- The Washington Times - Friday, August 6, 2004

A panel of homosexual reporters, editors and producers defended their coverage of hot-button issues such as same-sex “marriage” yesterday by saying they can remain objective even when they have a vested interest in the outcome.

Four panelists, speaking at a massive Unity 2004 conference of 7,000 black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian journalists at the Washington Convention Center, said the only time homosexual reporters should recuse themselves is if they participate in such “marriages.”

“It’s disingenuous for us to say as journalists that we have no emotions about what we cover,” said CNN producer Rose Arce, one of the participants on the panel, “The Wedding March: The Fight in the Gay and Lesbian Community for Equality.” “How are we going to cover such a story about which we have such a strong bias?”

She said a network of homosexual producers and reporters up and down the East Coast agonized over how they should cover a Massachusetts court’s decision to allow homosexual to “marry.”

“I went out of my way to talk to people who opposed gay marriage because I wanted to learn something,” she said. “I don’t see why our standards should be lower than any others.”

Some of panelists said coverage of conservatives is lacking. Tony Lone Fight, an online producer for www.Charlotte.com and an American Indian, said he was bothered by the bad reception President Bush received yesterday at the conference.

“So many journalists hated Bush,” he said. “I thought: Wait a minute — aren’t we journalists? I don’t think the media has gotten to the root of its bias.”

There was some disagreement on how homosexual journalists should influence news coverage at the discussion that attracted 40 persons.

“I went into the news to bring a Latino and gay view into news coverage,” said a male audience member. “There’s something that rubs me the wrong way about an editor telling me I have to get off the story because I’m a gay man.”

Eric Hegedus, a page designer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the president of the National Lesbian Gay Journalists Association, corrected him.

“Our job is to present information as balanced as possible to our readers,” he said. But panelist Akilah Monifa, spokeswoman for KPIX-TV Channel 5 in San Francisco, seemed to side with the audience member.

“The core idea of diversity is we want people to bring in their differences to help frame the story,” she said.

When she took a few hours off work in February to join her lover in getting “married” earlier this year on the steps of City Hall, a crew from her station filmed the ceremony. It then used video of the two women kissing on that night’s news.

Miss Monifa acknowledged that viewers complained about the continued airing of the video clip for promotional spots, but said her station kept on showing the segment because “they were looking for diverse issues and people of color.” She is black.

“Whenever people don’t like something, they complain we are supporting that position,” she said. “We responded, ‘This is the news.’ We weren’t advocating same-sex marriage, we were reporting on it.”

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