Wednesday, December 24, 2014

‘It was HIV deja-vu’: Dallas Voice, located in America's ground zero for Ebola, takes unprecedented look comparing Ebola to HIV

by Chuck Colbert

The first diagnosed case of Ebola in the U.S. — Thomas Eric Duncan of Dallas, Texas — presented local LGBT media with an opportunity to explore the similarities and differences between that disease and HIV/AIDS.

As Tammye Nash, managing editor of Dallas Voice, explained in email correspondence: “We wanted to find an angle that was uniquely ours to write about the situation, and the more I thought about it, the more obvious it became — a deadly blood-borne virus that apparently originated in Africa, creating hysteria with talks of quarantines, etc., and creating irrational animus against a whole community of people. It was HIV deja-vu.”

Accordingly, Dallas Voice published a 2,400 word piece on October 10, “From 1981 to 2014: The virus is different, but the fear is the same.” The reporting was a team effort with staff writers David Taffet and James Russell, along with managing editor Nash contributing to the effort.

Graphic by Dallas Voice Art Director Kevin Thomas
Nash also credited Dallas Voice art director Kevin Thomas. “I told him what copy I wanted and drew a very basic idea of how I wanted the AIDS 1981/Ebola 2014 headline to look,” she said. “He took that and created a very powerful cover image and then laid out the inside pages in a way that made a ton of information look interesting and readable.

“Our whole purpose was to report on Ebola as sanely and as responsibly as we possibly could,” said Nash. “We wanted to give people the facts — not downplay the dangers, but at the same time not sensationalize it. We wanted people to have accurate information they needed to be safe and make rational decisions. And we also wanted to remind people in our community that we wanted people to be rational about HIV/AIDS and so we needed to be rational about Ebola. We knew it was a big story simply in terms of the amount of information and research and interviews involved. And we decided that to do it justice, we would all work on it together.”

Sure enough, the Dallas Voice piece took aim at hysteria and the role of the media:

“In the days since news first broke that a man in Dallas had been diagnosed with Ebola, the hysteria in news coverage has been evident. ‘Good Morning America’ began a broadcast with the declaration, ‘The city of Dallas is in a panic.’ Reporters at a press conference by Dallas city and county officials obsessed what Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zach Thompson wore when he went into the apartment where Duncan — who died Wednesday — was staying when he fell ill, and why. County Judge Clay Jenkins didn’t wear a protective hazmat suit when he drove Duncan’s family members to a new location to wait out a 22-day period of isolation to make sure they haven’t been infected.

“Reporters at that press conference asked questions intended to feed the hysteria rather than ascertain — and share — actual facts. In their news stories and broadcasts, they left out facts and focused on speculation and hyperbole.

“Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings noted angrily that members of the media have offered to pay other residents of the apartment complex where Duncan’s family lived, asking that reporters be allowed to move into those neighboring apartments in an effort to get as close to the family as possible before the family was moved to an undisclosed location for their own safety. The city of Dallas, in fact, issued a press statement asking the news media to back off because their overly aggressive tactics were beginning to alarm and frighten residents of the area.”

Dallas Voice reporting also recalled the hysteria surrounding HIV/AIDS in the early years of the epidemic:

“The fear and the misinformation, fed by hyped up coverage by the media on ‘the gay plague’ and a ‘killer blood’ supply, began to spread even faster than AIDS. Police and paramedics wore rubber gloves when they interacted with someone in a ‘high risk group’ for AIDS. There was talk of quarantines, and even doctors and nurses refused to treat AIDS patients for fear they would contract the disease themselves.

“Even after scientists in France in 1983 and in the U.S. in 1984 discovered the virus that causes AIDS — the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, which originated in Africa — the epidemic of fear continued. That fear, fueled by bigotry, misinformation and willful ignorance, in turn fueled the spread of AIDS. Because, as some people went to extraordinary lengths to avoid people and situations they thought would put them at risk of contracting AIDS, their ignorance led them to stumble blissfully and blindly into situations where they really were at risk.”

At the same time, Dallas Voice explored the similarities between public reaction to and media coverage of the two diseases, the newspaper provided accurate information on Ebola’s symptoms and infection:

“AIDS Arms Executive Director John Carlo said he sees a link between the public and media response to HIV in the 1980s and 1990s and media response to Ebola today, and he said treatment of Ebola owes quite a bit to AIDS research.

‘“HIV expanded our knowledge on viruses,’ he said. ‘That research taught us how the immune system works. We learned how viruses attach to cells.’ He also noted that the test used to do an HIV viral load count is the same technology used to test for Ebola.

“Carlo said people who live in the neighborhood where Duncan stayed are being told by their employers to stay home from work, even if they had no contact with Duncan and don’t live in that apartment complex. And he noted that after Jenkins drove Duncan’s family to a new location without wearing protective gear, people have been canceling speaking engagements they had previously arranged with the county judge. ‘We can’t overcome the fears with the science,’ Carlo said.”
No other LGBT media outlet took as comprehensive a look at Ebola and HIV/AIDS, their similarities and differences, as Dallas Voice. 

However, Tyler Curry, writing in The Advocate, noted one way Ebola and AIDS are very much alike. “Today, virtually all of the coverage on Ebola is about the situation in America, not the massive problem abroad,” he wrote. “To date, roughly almost 5,000 people have died from Ebola, but the victims were from the wrong country and were the wrong skin color for people to think it had anything to do with them. Exchange wrong skin color for the wrong sexuality, and it’s the same problem in a different package.”

The Washington Blade ran an op-ed that compared the HIV/AIDS epidemic to Ebola and mentioned how prejudice was once again winning against accurate information. “Perpetuating racism and homophobia at the expense of listening to medical science can cause the public to engage in behaviors that perpetuate the spread of disease,” wrote Jimmie Luthuli.

And Gay City News ran a piece by Duncan Osborne that reported on leading AIDS activists’ opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s quarantine orders for anyone returning from West Africa after having close contact there with someone who has Ebola.

Volume 16
Issue 9 

South Florida Gay News launches mainstream neighborhood publication

by Chuck Colbert

At a time when some LGBT media outlets are cutting back, South Florida Gay News (SFGN) has launched a new print publication, Wilton Manors Gazette, a hometown community newspaper.

“A lot of community newspapers cover the different municipalities throughout South Florida,” said Jason Parsley, associate publisher of SFGN and the Gazette, during a recent telephone interview. “But Wilton Manors did not have its own, and we saw that as an opportunity for us, based here. It was a natural fit because a large part of our readership is based in Wilton Manors.”

Launching the Gazette, said Parsley, also derives from the success of SFGN’s supplement publications, namely a “Bars and Club Guide,” “Best of Issue,” and “Guide to the Drive,” which, in fun-map brochure format, is a directory of every business in Wilton Manors.” (Wilton Drive is the main street in the city.)

Parsley said that the supplements provide SFGN opportunities for both editorial content as well as new revenue streams.

Wilton Manors, located in Broward County, is a city with nearly 12,000 people, according to the 2010 Census. It ranks near the top for the most per capita gay couples, according to the Census. With 140 per 1,000, Wilton Manors is second only to Provincetown, Mass., which has 148 same-sex households per 1,000.

The Gazette is not a gay publication per se. Its focus is “hyper local mainstream content that would be of interest to the gay people who live in Wilton Manors and the broader straight community,” Parsley explained.

Publisher Norm Kent put it this way in an August 6 editorial, the Gazette’s inaugural issue:

“There is no question that Wilton Manors has a wealth of gay news in it, but it also has a plethora of straight lives, families and businesses supporting growing commerce and communities, integrating and enhancing population cores. We think there is enough growth to publish a twice-a-month newspaper focusing and highlighting not just our diversity, but the breadth and depth of our activities and accomplishments. So whether you are interested in country square-dancing or city zoning and planning, there’s a good chance the Gazette will be here to tell you more about it, from our Green Market to our local and home grown dry cleaners.”

“This is the 21st century. You don't have a straight community newspaper with a gay, youth, feminist or environmental insert.” Kent added in an email. “You have a gay paper with a straight insert. So who is the minority now?”

Much of the Gazette’s content has focused on local government and news.  “We cover every city commission meeting and come out a week after that meeting every month,” said Parsley.

Other content includes a calendar of events and a “Humans of Wilton Manors” section, modeled after “Humans of New York.”

“A photographer goes out and takes photos of random people and asks them a question,” Parsley said. The short answers help to fill in each photo’s caption. The overall aim of the section is to capture the diversity of the local community. “Humans of Wilton Manors” is also posted online.

Parsley said he is also looking to build up columns and is looking to do lighter features and business profiles.

Even with a mainstream content focus, one recent story was gay-specific, with the Gazette covering the recent release of the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, which rates how municipalities treat LGBT employees and how the public officials relate to LGBT residents.

“HRC rated us 100 [percent], but over the summer we were at risk of being ranked 80,” said Parsley. “The city worked out the issues and we were able to raise the score.”

Distributed through out South Florida, SFGN is a weekly publication with a print run of 10,000 copies and an average page-count ranging between 48-56. The eight-page Gazette is included in SFGN and is available as a stand-alone publication (1,000 copies) in Wilton Manors. The Gazette is published twice a month.

Volume 16
Issue 9

Boston media memorialize pro-gay ‘rock star’ Mayor Thomas Menino

by Chuck Colbert

Thomas M. Menino, Boston’s longest serving mayor and much beloved within the LGBT community, died Oct. 30 after a nearly year-long battle with cancer. His passing prompted local gay media to reflect on a remarkable pro-gay legacy, which included more than two decades of steadfast advocacy.

Sue O’Connell, co-publisher of Boston’s Bay Windows, offered her thoughts on the mayor’s legacy in a piece, “Menino: Gay Boston’s Tough Big Brother,” for Bay Windows and

“As a Boston city councilor in the 1980s, Menino worked closely with gay people who worked in city government. He also interacted regularly with the gay neighborhood groups. It's no surprise that this community, one that often lived in fear, rewarded Menino, the blue-collar policy guy from [the more conservative] Hyde Park [neighborhood], with unwavering loyalty. As Menino grew in power, his most trusted inner circle always had at least two gay people at the table. And he never took the community's support for granted — he fought the battles brought to him, and looked for others.”

The late Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (Photo: Chuck Colbert)
Early on, Menino refused to participate in the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade as long as openly contingents were banned.

“The first high-profile LGBT issue was an unlikely fight with the most powerful political neighborhood in Boston — Southie,” O’Connell wrote, referring to South Boston by its more colloquial name.

“He was asked at one of the first neighborhood meetings he attended as mayor if he would march in the traditional St. Patrick's Day Parade. The organizers, the Allied War Veterans Council, had won a US Supreme Court ruling for the right to exclude gay groups from the parade. Menino told me that he glanced at his chief of staff — openly gay Ann Maguire — and blurted that if gays can't march, he won't march. ‘You should have seen the look on Ann's face,’ he said. He had just told South Boston off. For Menino it was a double win — doing the right thing and avoiding parades, which he said he hated. He said he never worried about the political backlash. He never marched.”

The Boston Pride Parade was a different story, wrote O’Connell. “Menino often referred to the parade as ‘my parade.’ In a country where many gay groups fight to fly a rainbow flag on a city flagpole, Menino raised the rainbow flag at City Hall Plaza each year with pomp, led the Boston parade and allowed uniformed Boston Police officers to march. He opened Boston City Hall and hosted the Boston Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Youth's (BAGLY) annual gay prom for teenagers at Boston City Hall.

“Regular-guy Menino's support of marriage equality was an important cog in the machine that delivered gay marriage. He never wavered in his support, lobbying state lawmakers during the state house battles and later as co-chair of ‘Mayors for the Freedom to Marry,’ helping big city mayors get on board. On Monday, May 17, 2004, Menino proudly escorted the lead plaintiffs in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, Hillary and Julie Goodridge, with their daughter Anne, to the Marriage License window at Boston City Hall to receive the city's first marriage license for a same-sex couple.”

For her part, Nicole Lashomb, editor-in-chief of The Rainbow Times, also based in Boston, recalled Mayor Menino’s integrity. She wrote in an editorial, “Perhaps most known for his overdrive and conviction to truth and fairness in a city that he loved, in a profile on a local news station, [Menino] said he wanted his legacy to be inclusion. He succeeded.

“Beginning as a city councilor, he supported HIV education and prevention and pioneered the first needle exchange program in [Massachusetts]. He fought on behalf of the LGBT community in a variety of ways. From refusing to walk in the traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade since the LGBT community was not allowed open participation to addressing Dan Cathy, president of Chick-Fil-A, via an open letter reinforcing his position that the anti-LGBT equality chain would not be welcomed to establish one of its restaurants on Boston’s Freedom Trail. His written words to Cathy are still burnt in my mind: ‘Here in Boston, to borrow your own words, we are ‘guilty as charged.’ We are indeed full of pride for our support of same-sex marriage and our work to expand freedom to all people. ... There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.’”

And yet, as O’Connell noted, the mayor’s bravado “was no doubt an overreach ... threatening all sorts of unconstitutional action against a business due to the owner's political beliefs — but classic Menino. He later backed off the threats, a national dialogue was launched, and there is no Chick-fil-A on the Freedom Trail. All of this made Menino a rock star in the LGBT community.”

Menino was elected to the office of the mayor five consecutive times and served from 1993 to 2014.

Volume 16
Issue 9


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SHEILA ALEXANDER-REID joined the staff of THE WASHINGTON BLADE as its Vice President of Strategic Branding and Digital Initiatives. She will spearhead sales efforts across the Blade’s digital properties as well as sell advertising in the weekly print edition. Previously, she worked as Director of Strategic Engagement at weekly alternative WASHINGTON CITY PAPER.

BOBBY BLAIR, founder of MMP WORLDWIDE which publishes AGENDA: FLORIDA EDITION as well as other publications, celebrated his 50th birthday in the pages of the newspaper’s October 22, 2014, edition.

Mark's List founder Mark Haines
MARK HAINES, founder of South Florida-based website MARK’S LIST, died on November 14, 2014, after a truck hit his car on U.S. 1 on Grassy Key in the Florida Keys. He was 54.

JOE NICHOLSON, the openly gay reporter at the New York Post who came out in 1980 (a first for a big city daily newspaper), died on October 8, 2014, of cancer. He was 71.

SAN DIEGO LGBT WEEKLY is the winner of nine 2014 Excellence in Journalism Awards from the San Diego Press Club. They are:
First Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Front Page Design
First Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Investigative Reporting
First Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Multicultural
Second Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Political/Government
Second Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Health & Medicine
Second Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Essay/Commentary/Opinion
Third Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Feature Layout Design
Third Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Profile
Third Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Travel

UNITE BUSINESS, based in Nashville, Tenn., has entered into a licensing agreement to launch UNITE CINCINNATI. That publication would join UNITE NASHVILLE and UNITE INDIANAPOLIS under the same umbrella.

THE WASHINGTON BLADE, based in Washington, D.C, received the annual Making D.C. History Award in the category of Local Media from the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. The award was presented at a November 5, 2014, ceremony at the organization’s headquarters in the Carnegie Library Building in downtown Washington.

THE WISCONSIN GAZETTE, based in Milwaukee, Wisc., celebrated its fifth birthday in its November 13, 2014, edition.

Volume 16
Issue 9