Written by Sue Green
It was March when I got the call – a call that made me sit back in my seat and go, are you frigging kidding???
It was a call from Bach in the national office concerning a message he had received from a young woman in New York. Bach was asking if I could help out with this situation. Apparently an adviser at this young woman’s school had told her not to join NLGJA because putting it on her resume could actually stop her from getting a job!
My first reaction was one of anger. I wanted to jump on a plane, go to this adviser and tell her a thing or two, with a little added emphasis, of course. I felt like a protective mother, and I wanted to protect this student. How dare this adviser tell this young woman that saying she was part of a journalist organization was a bad thing?
This adviser should be ashamed of herself for making assumptions. Her first assumption was that it would be a negative to be a journalist who happens to be gay. Second, that just because she is a member of NLGJA, that she is gay. Many of the students in the chapter at Arizona State University are actually straight.
It just made me angry to realize that this might be a message being passed on to other students as well by ignorant advisers. Students we don’t know about.
After I got over my initial anger, however, I realized that once again this was about education. I realized that part of my job, especially as we begin to start other student chapters across the country, is to make sure that educators are aware of the advantages that NLGJA can offer to students.
I was going to be attending a convention in Las Vegas called the Broadcast Educators Association, and figured this might be the chance to begin reaching out to some educators to make sure they are aware of NLGJA and its benefits to students.
I called up the programming chair and suggested a panel. I knew it was late to try and jump in, but after I explained to her what had happened, she agreed to find a slot for me. We didn’t know how widely attended it would be, especially with it being the last day in the afternoon, but I was just thrilled she was willing to offer me the opportunity.
I flew in, along with the president of our student chapter at ASU. I figured it might help to hear from a student as well about the impact of this group.
We showed up in the room, and slowly people trickled in. It was not a large group by any stretch of the imagination, but there were a few who acknowledged they were curious.
The first thing I found out is that no one knew what NLGJA was. So, that reinforced for me that we need to do a better job of getting our name out there, especially to the schools. The second thing I found out is that several of the faculty who were there were not comfortable with talking to students about the topic, so I was very frank and open with them. We talked about how to reach all students, and explained how the support system of NLGJA could actually help students to fit in, and be better prepared when they enter the workforce. I only wish the group was larger, because the conversation we had was great.
So, what did I learn? I learned that I can never educate from a place of anger. I had to just let that go, and make it my goal to help the faculty understand some of the challenges their students could be facing. This was an opportunity to help educators realize that NLGJA is an excellent diversity option for them to offer to their students. Just as they would talk about NABJ, NAHJ or RTDNA, they should talk about NLGJA. I also stressed the importance of talking to all their students so they know that NLGJA is out there, and not just to the ones they “think are gay.”
So, to that adviser who slammed NLGJA and told that young woman not to put it on her resume, shame on you. But also thank you, because you have now put me on a mission to educate even more educators and advisers. That phone call in March just reinforced the need for action!