Opinion: The Importance of the “Gay” Media

gaymedia

During the economic downturn a few years ago, more than one media expert declared the “gay” press dead. They pointed to the number of print media institutions closing up for various reasons, many because the advertisers either weren’t paying their bills or the money that was being spent previously trying to reach the LGBT community was being spent elsewhere. Sadly, many media outlets like Idaho’s own historic “Diversity” were financially forced into silence.

Some have made the argument that, because there’s so many LGBT friendly news outlets and organizations in existence, our community no longer needs forums solely dedicated to and produced by the the community. Their reasoning usually goes something along the lines of pointing out that television station X or radio station Y reaches a more mainstream audience than a LGBT focused website or newspaper could ever hope to reach.”

The main problem with that line of thinking is that, in most cases, those media outlets are controlled by a corporation. The end goal usually isn’t the betterment of a community or to really even inform, instead, it’s more likely that your favorite news show or newspaper is simply seen as another business venture by those who control the purse strings. As a media consumer you become a demographic to be hooked in and sold to. Mainstream media outlets filter their stories to fit their demographic needs, not the needs of most real people.

It’s easy to “like” a story or to hit the “share” button on an article, but in the end you’re simply adding to a media outlet’s demographical bottom line, whether you support that outlet’s overall message or not.

There are often certain aspects of LGBT media that a mainstream commercial entity can’t or won’t offer to a local community. Tracy Baim, who co-founded the famed Chicago LGBT newspaper,Windy City Times, writes in a just published look at the “gay” press,”The role of gay media continues … because there are … many cases where the mainstream media are simply parachuting into a story and therefore providing an incomplete and thus inaccurate picture for their readers.”

As someone who has been involved in three different online LGBT news ventures here in Idaho over the years, as well as being an avid fan of “Diversity”, I can tell you first hand that when a LGBT issue does draw mainstream media attention it’s often either political or its sensationalistic.

When it’s political, most reporters treat the story as if civil rights were a football game, taking the infamous “he said, she said” approach,” playing the so-called “fair and balanced” game made famous by Fox News and others, rather than a fully unbiased report on a meeting, issue or bill.

When its sensationalistic, the mainstream media often lacks the resources, knowledge or expertise to give the story context and perspective.

That is, of course, if they cover it all.

When is the last time, for example, that the mainstream media covered a LGBT fundraiser, a candlelight vigil or a themed night at the Balcony? It happens, but not very often.

The benefits of the “gay” media are numerous, especially in a state as large and as sparsely populated as Idaho. What the stories lack in big media showmanship, they make up for in adding context, prospective and quite often make up the only coverage, outside of a Facebook invite, the event or issue will receive.

It’s also very often a catalyst for the mainstream media. During the recent incident involving a beating in Pocatello, for example, it was an Idaho Agenda reader that finally got the local newspaper to do a story on the matter. The newspaper ended up not only running a great article on the subject, but a subsequent well-written editorial on the issue, as well.

When I started the Agenda, it was for the sole purpose of providing an outlet for news and events that impact Idaho’s. The idea was to create a platform for the many voices, groups and events in our community. Like the other ventures I’ve been involved in, it’s also quite often a lonely one. Despite extending numerous invitations and running monthly announcements, virtually begging for other voices to be involved, it largely remains a sole venture.

Sometimes, when I sit back and watch a story evolve into something that makes a tangible impact on our community, I love the “beast” I have created. Other times, when my friends are angry because I don’t have time to go to coffee, or I can’t seem to find a source to comment, or because the Agenda wasn’t included in a press release and I’m having to track down details, it’s one of the most frustrating things in the world.

Still, I believe the Agenda and its readers are making a difference. Whether I publish for one reader or for a million, the end goal is the same; to encourage involvement in our community, to provide a snapshot of our movement and where we are headed and to inform those who wish to be informed. To that end, I believe the “gay” media is just as important today as it ever was, in print, online or over the air, I believe our stories must be told, and if recent history is any indication, we just may be on the cutting edge of re-writing the definition of what it means to be a part of Idaho’s LGBT community.

(Ed Note: If you would like to contribute an article, opinion-piece, or have a news tip or if you would just like to get the word out about your group or event, please email it to idahoagenda@gmail.com. You can also help spread the word by “liking” and sharing the Idaho Agenda Facebook page or find us on Twitter. Your participation is always welcome!-J.T.)

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