Every major media company works to create great content, but how do they work to tell LGBTQ stories that are both authentic and accessible to mainstream audiences? On an editorial or content-creation level, what role can LGBTQ writers, producers and editors have in helping their media outlet tell our stories effectively? What have been some of the challenges experienced? How can LGBTQ employees at a mainstream media company make a positive impact on coverage through employee resource groups, and how can they help create productive relationships with straight cisgender allies and coworkers?
Moderator: Christina Kahrl
Panelists: Jay Alpert, Katie Barnes, Sara Johnson
JAY ALPERT (he/him) is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience in communication. He is currently a writer/producer for ABC’s “Good Morning America” in New York, which recently won its second Daytime Emmy in a row for Outstanding Morning Program. Alpert covers a wide variety of topics at GMA, ranging from politics to general news to celebrities. Alpert previously worked at Al Jazeera America and local stations including WABC-TV, the number one station in New York; KTNV-TV in Las Vegas, where he was an executive producer; and KYW-TV in Philadelphia, which won the Edward R. Murrow Overall Excellence Award. Alpert also spent several years in public relations working for an agency, a large hotel/casino company and serving his own clients.
KATIE BARNES (they/them/their) is an award-winning journalist for ESPN and espnW, covering culture, LGBTQ issues, women’s basketball, collegiate softball and women’s combat sports. Since joining ESPN in August 2015, Barnes has written on myriad topics, such as transgender athletes, campus sexual assault, sports leagues incursion into public policy, racial justice and Hollywood stunt doubles. Their article on two high school transgender athletes earned them a GLAAD Award nomination for Outstanding Magazine Article. Barnes holds a degree in history, Russian studies and American studies from St. Olaf College, and master’s degree in student affairs and higher education from Miami University (Ohio). They were the 2017 NLGJA Journalist of the Year.
SARA JOHNSON (she/her/hers) is a feature producer responsible for producing and directing a wide range of compelling content for ESPN, including studio specials, long-form video features, profile pieces and social media content. Prior to this role, Johnson was espnW’s director of video production focusing on strong female-lead stories for ESPN’s women athletes and fans. She also spent 10 years with Studio Directing as an associate director, then director on numerous ESPN studio shows and remote events. Before joining ESPN in 2005, Johnson spent several years freelancing on television and film productions and as a publicist for music and non-profit public relations firms. Johnson currently serves as content chair of ESPN EQUAL, an award-winning volunteer business employee resource group of which she is a founder, whose mission is to help foster a workplace where LGBTQ+ employees are accepted, included and welcomed as well as encouraged to share their unique perspectives on the business to best serve fans.
CHRISTINA KAHRL is a senior editor for MLB coverage at ESPN, a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America since 2009, and was one of the founding members of the baseball think tank, Baseball Prospectus. She also came out publicly as a transgender woman in 2003, becoming the first out trans woman working in sports journalism. She has also worked as an activist on civic equality for transgender Americans, helping to reform Chicago police policy on transgender individuals, train police departments throughout the Midwest in cooperation with the Department of Justice and writing on trans issues in mainstream society and sports for ESPN, Cosmo.com, Playboy, the Windy City Times and elsewhere. She has also been active on the boards of GLAAD, Equality Illinois and NLGJA. She has been elected both to the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame and the Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame. She lives in Connecticut with her wife.