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Transparency in GLAAD Development and Programs

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The following was published in January 2011 by former GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios:

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation endeavors to win public support for accepting, respecting and valuing LGBT people and their contributions in our society. We are media advocates, working with and through the media to increase support for LGBT equality. We do this work in many ways, including when our Media Programs team holds the media accountable for the words and images they present. When the media changes its practice or corrects a mistake, it sends an important, elevating message to all Americans. Over the years, we have built a strong record of doing just that—and operating with integrity, honesty and transparency, including by holding ourselves accountable for the public's perception that we remain fair and unbiased in decisions and actions.

GLAAD's media advocacy brings us into conversations with networks, studios and a range of media players.  As part of this work, we have an obligation to address concerns from constituents all the while respecting the sometimes-confidential or behind-the-scenes nature of specific conversations and activities with media outlets.  By doing so, we hope that our stakeholders--critics and allies alike--will not only have a better understanding of GLAAD and its core culture, but also of the processes and policies we've put in place to protect our mission and objectives, and to safeguard our integrity and reputation.  GLAAD's openness and ethical practices are not just a part of our communications strategy, but a core part of who we are.

One obvious area that periodically raises questions among constituents deals with GLAAD's policy of accepting financial support from some of the media entities that we watchdog.  Fairly expressed, the concern might be put in the form of a question:  How does an organization whose mission is to watchdog the media without compromise do so when it accepts financial support from some media companies it watch-dogs?       

Since the spring of 2010, GLAAD had instituted an internal process that functions as a "firewall" to protect the integrity of our programmatic work by definitively separating it from our development efforts.  We formally separate our Development Team (which is charged with raising funds for GLAAD's work) from the Media Program Team (which is charged with working with the media proactively as well as "watch-dogging").  The interaction between the two departments is specifically restricted internally to mitigate compromise or the perception of compromise.  To facilitate this policy's success, we have set up a formal protocol which separates the flow of certain information between the two departments.  Any organization would be naïve to think that there can be an absolute separation of the two; and that is why vigilance and diligence remain necessary. 

Although representatives from a media corporation may reasonably be expected to inquire from time to time of a Development Team member about a GLAAD Media Program activity or action, Development Team members are not permitted to contact Program Team members for information, to communicate displeasure or concern from a corporate partner, or in any way seek to affect the outcome of the specific Program Team action. 

Conversely, should a media corporation attempt to discuss financial support of GLAAD with a Program Team member in the context of a specific action, or raise an issue of past or current support of GLAAD, the Programs Team member is required to immediately report the event to the Senior Director of Media Programs who, in turn, sends the inquiry to the Development Team.  Programs Team members are forbidden by this procedure from engaging in conversations about financial or in-kind support of GLAAD with media corporations whose programming, content or actions might become subject to a GLAAD Program action. 

The development and execution of strategies and tactics for specific advocacy efforts to hold a media outlet accountable are intended by this policy to function autonomously and separately from other parts of the organization. This independence is necessary to assure that the best judgment of Programs staff is applied, and that GLAAD's obligation to expose LGBT defamation and work for corrections or apologies is prioritized above all other concerns.

All GLAAD employees across the organization are required to take ethics training, to fully understand the core mission, and to sign a Memo of Understanding upholding their commitment to GLAAD's mission and business principles. Employees who either recklessly or willfully violate these principles are subject to disciplinary action which may include dismissal.

In addition to the internal processes described above, there are external realities which help protect us from potential compromise. The mere giving of financial contributions implies to both parties --GLAAD and the donor – the idea for dialogue, interaction and meaningful engagement. These relationships are entered into in good faith and with due diligence, and when an organization such as a media source provides financial contributions to GLAAD, they do so knowing that GLAAD is in the business of 'watch-dogging' these very groups.

We have learned from experience that engagement with media gives GLAAD an opportunity to keep communications open, to better monitor issues and to more effectively engage media in the struggle for our equality.  We see this strategy of frank and honest engagement with a wide variety of stakeholders and different media sources as a means to help us achieve a key element of our core mission: to gather comprehensive information and assess perceptions, and with this data, to positively shape attitudes and perceptions of the LGBT community.  

Finally, approximately 3% of our total support comes from media entities.  The other support comes from individual donors, foundations and corporate partners who are not involved in the media industry. GLAAD is not dependent on media entities for our survival, but we still believe it is critical to maintain a level of transparency about this support.

Our stakeholders –whether they are participants in our Calls to Action, volunteers at events, board members, or sponsors – are the backbone of GLAAD's work.  We owe all of them an organization that functions effectively and communicates about our interior workings as fairly, accurately and transparently as possible. We believe our policies and this statement help reflect GLAAD's commitment to openness and integrity and, of course, we continue to define what this transparency means to us through our equality work every day.

Jarrett Barrios, President