In my column this week I looked at the terrain of the media landscape faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans noting, in part:
...despite increased public acceptance and the passage of some basic legal protections, not only is sexual orientation still a taboo for many in the media, all too often it serves as a focal point for hate, ridicule, and misinformation.
Looking back now, I should have also noted that, in addition to the "taboo," "hate, ridicule, and misinformation," LGBT Americans regularly face something far more insidious in the media: silence.
This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots which are largely credited with sparking the modern LGBT civil rights movement. For those unfamiliar with this seminal moment in gay history (I don't blame you, so little attention has been paid to the event by the media) here's the gist of it from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights:
[In 1969], there were not many places where people could be openly gay. New York had laws prohibiting homosexuality in public, and private businesses and gay establishments were regularly raided and shut down.
In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a group of gay customers at a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn, who had grown angry at the harassment by police, took a stand and a riot broke out. As word spread throughout the city about the demonstration, the customers of the inn were soon joined by other gay men and women who started throwing objects at the policemen, shouting "gay power."
Police reinforcements arrived and beat the crowd away, but the next night, the crowd returned, even larger than the night before, with numbers reaching over 1000. For hours, protesters rioted outside the Stonewall Inn until the police sent a riot-control squad to disperse the crowd. For days following, demonstrations of varying intensity took place throughout the city.
In the wake of the riots, intense discussions about civil rights were held among New York's LGBT people, which led to the formation of various advocacy groups such as the short-lived Gay Liberation Front, which was the first group to use the word "gay" in its name, and a city-wide newspaper called Gay. On the 1st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the first gay pride parades in U.S. history took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and near the Stonewall Inn in New York.
The Stonewall riots inspired LGBT people throughout the country to organize in support of gay rights, and within two years after the riots, gay rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the United States.
Well, according to a search of TVeyes.com and Nexis, scant attention this week has been paid by the media to this historic civil rights anniversary.
CABLE NEWS: Since Monday, TVeyes.com turns up exactly four mentions of Stonewall on CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business News, MSNBC and CNBC. All four mentions occurred on the June 23 broadcast of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. Double checked on Nexis – same results.
NETWORK NEWS (Morning Shows/Nightly News): Since Monday, TVeyes.com hasn't turned up a single mention of Stonewall on ABC's Good Morning America or World News, CBS' Early Show or Evening News, or NBC's Today Show or Nightly News. Double checked on Nexis – same results.
MAJOR NEWSPAPERS: Since Monday, a search of Nexis turns up 2 stories discussing Stonewall in any substantive way printed in America's top ten daily newspapers – USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle and Arizona Republic. A search of these newspapers' websites confirm the results. What exactly did these publications print about the anniversary?
USA Today: Nothing
Wall Street Journal: Nothing
New York Times: Passing reference to Stonewall in story about the lack of a national leader in the gay right's movement.
Los Angeles Times: Nothing
New York Daily News: Two good stories about the Stonewall anniversary.
Washington Post: Printed an AP story titled "Today in History" that lists Stonewall as one of 13 events and 18 birthdays worth noting this week.
Chicago Tribune: Passing reference to Stonewall in story about a senior center for gay seniors.
Houston Chronicle: Printed an AP story titled "Today in History" that lists Stonewall as one of 13 events and 18 birthdays worth noting this week.
Arizona Republic: Nothing
Of America's top ten daily newspapers, only the New York Daily News spent much time at all discussing the Stonewall anniversary this week – the rest either make passing reference with little context or, worse yet, print nothing at all.
So, the 40th anniversary of Stonewall has been granted one cable news segment and 2 print stories this week. Surely such an historic milestone merits more serious attention, not just from cable and network news outlets but from newspapers as well.
UPDATE: It's nice to see the AARP doing so much with its various media arms to commemorate Stonewall.
UPDATE 2: Newsweek.com has a good package up on Stonewall. Hopefully they'll follow suit with something equally substantive in the print edition.
Several conservative commentators have publically criticized conservative media figures and Republican politicians for deeming President Obama's reaction to unfolding events in Iran to be overly cautious, including The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, who called such criticisms, "Aggressive Political Solipsism at work."
Media figures and outlets have characterized Sen. Kent Conrad's cooperative health insurance proposal as a "compromise," "hybrid," or bipartisan "alternative" to a public insurance option without noting the argument by progressive economists that a public option is necessary for health care reform to be successful.
When considering what kind of platform to offer conservative commentators' criticism of President Obama's reaction to events in Iran, the media should remember these commentators' previous discredited claims, predictions, and analysis about other foreign policy issues, particularly the Iraq war.
Media reports on polls indicating public concern over the federal budget deficit did not report the view among prominent economists that the government's response to recession should be spending and not deficit reduction.
Many media figures have dubbed President Obama's health care reform proposal "ObamaCare," reinventing the terms "HillaryCare" and "ClintonCare" that were used by opponents of the Clintons' reform proposal. In doing so, these media are often seeking to frame the debate in negative terms.
The New York Times and John Fund each noted that Sen. Claire McCaskill said President Obama had not provided a legally "sufficient reason" for removing Gerald Walpin from his position as inspector general. But neither noted that McCaskill subsequently said additional information provided by the White House put it "in full compliance" with legal requirements and that "the decision to remove Walpin appears well founded."
Editor & Publisher has an interesting look at how newspaper editors are reacting to the use of popular social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook by their journalists. As you can imagine, newspaper ethics policies for social networking sites are all over the map...
From Editor & Publisher:
The Los Angeles Times issued a list of guidelines in March, while The Wall Street Journal gained attention in May when it expanded its conduct guidelines to include a host of online-related restrictions, including warnings not to "friend" confidential sources or get into Web- related arguments with critics. The Washington Post, just a day later, did the same (as I observe in my story on p. 5). But not everyone is laying down the law on Twitter. Some papers want staffers to take a casual, open approach, while others admit they aren't sure how to police the social media outlets and still allow them to be useful.
Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, started tweeting, albeit sparingly, last month. "I have asked people to use common sense and respect the workplace and assume whatever they tweet will be tied to the paper," he told me. "Even when they are tweeting personal information to their followers, they are still representing the New York Times."
The Washington Post's new policy on social networking sites, created in mid-May, asks users to avoid "verbal fisticuffs with rivals or critics." The paper's policy adds: "In general, we expect that the journalism our reporters produce will be published through The Washington Post, in print or digitally, not on personal blogs, Facebook or MySpace pages, or via Twitter or other new media. We are happy to have reporters post links to their stories or other Post material.
The Los Angeles Times "social media" guidelines make clear that staffers are always representing the paper when they engage in online activities: "Assume that your professional life and your personal life merge online regardless of your care in separating them. Don't write or post anything that would embarrass the LAT or compromise your ability to do your job."
When I asked Associated Press Director of Media Relations Paul Colford about Twitter and Facebook policies, he cited a portion of the AP's "news values and principles," which states: "Anyone who works for the AP must be mindful that opinions they express may damage the AP's reputation as an unbiased source of news."
Perhaps news outlets (print/broadcast/online) should post their ethics policies online. Not just policies as they relate to social networking but the policies that guide reporters in general.
Over the years we've seen numerous examples of media figures breaching the tenants of basic journalistic integrity if not their employers' stated ethics policies. If editors are too busy to police their own reporters, I'm sure the American people would be happy to pick up the slack – on Twitter, on Facebook, on the news pages or on the air.
If you use the social networking site Facebook, be sure to join the official Media Matters page and those of our senior fellows Eric Boehlert, Jamison Foser, and Karl Frisch as well. You can also follow Media Matters, Boehlert, Foser, and Frisch on Twitter.
A Wall Street Journal article falsely suggested that the Obama administration's policies resulted in the government takeovers of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG. In fact, the Bush administration took over those institutions in September 2008.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed by David Gratzer falsely equated "a new public insurance program" supported by "Congressional Democrats" to the Canadian "single-payer" system. In fact, President Obama has explicitly rejected a Canadian-style system and supports a "public plan" option alongside private insurance plans.
Criticizing the Obama administration, a Wall Street Journal column included the false claim that the Bush administration never touted its initiatives in terms of how many jobs would be "saved or created." In fact, Bush's Agriculture Department did so repeatedly.
Kimberley Strassel falsely claimed President Obama "decreed" that debate over Sonia Sotomayor "be a discussion primarily about Judge Sotomayor's biography, not her qualifications." In fact, in his speech announcing Sotomayor's nomination, Obama spoke extensively about her qualifications.
In articles on the political "battle" over Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal omitted the context for remarks she made in 2001 and 2005, even though both articles included a response from the White House saying Sotomayor's comments are being taken "out of context."
The Wall Street Journal and USA Today advanced conservative efforts to portray Sonia Sotomayor as an activist judge by misrepresenting a remark she made about the difference between district and appeals court justices.
The Wall Street Journal cited only "the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund" to support a claim that a tax credit in a Republican alternative health-care reform proposal "wouldn't cover half of the cost of the average family's health-care premiums," but ignored relevant data from the Kaiser Family Foundation supporting the claim.