NLGJA convention and LGBT Media Summit slated for Chicago in August
by Chuck Colbert
Hundreds of news industry professionals are expected in Chicago from August 21-24 when the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) convenes its annual convention and 10th LGBT Media Summit.
The four-day gathering begins with the LGBT Media Summit on Thursday, August 21, followed by two full days of main convention programming with more than 30 workshops designed to address the needs of journalists and those in the communications industry.
“We believe this year’s convention is going to be one of the best ever,” said Jen Christensen, NLGJA president and a CNN producer. “Chicago is a perfect location for staging the event given how central it is to issues driving the news both literally and figuratively. In addition, we are excited about innovative new programming we are introducing.”
This assembly marks the 23rd year the organization has brought together journalists, news executives and communications professionals — all to build skills, network and engage in a lively discussion on the topic of fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues in the news media.
In addition to programming, the convention also will include Connect: the NLGJA Student Journalism Project, the Women's Networking Dinner, NLGJA's Excellence in Journalism Awards and numerous other learning and networking opportunities.
The convention co-chairs are Sharif Durhams and Jeff Truesdell, both of whom serve on NLGJA’s national board of directors. Truesdell is a staff writer for People magazine. Durhams, NLGJA’s treasurer, is the social media editor and a newsroom digital strategist at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The landmark Palmer House Hilton, the convention’s host hotel, is located in Chicago’s theater and financial district a short distance from the Art Institute, Millennium Park and State Street shopping.
The year’s theme is “Breaking Barriers.”
One barrier breaker is NBA Brooklyn Nets player Jason Collins, who is among the headliners at this year’s convention. He will be sharing his experiences in dealing with the news media after coming out after the end of the 2012-2013 season.
Among this year’s notable speakers are Chris Gajilan, National Emmy and Gracie Allen Individual Achievement Award-winning “Oprah” producer. She will discuss how to land the big get at “The Art of the Interview.” Melissa Bell, founder of Vox Media, will address attendees at the “Digging Deeper with Digital Media.” Craig Dellimore, political editor at WBBM Newsradio, will lead “The Center of the Universe: Chicago and Politics” and implications for election news coverage in a live airing of the station’s “At Issue” program.
Two new additions mark this year’s convention. One is a slate of boot camps focused on marketing, communications and business skills. The other is the Michael Triplett Speaker Series on the intersection between religion and the LGBT community. Both are open to the public.
The boot camps will be held August 21 and will focus on the following subjects: “The Write Stuff: How to Write a Book Proposal that Sells Without Selling Out,” “Digging Deeper with Digital Media” and “The Business of Me: Innovative Ways to Build Your Personal Brand or Business.”
The convention also features StoryCorps, which will collect the various stories of NLGJA’s members through the years and the organization’s impact for possible inclusion in a StoryCorps OutLoud segment. StoryCorps is a national nonprofit organization that records the stories of everyday people and preserves them at the Library of Congress, with selected stories broadcast on NPR.
LGBT Media Summit
Before the main convention, LGBT media professionals are scheduled for a daylong, in-depth look at gay media. Specifically, this year’s summit addresses issues that present challenges in coverage, as well as LGBT media’s future. Diane Anderson-Minshall and Tracy Baim serve as summit co-chairs.
|LGBT Media Summit co-chair|
“You can see from our summit that every platform of media has changed, and traditionalists can learn from modern innovators and visa versa,” she explained in an email. “A good case in point is the ‘Out on the Air’ panel, which features journalists working in every audio platform from traditional radio to mobile podcasts. I’m hoping we end up, in many of these panels, talking about how readers — or consumers, users or whatever you choose to call them — are believers in our brands and why we need to meet them where they are, whether its web, print or mobile, and often all three.”
Baim, publisher and executive editor of Chicago’s Windy City Times, offered her perspective on the importance of this year’s summit. “LGBT media, like all media, are going through a lot of transitions. At the summit, we wanted to look at various aspects of LGBT media, including transgender issues, lesbians, African Americans, online, radio and much more,” she said in an email. “Especially important is the issue of funding, so our lunch plenary will feature a discussion on foundation funding of journalism, and if this is an area of growth for LGBT media.”
For Baim, “The foundation panel is a summit highlight, and also the participation of Alan Bell, of Gaysweek and BLK, on a panel is also going to be wonderful. He is a legend in LGBT media and will have a lot to say about representations in our community media.”
Baim was referring to the lunch plenary, “The Future of Journalism Funding: Foundation Funding” with the Ford Foundation, McCormick Foundation and Knight Foundation. This panel will address the growing need for foundation support of both mainstream and alternative journalism in order to fund investigative and public-interest journalism projects. Experts from Ford, McCormick and Knight will discuss their experience in funding journalism and will address questions about how LGBT media can get support from the foundation world. Panelists include Mark Hallet from McCormick, Barbara Raab from Ford, and John Bracken from Knight Foundation, with NPR’s Cheryl Corley serving as moderator.
Baim was also referring to an afternoon breakout session, “Black, LGBT, and Read All Over: African-American Journalists in LGBT Media,” which features longtime LGBT media pioneer Alan Bell, founder of Gaysweek in New York and BLK nationally. Other African American gay journalists, all of whom with years of experience covering the LGBT community for local, regional and international media outlets will join him. Those panelists include Andrew Davis, managing editor of Windy City Times; Rod McCullom, an internationally published journalist; and Lenox Magee, special contributor to RedEye Newspaper. Kirk Williamson, managing editor of Nightspots magazine, is the moderator.
|LGBT Media Summit co-chair|
In addition, “Our plenary session, ‘Transgender Journalists and Trans Coverage in LGBT Media’ is going to be fantastic,” Anderson-Minshall added. “This really is a tipping-point year for trans visibility, but so far many media outlets — even LGBT ones — are getting it wrong. So we’re hoping this session can really help inform folks that are still struggling with labels, definitions, what’s appropriate, and what stories they are missing — all while seeing the real people behind theses issues.
“The same is true of our African-American breakout session, which was a priority for us and should be for all attendees. Because largely in the media, we need to go beyond covering cursory issues and cover the people behind those issues. And there’s still a huge gap in how the media covers people of color who are queer or trans."
Anderson-Minshall, who founded the lesbian magazine Girlfriends, and was later the long-time editor in chief of Curve magazine, says that one panel, “The Future of Lesbian Media” has her excited because “for over two decades my heart has been in lesbian media. So I’m intensely interested in where we are going next, why lesbian media is still critical even in an age where lesbian couples are on the cover of Time magazine, and what we need to do to continue reaching young readers who are increasingly label-less in their identity.
“And my other panel I’m involved in, ‘Taking Back HIV Reporting in LGBT Media,' is really a great chance for us to talk about how HIV and AIDS reporting 33 years after the epidemic began has fallen by the wayside, even in LGBT media, and why we need to revive it. I’ll also be introducing a new style guide for reporting on HIV that we’ll introduce at the Summit and will also have available to push out to the mainstream media. As we see from so many of the recent headlines, especially around HIV criminalization, the mainstream media does not know how to report on people living with HIV and makes the most egregious mistakes in their reporting, ones that have lasting damage to their readers and the people they report on. So we’re starting with the LGBT media in correcting that and then hopefully branching out to the wider world. It’s one of my missions now that I’m also editor in chief of HIV Plus magazine.”
Two other breakout sessions fill out the LGBT Media Summit lineup. One is “Online and Connected: Bloggers, Digital Natives, Social Media, Mobile Reporting and the Future of Journalism.” This session delves into the topic of first-generation digital natives becoming readers as journalism heads in new directions, namely web-only reporters, hybrid blog journalism and mobile-first reporting, which is lagging for LGBT media, and social engagement reporting — that is to say, news coverage 140 characters at a time. Panelists include Noah Michelson of Huffington Post’s Gay Voices, Zeke Stokes of Media Matters and Michael Crawford of Freedom to Marry.
Another breakout session, “How We Count: Data Reporting and LGBT Issues,” takes a look at the changed landscape of LGBT information. Data used to be in short supply on LGBT issues, but now, it seems, journalists are drowning in data, not only from traditional news sources like surveys, but also from news organizations and social media’s measures of audience engagement. Associated Press New York Bureau Chief Howard Goldberg will help attendees discover and assess numbers that are valid and meaningful, while avoiding pitfalls in accuracy.
Founded in 1990, NLGJA is an organization of journalists, media professionals, educators and students working from within the news industry to foster fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues. NLGJA opposes all forms of workplace bias and provides professional development to its members.
To register for the NLGJA National Convention and LGBT Media Summit, and to stay updated on the latest speaker and programming news, visit www.nlgja.org.