Times Teams Up With Gay Groups to Promote Teens 'Coming Out'

So much for objective journalism; in recent weeks the Times has embraced gay advocacy, culminating with the paper's online multi-media feature "Coming Out," introduced with a post, "Gay Teenagers, in Their Own Words," and 30 stories from "L.G.B.T. youth," compiled with the help of gay activist groups like GLAAD.
So much for objective journalism; in recent weeks the Times has embraced gay advocacy. The May 16 front page carried a complimentary profile by Dan Barry (normally the "This Land" columnist for the paper) of Rick Welts, president of the NBA's Phoenix Suns, coming out as a gay man, "Going Public, N.B.A. Figure Sheds Shadow Life."

"This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits," said Mr. Welts, who stands now as a true rarity, a man prominently employed in professional men's team sports, willing to declare his homosexuality. "Nobody's comfortable in engaging in a conversation."

On May 8, reporter John Branch praised NHL "enforcer" Sean Avery of the New York Rangers under the headline "In Rarity, a Player Speaks Out for Gay Rights."

Not such a rarity apparently, given that Branch followed up on May 14 with "Two Straight Athletes Combat Homophobia."

The front of the May 17 Metro section was dominated by former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, who resigned and outed himself in a memorable press conference in 2004: "Out of Politics and Closet, McGreevey Pursues Dream to Join Clergy."

The trend culminated with the paper's online multi-media feature "Coming Out," datelined Monday. Sarah Kramer introduced it with a post "Gay Teenagers, in Their Own Words," a placeholder for a selection of 30 stories from "L.G.B.T. youth," with more to come. Kramer's story was pure advocacy with not a dash of skepticism or disagreement.

The suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman who jumped from the George Washington Bridge last year after discovering that his roommate had secretly streamed his romantic interlude with another man on the Internet, captured worldwide attention. In the wake of his death, stories of gay youths being bullied and taking their own lives proliferated.

The subsequent outpouring of concern from parents, educators and those who had survived bullying themselves inspired "It Gets Better," a campaign led by the columnist and author Dan Savage in which thousands of lesbian and gay adults shared their stories to assure all teenagers that society has a place for them.

Popular culture has reinforced this message of acceptance. For example, the hit TV show "Glee" has had three storylines involving gay teenagers this season, including the matter-of-fact courtship, with rare onscreen same-sex kissing, of characters played by Chris Colfer and Darren Criss. Lady Gaga has countered the antigay rhetoric that many young people hear in their churches and communities with the song "Born This Way," increasing her already large fan base among gay and lesbian teenagers.

Where did the Times get its subjects? Liberal gay groups.

The New York Times embarked on the project "Coming Out" as an effort to better understand this generation's realities and expectations, and to give teenagers their own voice in the conversation.

The Times spoke with or e-mailed nearly 100 gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender teenagers from all of parts of the country - from rural areas to urban centers, from supportive environments to hostile ones. The newspaper contacted them through various advocacy groups, as well as through social networking sites like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

One of those groups is The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which supported the project with a Monday post full of helpful links back to the New York Times, even praising the paper's sympathetic phrasing:

GLAAD encourages LGBT teenagers to participate in "Coming Out" and make their voices heard. You can submit your story here. You may want to refer to GLAAD's Media Essentials Guide as you craft your story for the media. This important project, in conjunction with organizations like the Trevor Project and It Gets Better, can help foster understanding and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teenagers who, as the Times points out, "just want to be teenagers."

You can follow Times Watch on Twitter.