Lesbian & Gay Journalists Meet
By Rex Wockner
Las Vegas -- Six hundred gay and lesbian journalists descended on this surrealistic city October 1-4 for the Seventh Annual Convention of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.
"They have [done a good job]," said Jim Baxter, publisher of The Front Page, a gay newspaper in Raleigh, N.C. "I'm encouraged."
Chris Crain, editor and publisher of Atlanta's gay Southern Voice, said: "Almost all the panels have something to offer for the gay press. ... Everyone's been very, very respectful."
The editor of Bay Windows in Boston, Jeff Epperly, said: "They've been much more inclusive this year and I think as a result the programming was a little bit more interesting, a little more diverse and, probably, a little bit more contentious at times because there wasn't such a focus on the mainstream viewpoint. The gay viewpoint is different."
Las Vegas Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jan Laverty Jones was a big hit at the opening-night plenary session.
"You hear it from the right-wing all the time that somehow you are against family values, that somehow there is something unnatural in your love and affection for one another, that somehow you aren't productive members of the community," Jones said. "This kind of perception, discrimination and hate -- the more we perpetuate it at any level of our society and communities, the greater risk we are to building a great America."
Jones added that she fully supports legalized gay marriage. She is the only U.S. mayor besides San Francisco's Willie Brown to have signed a resolution in support of gay marriage.
60 Minutes TV star Leslie Stahl also spoke on opening night, mostly addressing the Monicagate scandal and not once mentioning gays in her comments.
During followup questions, however, she said: "What [the gay-cure group] PFOX was claiming [in a 60 Minutes story I did] they couldn't document, they can't document. They can't give us numbers, they can't prove their case. And too many people, we found, who've been through PFOX have come out admitting it failed. You know, it's a silly argument, curing this. It's ridiculous. ... When I saw my own piece myself, I thought it came through that [change therapy] is unhealthy and destructive.
"Could you believe what that PFOX mother said [in my 60 Minutes piece] about her son?" Stahl asked. "It broke your heart. I can't even repeat what she said. It was just horrible what she said about her son. It just was horrible."
Other celebrity speakers included Virginia Apuzzo, a lesbian aide to President Bill Clinton, former Ford Motor Company executive Allan Gilmour, Dykes To Watch Out For cartoonist Allison Bechdel and gay comedian Bob Smith.
There were ads in the program from Time Inc., the FOX News Channel, Turner Broadcasting, NBC News, People magazine, the Houston Chronicle, The Boston Globe, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"I am very impressed with who did turn up," said Katherine Linton, host of the PBS gay newsmagazine In The Life. "I didn't expect ABC, CBS and NBC to be having tables and talking very openly about hiring people. I didn't expect there to be so many mainstream newspapers. More people should take advantage of the fact that they're here and talk about potential jobs. Whether it's just a face-show, who knows, but for me it makes a difference."
"I felt when we started programming this time," said convention Co-Chair Rose Marie Arce, a producer at CBS News, "that it was time for NLGJA to grow up, to really get into the big leagues of doing a journalistic convention where you can address the needs of all your members. So this year we had something for the photo people, we had a cartoonist speaking, we had a video project that incorporated gay TV for the first time, we have a student project, online radio is included -- it's just a much broader brush that we've painted with.
"People join this organization because they want to come out and they want to be better journalists and they don't want coming out to be an obstacle to that, so we programmed for those two things -- to help people come out and help them be better journalists," Arce said.
Next year's conference will be in Atlanta.