still fighting for basic civil rights.

    Regardless of where we work or what type of work we produce, many LGBT’s are activists because we must be, because if we do not stand up, speak out, and fight for our rights in most jurisdictions of the US then we will almost certainly have none.

    I believe the trick is in knowing where the line is, and where and when that line must and must not be crossed. For those like myself who write mainly opinion it’s easier, but even then there’s still one’s own credibility to consider in clearly presenting fact as fact and opinion as opinion.

    To my way of thinking, for many of us the blurring those lines is not a matter of freedom, it’s a matter of necessity. The key is doing it well and doing it responsibly.

  2. Matthew and Rebecca:

    Thanks for offering answers to my question. And it was just that, a question. In particular, I agree with Matthew that the increased access to the White House is really the key in this chain of events.

    However, in general I agree with Rebecca. As long as LGBT civil rights are lacking, LGBT journalists in both mainstream media and LGBT media will continue to be challenged on this front.

    That’s not to say it can’t be done, as Rebecca says, well and responsibly. Countless NLGJA members do it every day!

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