Looking at Nightline’s Ex-Gay Episode

Lots of chatter about Nightline’s recent episode on Journey Into Manhood, an “ex-gay” program.  Nightline was permitted to film a weekend and interview at least one participant.

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A nice wrap-up of the criticism can be found at Pam’s House Blend, who cross-posted work by Chino Blanco.

Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out called the piece “an infomercial for JIM” and said “Nightline’s producers elected to trade accuracy for access.”  David Badash at The New Civil Rights Movement complained “[w]hat is so dangerous about this Nightline episode is that is suggests that “gay reparative therapy” might actually be a viable option, a possibility of a cure.”

So was it bad journalism?

While the show wasn’t balanced when it came to talking heads and countering viewpoints, the reporter Ryan Owens was skeptical throughout and asked good questions of Preston, the participant in the weekend.  This wasn’t cheerleading by any stretch of the imagination although the access they received from JiM meant the visuals were heavily balanced in favor of the group.

These are hard stories to tell and I disagree with activists that the story wasn’t critical enough of the weekend.  At some point, viewers need to be provided information and begin to make decisions for themselves.  In that sense, the story provided skeptical coverage of what the weekend accomplishes, interviews with leaders and participants that raised questions of what was being accomplished, and experts and former participants who challenged the assumptions and successes.  While it wasn’t the undercover expose that some activists wanted, that doesn’t make it bad journalism.





2 Responses

  1. I totally agree. I watched the video before reading this blog and thought the same thing. The reporter had good questions and was skeptical. They did show another side of the retreat. It may not have been as long as the parts on the retreat, it was balanced by the reporter’s good questions.
    I’m sad these retreats exist but this was good coverage and coverage that is necessary.

  2. […] because the story wasn’t compelling and interesting.  Instead, because these kinds of stories are a “no win” situation, no matter how careful the reporter may be.  […]

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