Pandering to the Gay Media Elite

Pandering to the Gay Media Elite
by L. Brent Bozell III
October 20, 1995

Republican presidential candidates are often accused by journalists of pandering to the religious right and its "harsh" positions on social issues like homosexuality. But pandering is a perfect word to describe the national media's treatment of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA), which held their annual convention in Washington recently.

We are supposed to believe that an association of journalists would not have an ideological agenda because its members insist they are objective. George Stephanopoulos can tell you otherwise. He drew boos from the supposedly objective crowd for suggesting Clinton couldn't support legally recognized gay marriage.

There's nothing objective about a group whose agenda is far left of Bill Clinton. At the convention, gay reporters were invited not only to "sample some of the joys of gay Washington," but to see panels like "On the Trail of the Radical Right," which instructed "how to keep up with anti-gay ballot initiatives, attempts to take over school boards and ban books, and efforts to smear gays and lesbians." The panel included the "top-notch right-watcher" Chip Berlet of a firm called Political Research Associates, who warns of wacky conspiracies like the homophobia caused by "Trilateralist belt-tightening policies."

Part of the NLGJA agenda is domestic-partner benefits for gay couples, now provided by The New York Times, Time Warner, and Capital Cities/ABC. In a story earlier this year in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sherry Boschert, who heads a gay employees' group at Capital Cities/ABC, tells of working with the NLGJA to publish an eight-page analysis called "Domestic Partner Benefits: At What Cost?" The paper suggests: "Expect fewer than one percent of employees to sign up, or 2.5 percent if you include all domestic partners," meaning unmarried heterosexual couples. (Memo to Kinsey: Even gay journalists now admit that gays don't account for ten percent of the population.)

This is a radical-chic cause, so the very elite of the liberal media came to pay their respects to this far-left fraction of the population. "Print and broadcast pros" came to tell "how they'll handle gay issues in 1996 election coverage. Panelists included moderator Cokie Roberts of ABC, NPR Vice President for News Bill Buzenberg, CBS News Political Executive Producer Barbara Cochran, Washington Post Executive Editor Len Downie, CNN Washington Bureau Chief Bill Headline and NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert. For their 1993 convention in New York, NLGJA drew network anchors Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Robert MacNeil and Judy Woodruff. A 1992 reception honoring Democratic politicians at the Democratic convention in New York drew Los Angeles Times Editor Shelby Coffey, New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, and CNN President Tom Johnson.

Once again this year, gay journalists were actively recruited solely on the basis of their "lifestyle" - by CBS, CNN, NBC, National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Knight-Ridder and Gannett. More regional newspapers also scouted out gay talent: the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Portland's Oregonian. The Army Times was also recruiting, to help cover gays in the military, I suppose.

But many national media outlets also funded the NLGJA convention, with more than $60,000 in donations, including Knight-Ridder ($15,000), the Gannett Foundation ($10,000), NBC News ($8,000), CBS News/CBS Radio/CBS Television Stations ($7,500), New York Times ($5,000), Los Angeles Times ($5,000), ABC News Washington Bureau ($3000), Playboy Foundation ($3000), Hearst Newspapers, The Washington Post, and The Miami Herald sent $2,500. The Army Times, the St. Petersburg Times, and the Scripps-Howard Washington Bureau came under the "up to $1,000" category.

Individuals in that last category included gay-journalist supporters Andy Glass, Washington Bureau Chief of Cox Newspapers, and Deborah Howell, Washington Bureau Chief of Newhouse Newspapers, which also owns the Religious News Service.

The program began by mourning the influence of Newt Gingrich, Jesse Helms, Phil Gramm, Pat Buchanan, and Bob Dornan, but countered: "We also have a great deal of power to influence America's thinking about people like us, and about people like them." That power is proven by the many gay national media reporters listed in the program, which also included meetings of gay journalist caucuses from Associated Press, Knight-Ridder, Gannett, and something called Gays and Lesbians in Public Radio.

The same journalists pandering to the gay lobby will be covering the 1996 campaign. Last time, reporters tried very hard to avoid bringing up gay issues, even in the face of Bill Clinton pretending to be a New Democrat and a Stonewall liberal at the same time. But they never grew tired of declaring the "extremism" of the religious right or portraying the Houston convention as a "festival of hate." These same media figures don't seem to mind that the NLGJA doesn't foster media professionalism, but advocates repudiating it in the interests of a radical agenda. To prove that point, they're personally bankrolling it.