Bias Is Not Balance: GLAAD Pushes For More Transparent Punditry
Guest post by Aaron McQuade
1) Farm subsidies are a satanic plot to destroy our seed.
2) Climate change will lead to bestiality.
3) If we take steps to reduce the use of trans-fats in restaurants, civilization goes down.
4) Those arguing to extend the payroll tax cuts are practicing to receive the mark of the beast.
These statements are obviously nonsense. Anyone espousing any of these ideas on these topics would be laughed out of any respectable newsroom in the country. And every one of them came right from the minds of our nation’s most frequently quoted anti-gay activists. (1) (2) (3) (4)
Substitute practically any other issue for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, and the views of opponents look like fringe lunacy. But talk about the lives of LGBT Americans with this rhetoric, and suddenly the mainstream media is banging down your door to talk to you.
This is why reporters, editors, show runners and guest bookers need to know about the violently anti-LGBT rhetoric that many of their guests regularly use.
GLAAD’s Commentator Accountability Project is designed to shine a big, bright light on the extreme views of the vast majority of prominent anti-LGBT talkers. Bizarre allusions to Nazi Germany. Frequent accusations of satanic influence. Apocalyptic predictions for a world in which LGBT citizens are treated equally. Vile claims that the AIDS epidemic is God’s judgment. Dehumanizing comparisons of loving same-sex relationships to crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, or “jumping off a 10-story building.”
The truth is, many newsrooms don’t actually know the extent of the animosity that these anti-LGBT activists hold towards the LGBT community. They’re often careful not to say these things in the mainstream media. But get them speaking to right-wing radio, or writing statements to their supporters, and you see them in a whole new way.
Last year I spoke with a reporter from a very well-respected newspaper who had quoted one of the figures profiled in our project. I asked why the reporter had gone to this person for a quote. The reporter told me that an editor had demanded “balance.” I explained that this person would only provide “balance” if the LGBT advocates quoted were calling for criminal sanctions against heterosexuality, or said that straight people were “pawns of the enemy.”
Most of the voices the mainstream media turns to for stories about LGBT issues are so completely out of touch with the way everyday Americans view their LGBT friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers that all they could possibly add to a story is imbalance.
Please note here that “accountability” does not necessarily mean keeping these people out of the media. But if a reporter is interviewing someone who insinuates that his or her political opponent is controlled by the devil, it’s the reporter’s journalistic responsibility to put that person’s opinion in perspective.
The Commentator Accountability Project contains facts that every journalist who covers LGBT issues should be familiar with, but usually is not. It’s the responsibility of journalists to inform their audiences about an issue. But it is also journalists’ responsibility to fully inform themselves about the people they’re calling on to provide opposition to the LGBT community, and to relay that information to their readers, listeners, or viewers.
We hope journalists make note of the histories and patterns of those speaking out against the LGBT community, and that the Commentator Accountability Project informs their work so that Americans will have a clearer picture of where these opponents are truly coming from.
Aaron McQuade is GLAAD’s Director of News and Field Media, overseeing national, state, and local media outreach and strategy. His team monitors the media and proactively shares stories of LGBT people and issues. Aaron was a news anchor for several years on Sirius XM’s OutQ channel. He is a straight ally.
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