By Melanie Davis
The National Gay and Lesbian Journalist Association (NLGJA): The Association of LGBT Journalists was proud to host the yearly LGBT Media Journalists Convening, sponsored by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund and the Arcus Foundation. This year’s event hosted 77 Journalist from around the country with an audience impact of over 1.7 billion.
Media masters in attendance included everyone from CNN to twitter activist @JoeMyGod to Tagg Magazine, a four-year-old black queer owned publication in Washington DC. With a packed agenda, Lewis Wallace, an independent journalist, editor and transgender rabble-rouser, started off #LGBTMedia17 with a robust discussion around a piece they wrote and were later fired over: Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it.
The question, “Is objectivity dead?” became a challenging question for many to answer considering the state of emergency our country is in. By day two of the LGBT Convening we were ready to meet the panelist who covered the worst massacre in our country since Wounded Knee: Pulse Night Club. Joining the panel was The Orlando Historical Society to talk about artifacts it is gathering to memorialize and interpret the tragedy. You can see some items on their website. Shortly after, we were joined by Ricardo J. Negron-Almodovar, Director of Proyecto Somos Orlando and a survivor of the massacre.
Ricardo J. Negron-Almodovar’s conversation was perhaps one of the most important we had. He shared with us in detail what happened and how he escaped. He also told us how mindful journalist must be when covering such a tragedy. Words of advice to journalists covering tragedies: “Remember, we are not your assignment, and we don’t care about your deadlines; we are surviving, surviving the worst possible nightmare!” Ricardo said that journalists from around the world were relentlessly hunting down anyone linked to Pulse’s public social media page. He said this was particularly challenging, because regardless of how the story was being told, the fact remains that it was white washed and gay washed, stripping Latinx people of their identities. Furthermore, the public outing of many people has only helped sustain the trauma many of these survivors are dealing with.
Another important project we learned about was the TransMilitary project, which has existed to create visual media for transgender service members and veterans to be seen and heard. Envisioning a day when the United States military no longer discriminates against transgender people from serving the country they love. Per their website: We believe when people relate to the personal experience of transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, they will come to appreciate transgender individuals in society too.
TransMilitary’s current projects includes a feature documentary by filmmakers Fiona Dawson and Gabriel Silverman and Jamie Coughlin of SideXSide Studios, currently in post-production. If finishing funds are raised, the film will be released fall 2017.
This was my second time at this convening, and as a queer Latinx person, I was grateful for the level of diversity in attendees and media outlets, which helped contribute to lively discussion that helped us overall in getting on the same page. This was particularly evident when some of our historians would site our collective queer history. They would immediately be reminded that our collective history erased many of us and forced us to own our own narrative by opening media outlets that reflect more voices, voices that have traditionally been missed or obviously overlooked. The Pulse nightclub massacre was repeatedly cited as an example of how we ignore each other, and how we as an industry can do better, even by simply taking a page from one another’s books.
NLGJA is an organization of journalists, news executives, media professionals, educators and students working from within the news industry to foster fair and accurate coverage of LGBTQ issues. NLGJA opposes all forms of workplace bias and provides professional development to its members. For more information, visit www.nlgja.org.