On Sunday, May 31, Yes! on Equality and Meet in the Middle for Equality hosted a Leadership Summit in Fresno with leaders from across the state to discuss the next steps towards marriage equality in California.
It followed the public action Saturday where 3,000 people converged on the Central Valley town calling for repeal of Prop 8, the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
While parts of the meeting were open to the media—which took immense lobbying from LGBT and mainstream press—the organizers kicked out the reporters when talk turned to a poll on how to win at the ballot box. Last week the organizers had initially said mainstream press would not be admitted at all because they reportedly did not have LGBT community’s interest as a priority.
Only after strenuous objections from LGBT reporters throughout the state was that policy rescinded. And one of the “banned” reporters, Lisa Leff, is the Associated Press’s main reporter who covers LGBT issues, and in fact, in 2007 won an award from the Northern California chapter of NLGJA for her coverage.
Yet Leff was told she could not attend the meeting. By the time the restriction was lifted, she had been pulled from the story by the AP.
The handling of the press by the organizers seemed heavy handed for no good reason, said editors at LGBT papers. Nonetheless, they abided by the restrictions and left the meeting when asked to Sunday.
“I was very disappointed in the lack of transparency from our LGBT led organizations,” said Bay Area Reporter (BAR) news editor and NLGJA member Cynthia Laird, who voiced her objections on the decision prior to leaving the meeting Sunday. “They did Web stream the open portions but we all had to leave when they talked about the supposedly sensitive polling data, which doesn’t show anything new really.”
It seems to me that barring journalists, no matter from what form of media, from a public meeting does nothing toward generating goodwill between the press and LGBT groups, let alone improving coverage of the LGBT community.
So rather than build bridges and work with journalists, those lines of communications have now been burned by the very same leaders who will need as much publicity as they can get on their efforts to repeal Prop 8.
And what the poll organizers wanted to remain hush-hush about has been leaked to the press anyway. For coverage of the poll and more on how the media were treated, be sure to check out the BAR’s Web site ebar.com on Thursday.