In the October 25th edition of The Dallas Morning News, business reporter Cheryl Hall used problematic language in referring to the LGBT community when writing about two of Stephen Jarchow’s media companies. In the article, “Dallas executive amassing a gay media mini-empire,” Hall refers to The Advocate and Out magazines owned by Jarchow’s Here Media Inc., as “two alternative lifestyle magazines.” She also refers to his Regent Entertainment film company as catering to an “alternative lifestyle audience.” Furthermore, she labels the gay community as a whole as an “affluent, well-educated minority group.”
She wrote in the story:
“Gay.com will culturally and technically mesh with its new sister companies: HereTV, an online, cable and satellite service that reaches 54 million households, and Out and The Advocate, two alternative lifestyle magazines”
“They are building a gay-targeted multimedia mini-empire because they understand this largely affluent, well-educated minority group, believe advertisers want to tap into it and think other media companies don't want to touch it.”
“Since 1995, Regent has produced or released 150 movies, a third of which were aimed at an alternative lifestyle audience.”
Out is a “lifestyle” magazine, as are other lifestyle magazines like GQ or Marie Clare that mix news, features, fashion and celebrities. The Advocate on the other hand is a news magazine. This mislabeling goes far beyond the magazines’ descriptions. The term “alternative lifestyle” is one that is typically used to denigrate gay people, who are as diverse in their lives as anyone. There is no single lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender lifestyle. The phrase “alternative lifestyle” is used to disparage the gay community suggesting that their sexual orientation is a choice and therefore can be “cured.” The Dallas Morning News and the Associated Press have marked this term as inappropriate and against their style guidelines.
In terms of Hall’s comments that gay people are a “largely affluent, well-educated minority group,” the data shows otherwise. A 2009 study reviewing Census data on poverty revealed that, far from being “largely affluent,” gay men for example experience poverty at rates that are as high as or higher than rates for straight adults.* While, GLAAD encourages Hall’s focus on Jarchow’s investment in reaching gay audiences, her reporting lacks a true understanding of the diversity and economic struggles that many in the LGBT community face.
GLAAD contacted Hall on Monday October 26, to discuss these issues. While, she acknowledged that she made an error in going against the guidelines of her newspaper, she said she could not make a retraction and repost the story. However, she suggested that GLAAD write a letter to the editor, which GLAAD has done.
The Dallas Morning News ran an interesting piece in this Sunday’s Business section on Stephen Jarchow, a straight Dallas resident who’s chairman of Here Media Inc., which owns Here TV, Out, The Advocate and Gay.com. But as Rafael McDonnell at Resource Center Dallas pointed out to me this morning, someone at The DMN needs to check their Associated Press Handbook. That’s because the AP Stylebook, which is essentially a bible in this industry, specifically says to avoid the term “alternative lifestyle” when you mean “gay,” and yet the DMN uses “alternative lifestyle” not once but twice in the story about Jarchow. As McDonnell put it, “I know The DMN’s laid off some editors, but what is this, 1970?” Indeed, while I generally try to avoid coming across as the politically correct LGBT police, there’s really no excuse. “Lifestyle” implies choice, and being gay or lesbian is no more a lifestyle than being straight. If someone at The DMN needs additional reference material, they should turn to style guides published by the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
GLAAD is asking The Dallas Morning News to issue a retraction both in print and online and re-post the story on its website.
*Revisiting the Income Penalty for Behaviorally Gay Men: Evidence from NHANES III by Christopher S. Carpenter, The Paul Merage School of Business, University of California at Irvine.