As we enter LGBT pride month, journalists will be faced with the inevitable question of how to bring something new to an event that happens–in many places–every year.
Reporters in Salt Lake City got a lot of help this year when 300 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints participated in the march as an act of reconciliation. The people, members of Mormons Building Bridges, participated in the march for the first time. Here’s how the Salt Lake City Tribune covered the story.
Later, parade Grand Marshal Dustin Lance Black, tweeted: “In tears. Over 300 straight, active Mormons showed up to march with me at the Utah Pride parade in support of LGBT people.”
Mormons Building Bridges followed right behind Black in the parade. The men in beige suits and ties and the little girls in white dresses were a sharp contrast to the pounding music and dancers behind them, but the crowd clapped and shouted their approval for the folks in their Sunday best. Erika Munson, a mom of five from Sandy, started the group a few weeks ago to show her support for the LGBT community and to encourage members of her religion to do the same in a public way.
Holly Nelson, a 38-year-old lesbian who lives in Murray, had tears in their eyes as the Mormons walked past.
“I think it’s amazing,” she said. “It’s been so hard to be in Utah knowing the Mormon church is against the gay community.”
The march was also covered by the Deseret Times, which is operated by a for-profit enterprise connected to the LDS church.
Kim Turner said she was a little nervous about what kind of reaction the group would get in the parade because the LDS Church supports traditional marriage between a man and a woman, and the church encouraged members to support Proposition 8 in California defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
“We thought there might be some animosity toward us, but it was the opposite,” she said. “It was so touching. It was very emotional. We saw many people crying along the (parade) route.”
She, too, was in tears for most of the parade.
“It was so touching walking along and having people tell us ‘thank you’ when it was our pleasure,” she said. “This was a labor of love, nothing more than that. It wasn’t about politics. It was about love.”
Both pieces do a nice job of letting LGBT people speak for themselves and providing an unusual spin on the typical gay pride event coverage. Both stories include lots of pictures, with the Deseret News providing more pictures of the Mormon group.
The coverage has not been without its critics on the right, of course. Terry Mattingly at the conservative religion news media blog Get Religion (which is bankrolled by Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, major financial backers of Proposition 8 in California) says the Tribune story failed to properly cover the official position of the Mormon church or speak to church leaders. He didn’t appear to notice that the News also covered the event without any official comment from the church and only slightly more explanation of the church’s position.
But I wonder, in a the most religiously homogenous state in the country, whether the readers of a newspaper in Utah really need to have the official church position explained to them. Both stories laid out the church’s position on same-sex marriage and gay rights, so is it really necessary to bring in a dissenting voice? It’s interesting that neither paper found it was necessary, suggesting that the papers feel confident that their readers are well-versed in Mormon church teaching and don’t need a remedial lesson in a story which is essentially about a gay pride event.