Saturday, June 26, 2004

Following the Pew Research Center’s latest survey, which shows the public’s continued distrust of the U.S. media, one might think the press giants would be more careful about their public associations and agendas. One would be wrong.

At the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association Convention in New York (June 24-27), the list of big media supporters is impressive and also disturbing.

CBS News anchor Dan Rather is among the headliners. Other media supporters include the New York Times, CNN, Time Inc., National Public Radio, Bloomberg, The Washington Post/Newsweek, ESPN, Comcast, Hearst Newspapers, Newsday, NBC/WNBC, ABC News, several individual newspapers and Fox News (where I am a contributor and show host).

Calls to several of these media organs seeking information about their support of the convention were mostly not returned. A CNN spokeswoman, Christina Robinson, told me she didn’t know how much money CNN had contributed to the event, but she assured me CNN is committed to “diversity.” She said CNN has a “recruiting booth” at the venue.

A New York Times spokesman acknowledged its sponsorship of the event at the “editorial level” but did not know how much money the Times is contributing. He said the paper regularly offers panelists and speakers to journalistic gatherings.

If one reads the convention press release, it is clear (to me at least) this function is more about advocacy than journalism; more about shaping the image of “sexual minorities,” as they like to call themselves, than about accurate reporting.

Author David Brock, the former conservative who once wrote books and articles blasting Bill Clinton and Clarence Thomas accuser Anita Hill, is among the list of scheduled speakers. After identifying himself with conservatives, Mr. Brock subsequently announced he is a homosexual and recanted much of what he said in his earlier work. “The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy” is the title of his latest book. Is there a speaker to counter his message (in the interest of diversity)? Nope. Mr. Brock is scheduled to be introduced by Garrett Glaser, a correspondent for CNBC Business News.

The press release suggests the convention is more a training seminar about promoting gay political issues than about good writing and sound journalistic principles. Among the participants is Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry. He is to “review the latest developments and future activity of marriage for same-sex couples.” The Senate may vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex “marriage” as early as next month. Will Mr. Wolfson offer suggestions for coverage to shape public opinion toward his point of view?

The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association claims more than 1,200 members and 23 chapters in the United States, with affiliates in Canada and Germany. It is a front for placing homosexual activists in newsrooms to shape how their issues are covered. Anyone who protests such advocacy risks the label of “bigot,” the buzzword that can cower editors.

What should trouble mainstream journalists is the extent much of the big media kowtows to the homosexual activists. There is no similar outreach to people with different religious and political perspectives. There is no “recruiting” for heterosexual, churchgoing, pro-life, conservative Bush supporters, for example. Now that would be true diversity.

The public mostly believes the media are extremely biased, and events such as this will do little to change their minds. But there is a larger issue than this one convention. Why do some groups of journalists choose to form subgroups within their profession that are identified with gender, sexual practices, race or belief? As a conservative and a Christian, I have been asked to join the few small groups that reflect those viewpoints. I have always refused. Accuracy and fairness should be the goal of reporters. For columnists, the objective should be accuracy and opinions stated from deeply held convictions, not the result of conventions and strategy sessions designed to coalesce around and promote political and social agendas.

There’s a lot of talk these days about ethics in journalism following several scandals involving plagiarism and made-up stories. But the public’s major concerns about the media are not being addressed, or even discussed. Journalistic subgroups, which appear to the public to exist for advancing legislation and cultural change, do not help with journalism’s credibility problem. They add to it.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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