Kevin Gotkin at Mediaite–who appears to be on the gay journalism “beat”–asks the provocative question, What Makes Good Journalism? And Why is There So Little of It?
He argues that gay rights aren’t taken seriously enough by journalism about gay people and that the media’s focus tends to be “ambiguous” when it comes to LGBT stories, in comparison to the serious and equivocal way it approaches issues of race.
He also goes after the awards for top LGBT journalism given by NLGJA and GLAAD (NLGJA did not give out awards this year, but is resurrecting the awards in 2010).
Maybe the flaw is in the award criteria: we no longer need happy and sappy portrayals of gays in the media to allow people to get comfortable with the culture, so much as we need essential bedrocks for discussing our rights. This is where the recent New York Times piece sets itself apart. It provides us, all of us, wherever we fall on the sides of the debate, with a serious tone to talk about the issues.
He praises the recent NYT story on the financial price of same-sex relationships, which we praised here. He concludes that we need more serious work and that the coming-out story is no longer as vital.
The current definition of what constitutes “good” gay journalism is not serious in the sense that it does not render the issue in a way to make progress. In the mid-to-late 1990s the sad stories about a tragic coming out did so much to educate, but the gay community needs people to actually write some laws now! A famous gay athlete telling his story does almost nothing next to a piece that tells us, in exact dollars and cents (sense), how much more it costs to be a gay couple than a heterosexual couple. One tugs at our heart-strings and one gives us something to say on the floor of Congress.
My sense is that there is room for both. In looking at the 2008 list of NLGJA award winners, I see a lot of heft and the “coming-out stories” tend to involved transgender people, which is a new story. But Gotkin asks important questions and provides some excellent food for thought.