Friday, August 29, 2008

Gay journalists: does coming out reflect on expected professional "objectivity"?

I remember, which researching first book, encountering a case where a reporter (Sandra S. Nelson) in Tacoma, Washington was reassigned to copyediting duties (in the 1990s) after her public activism for gay causes. The Washington state supreme court ruled for the newspaper in February 1997, on the grounds that a newspaper needs to protect its public appearance of objectivity in reporting news. (There is a text copy of the opinion on a site called TVW here.)

Fast forward to 2007, and the May 13, 2007 issue of “After Elton” features an article by James Hillis, “Gay Newsmen: A Clearer Picture,” link here. Hillis leads of with “Jason Bellini: It’s not honest.” As of the writing of the article, Bellini is the host of CBS News on Logo. But he spent a fascinating stint with CNN during the “invasion” of Iraq. Some of his CNN work is still available online, as when he was “embedded with the U.S. 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit,” in a story from Nasiriya, April 2, 2003, link here. The time span of the report corresponds to that covered by a Rolling Stone reporter in the HBO film “Generation Kill”. Bellini’s “assimilation” into a Marine Corps unit (sort of), seems to defeat the idea of “don’t ask don’t tell.” Oh, yes, he’s “just” a civilian.

Other reporters covered in the article include Randy Price, Hank Plante, Craig Stevens, and Randol White.

The idea that gay journalists would compromise their objectivity by "coming out" seems less and less credible all the time. It is true that journalists generally don't talk about their personal relationships.

On the other side of virtue, there is the disturbing story of Miami television meteorologist Bill Kamal (who at one time worked in the DC area), who wound up in prison. He gives his side of the story (he says he was framed) in an interview with a Jacksonville newspaper, May 10, 2005, link here.

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