Open Letter to the News Industry: National Coming Out Day

nlgjaDear Colleagues,

Tuesday, October 11, 2011, is National Coming Out Day (NCOD). The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association encourages news organizations to take the opportunity presented by this national event to chronicle the LGBT narrative to their readers. Journalists play an important role in presenting diverse communities to the general public.  This is an excellent example of how fairness and accuracy of language will lead to better coverage.

Established in 1988 on the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, NCOD is a day to set to celebrate and recognize the difficulty of coming out.

Several resources are available through NLGJA to assist your NCOD coverage, the Stylebook Supplement on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Terminology including suggestions for language usage and contact information for dozens of LGBT organizations. In addition, our Journalists Toolbox can come in handy for reporters seeking guidance on covering the LGBT community.

As stories mentioning the sexual orientation or gender expression of individuals are produced at your newsroom, NLGJA recommends the following guidelines for accurate reporting on LGBT people:

•         Use restraint when publishing an individual’s sexual orientation until determining whether the subject’s orientation germane to the story. In many situations, it probably isn’t a matter of concern — in the same way that a person’s race, ethnic background or religious beliefs are often not relevant.

•         The term “gay” is the preferred adjective that has replaced “homosexual” in referring to men who are sexually and affectionately attracted to other men. “Homosexual” should be used only if “heterosexual” would be used in parallel constructions, such as in medical contexts.

•         When reporting on the outing of an individual, whether in headlines, or body copy, avoid using forms of the word “admit,” which is typically used in the context of something shameful or illegal. Some examples of less potentially charged words are “announce,” “disclose” and “say.”

•         Also, be aware that the Associated Press Stylebook and the NLGJA Stylebook Supplement recommend avoiding the term “lifestyle” when referring to someone’s sexual orientation. In this context, “lifestyle” suggests that gays and lesbians — not to mention bisexuals and transgender people — think and act the same way. In fact, there is no “gay lifestyle” or “alternative lifestyle” just as there is no “straight lifestyle.”

For background information and tips on NCOD coverage, please visit:

•         The NLGJA article: How to Cover LGBT People

•         The NLGJA article: Why LGBT Voices Matter

•         The Poynter article: How do you say he’s gay?

•         The Human Rights Campaign offers a History of Coming Out Day

NCOD offers an opportunity for you to provide your audiences with stories on the LGBT people in their local community. Please join us to ensure that these stories are told fairly and accurately.

In addition, perhaps some of your colleagues are members of NLGJA.  National Coming Out Day is an excellent opportunity to encourage and show your support of their efforts to cover the LGBT community both fairly and accurately.

Sincerely,

David Steinberg
NLGJA National Board President
President@nlgja.org

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