GLAAD defends AJC as media award nominee

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imageThe Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation stood by its nomination of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as one of its nominees for the GLAAD Media Awards, defending the paper for its “dozens of positive and fair LGBT articles.”

The AJC is among five daily newspapers nominated in the category of Outstanding Newspaper Overall Coverage for the media watchdog’s 22nd annual awards celebration, which kicks off in March. The Atlanta daily was included along with the Denver Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Salt Lake Tribune when GLAAD announced its slate of nominees across several categories on Thursday.

But including the AJC has raised the eyebrows of some media watchers and LGBT activists, who point to the paper’s lack of coverage of major gay events, including Pride last October. The paper has slashed its staff in recent years, retrenched to the suburbs and just last month, used “transvestite” in coverage of a cross-dressing purse snatcher. That term goes against GLAAD’s own media reference guide.

imageGLAAD’s communications director, Rich Ferraro, explained the group’s nomination of the AJC in an email to local supporters on Friday, citing the paper’s coverage of the botched Eagle raid, Derrick Martin’s public coming out and the sexcapades of Bishop Eddie Long as reasons it was included.

We share the community’s disappointment that this year the Atlanta Journal-Constitution chose not to cover this year’s PRIDE event, but urge community members to review the newspaper’s overall coverage of topics that impact our lives, which this year’s GLAAD Media Award nomination is based upon. The paper ran dozens of positive and fair LGBT articles in 2010. Such visibility is especially important in a state where our equality is too often debated. The coverage included reporting on the raid of the Atlanta Eagle in-depth, following Derrick Martin’s personal story as well as reporting on the Bishop Eddie Long controversy in a way that pointed out injustice and demanded answers.

The newspaper also provided a platform for pro-LGBT staff columnists including Jay Bookman to discuss the rising support for marriage equality in October. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution gave voice to staff Politics Columnist Cynthia Tucker, who discredited Tony Perkins’ claim that gay and lesbian service members in other countries “don’t fight wars” in September, called for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in July and wrote that marriage equality would not affect heterosexual marriages in June.

A powerful op-ed piece from the Family Equality Council also ran in July which criticized Ga. Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Karen Handel’s inaccurate and defamatory comments about gay and lesbian parents.

Looking at the overall coverage of LGBT issues, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution covered local and national LGBT news and did so in a way that merits a nomination. We look forward to working with the paper on improving their coverage of LGBT national and local issues as we do with papers around the country.

But, as the GA Voice points out in a follow up to its coverage of GLAAD’s AJC nomination, the paper’s coverage of the Eagle case and other LGBT stories often followed other media outlets.

Also, while it is good that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution chose to cover stories like the Atlanta Eagle raid and Derrick Martin taking his boyfriend to the prom, the daily paper rarely led the way on those stories — often they were following behind other mainstream or gay press.

Finally we agree that Bookman and Tucker are excellent advocates for LGBT rights, but it is worth noting that the AJC has minimized their columns to reach out to more conservative readers. When the AJC revamped its editorial board in 2009, both Tucker and Bookman (the two most liberal voices) were removed, with Tucker dispatched to DC to write commentary from there.

It’s also questionable how coverage of the Long lawsuits should be factored into “positive portrayals” of LGBT issues, as GLAAD outlines in its statement.

The scrutiny over the AJC’s nomination didn’t stop GLAAD from taking a celebratory victory lap on Saturday with a post on its blog. The item – titled “Celebrities, media respond to GLAAD Media Award nominations” – offered reaction from some nominees, including Bravo, “Glee,” and “True Blood,” but made no mention of the criticism over the AJC. Even the AJC didn’t even include its own nomination in its coverage of the GLAAD announcement.

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