CNN has long been one of America's most respected journalistic organizations on many issues, but for several years, it has had a giant blind spot when it comes to issues that impact the LGBT community. On December 21, John King USA ran a segment featuring Peter Sprigg from Family Research Council, but there are countless other examples. Out of a desire for 'balance' on these issues, CNN turned - as they often do - to the anti-gay industry to provide the counterpoint. Except all too frequently, the network doesn't book these people because they provide any actual expertise or experience on issues that impact LGBT people; their only qualification is that they are anti-gay.
We're all familiar with New Year's Resolutions – things we pledge to do to improve ourselves in the coming year. The new year is a fresh start; achance to start anew, down a better, healthier path. Most of us have a vice or two we'd like to give up, a few pounds we'd love to shed, or an area of our lives that we need to organize.
Just like us – the media needs to do a little housecleaning. Namely, it's time for outlets to finally drop several hundred pounds of unhealthy weight, which they've been carrying around for years, in the form of anti-gay activists.
During that John King segment on the pending repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and its implementation, King featured openly gay former service member Alex Nicholson, alongside Sprigg, who is a "senior fellow for policy studies" at the Family Research Council.
Nicholson's qualifications were clear. As an openly gay, former Army intelligence officer, he gave firsthand accounts of how the policy played out in the day-to-day lives of gay and lesbian service members.Sprigg's qualifications, however, came exclusively from his job at the Family Research Council. There, Sprigg has worked to advance some of the most hurtful, dangerous, and demonstrably false notions about the lives of LGBT people that our country has seen in recent years. And yet, by pairing him with Nicholson in this segment, CNN told its millions of viewers that both of these men should be seen as equally valuable to this discussion.
Is it important for the media to take these groups on? Of course it is. But that's not what CNN and other media organizations are doing when it invites these groups to take part in otherwise reasonable discussions. The media is elevating their hurtful messages and attitudes to the level of rational discourse. The media is saying that people like Alexander Nicholson, who can speak to real-life experience and firsthand facts, need to be "balanced" by people like Peter Sprigg, whose claim to fame is arguing that being gay should be outlawed. If CNN wants to interview a gay person who believes being straight should be outlawed, THEN Peter Sprigg would be an acceptable "balance."
CNN and the rest of the media are doing nothing but exposing their viewers to dangerous anti-gay rhetoric when they invite members of these anti-gay groups onto their programming. Starting in 2011, this needs to stop.
Many of us who make New Year's Resolutions can run into trouble figuring out where to start. So the attached petition makes this a very, very easy resolution to keep. Tell the media that if they can't find someone who isn't part of the anti-gay industry to discuss an issue that involves the LGBT community, then the "other side" of that issue isn't one worth hearing.
For more information, visit www.glaad.org/tellcnn.
When a story impacts the LGBT community, think about how you would treat the story if it impacted any other group of people. If you were running a story about education, would you seek out the opinion of someone who hates teachers? If you were running a story about agriculture, would you invite a guest who believes farming is a sin? Of course not, yet the anti-gay point of view is one you seek out regularly.
These groups, whose only qualification is their animosity towards LGBT equality, bring absolutely nothing of value to your airwaves – and by inviting them on, you're only lending them your credibility and elevating their messages. If you are seeking a second opinion on issues of LGBT rights, I ask you to stay away from members of the anti-gay industry, and instead consult actual experts. No matter what the exact topic, you should always be able to find a professional who can offer something beyond animus. Educators, scholars, consultants, psychologists, military historians, medical professionals – no matter what field your story is related to, you can always find an actual expert who can bring something of real value to these conversations.
In this New Year, I am asking you to please stop giving these anti-gay activists a platform for their false and dangerous messages, and instead give your audience the information they need.