On Saturday, April 10, The Utah Pride Center held its annual “Queer Prom.” According to the Utah Pride Center, over 800 young people enjoyed the event. Organizers and attendees were happy with how seamlessly the night went, and everyone seemed to have a good time at the prom.
Because the event was so well attended, and there were no known problems, it came as a shock when Utah’s KTVX ABC Channel 4 ran a story called, “‘Queer Prom’ causes a stir.” Rather than reporting on the hundreds of people who attended the event and enjoyed themselves, KTVX chose to cover the event by amplifying the voice of one vehemently anti-gay activist. KTVX created controversy by using one person’s anti-gay and dangerous statements to sensationalize the story.
It was dangerous for ABC 4 to have given a platform to the claims of predatory and illegal behavior, without investigating them further. The story states:
For Graham though, it's not the event, but rather those who are attending it that worries him. "We're concerned about some of the people that we've seen go in there," he said. "We've seen in our lives predators, and people that try to take advantage of other people."
None of those accusations were substantiated or based in fact, yet the story left the allegations unchallenged. It is an unfair, inaccurate and irresponsible approach to journalism.
This type of reporting by ABC 4 is offensive. When over 800 people attend an event, and one person is opposed to the event, it is irresponsible to cover the event from that one anti-gay activist perspective. ABC 4 failed to interview and give voice to a single person among the hundreds who actually attended the event.
GLAAD talked to the station’s News Director Pat Livingston on Monday, April 12th. Mr. Livingston insisted the story was both “balanced” and “presented both sides.” GLAAD maintains that when one person makes inaccurate claims against the activities of hundreds of others – and those claims are unsubstantiated – that there are really not two “sides.” There is nothing “balanced” about the ABC 4 story. This is particularly problematic, because there were hundreds of other people who could have given an accurate view, but weren’t given that opportunity. GLAAD asked Mr. Livingston to pull the story from the station’s website, or at minimum to update the story. After GLAAD’s request, the station updated some of the language to comport with the AP Style Guide. Additionally, the story was updated to re-attribute paraphrased statements to a specific individual. Those statements had previously been attributed generically to event organizers.
The types of controversy that were manufactured in this story are dangerous because they perpetuate negative and untrue stereotypes about LGBT people. When media outlets allow stories that perpetuate these stereotypes, myths and misinformation about LGBT lives; LGBT people become vulnerable to anti-gay statements, attitudes and beliefs that work to create a world in which LGBT people do not exist.
The Utah Pride Center’s annual Queer Prom is an uplifting and positive event open to not only LGBT youth, but to allied students looking for a safe space to make friends and enjoy this important moment in their lives. It is unfortunate that KTVX ABC Channel 4 allowed one anti-gay activist to use the station to advance his divisive agenda.
GLAAD appreciates that the station made small steps in improving the story’s language after our initial conversation. However, the station owes viewers a follow-up story that accurately depicts the lives, successes and challenges of Utah’s young LGBT community – free of the fringe and extreme views that were given top billing in this story.
GLAAD urges you to let KTVX ABC Channel 4 know how you feel about, “‘Queer Prom causes a stir.” Leave a comment at the bottom of the story, or write directly to the station with your thoughts. You can also let the station know how you feel on Facebook or on Twitter @ktvx.