by Chuck Colbert
Michael K. Lavers, a reporter for the Washington Blade since 2012, has been named the newspaper’s first international news editor. The new position was created in recognition of the newspaper’s growing focus on LGBT issues worldwide.
In addition to reporting international stories and cultivating LGBT sources abroad, Lavers will manage and edit the work of freelance contributors.
"We created this new position for Michael because it suits his many strengths as a bilingual [Spanish] journalist who relishes getting out into the field and covering LGBT stories wherever news is happening,” said Kevin Naff, the Blade’s editor. “He’s already traveled extensively for the Blade so this makes his focus on international matters official.”
|The Washington Blade's|
Michael K. Lavers
"As LGBT rights advance at home, more and more countries are finally starting to grapple with the same issues with decidedly mixed results. I believe that American journalists with the resources to do it have an obligation to assist LGBT people in other countries by shining a light on injustice, hate crimes and government persecution. That's what the Blade is endeavoring to do with this new focus and commitment,” Naff added. "The Blade occupies a unique position in the movement given our proximity to lawmakers in the U.S. who can have an impact on LGBT issues abroad. And so we will also work to hold them accountable to promises and commitments made to LGBT people around the world."
Lavers has recently returned from a week in Cuba, where he traveled the island nation reporting on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and the Dominican Republic, where he interviewed local officials, activists, and U.S. ambassador James "Wally" Brewster and his husband, Bob Satawake. In the Dominican Republic, Lavers also joined other LGBT media professionals from the U.S. and Latin America to learn about a campaign to promote LGBT tourism in the country.
Through email correspondence, Lavers said that his first overseas trip on behalf of the Blade was to Bogotá, Colombia, in 2013 to cover a USAID-sponsored training of local LGBT rights advocates that focused on how they can become more involved in the country's political process.
“I also used the trip as an opportunity to interview local advocates, elected officials and government representatives about the country's LGBT rights movement,” he said. "The LGBT rights movement over the last several years has become an increasingly global one. More countries are extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. Transgender people are gaining additional legal protections and discussions to decriminalize homosexuality in countries where it remains illegal are becoming more visible. These movements are similar to efforts that remain underway here in the U.S. in terms of expanding rights to the LGBT community. The issues on which they work — anti-LGBT violence, discrimination, and political representation, as three examples — are also similar, but the activism surrounding them varies based on the situation in a particular country."
And yet, Anti-LGBT violence and discrimination remains a serious problem in several countries — events in Russia, Uganda, Egypt, Gambia and other nations with anti-LGBT rights records that have taken place during his tenure at the Blade.
"The Blade has recognized that international issues are an increasingly important part of its coverage of the LGBT rights movement,” said Lavers. “I have been interested in international issues since I was growing up in New Hampshire. This only increased with my semester abroad in southern Spain and with my trip to Cuba last month. I am thankful to the Blade for the opportunity to continue reporting on these issues and to further expand the publication's international coverage."
Reaction to the Lavers’ appointed has been positive.
“I am excited that the Washington Blade has a strong commitment to coverage of international issues,” said Mike Rogers, vice chairman and managing director of Raw Story Media, Inc., in an email. “It is important that LGBT media tell these stories from our perspectives and voices. Mike is a hard worker and dedicated journalist. The LGBT community is fortunate to have him be a part of our storytelling.”
For his part, Matt Thorn, interim executive director of Outserve/SLDN, said that he “always enjoy[ed] Lavers reporting from abroad and [would] continue to look forward to future pieces. Far too often we in the U.S. are insular to what is taking shape around the world, unless it is a major development. [Mike] ha[s] delved deeper into the international LGBT communities, and I thank [him] for that.”
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