Media Coverage of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Improves as Repeal Moves Toward Reality
The Boston Globe's recent coverage of Obama's pledge to overturn "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," is one of many news stories out this year that fairly tackles the issue. The Globe piece delves into Obama's announcement that more studies need to be done, and more Congressional support is needed, before the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Though the Globe piece's terminology was not quite perfect (use of "gays" rather than "gay men and women" or "gay people"), overall the reporter did a great job keeping the piece fair, accurate, and inclusive of LGBT voices and perspectives. It presented multiple sides to the issue. It quoted expert repeal advocates like the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund (SLDN) and the Palm Center at UC-Santa Barbara.
The day after the story's publication, SLDN's executive director, Aubrey Sarvis, opined in the Huffington Post that there is no need for another study on the military ban:
We do not need another report to tell us what we already know and what earlier reports have long since concluded: the sexual orientation of a service member is irrelevant. What is relevant is how well he or she does the job.
The importance of LGBT advocates not only participating in mainstream media news pieces, but also writing opinion pieces like Sarvis' HuffPo column, enriches the ongoing conversation around the military ban. The advent of the blogosphere and LGBT military activism has helped shape the past 15+ years of coverage.
Back when the military ban first went into effect, the way the media reported on it was less than fair. In 1996, the New York Times was still referring to gay men and lesbians as "homosexuals" in their military ban coverage. SLDN was regularly quoted, but by today's standards the LGBT terminology missed the mark. By this year, the Air Force Times published a very well-done piece exploring the discrimination transgender veterans face, marking a heightened LGBT visibility in military press.
But not all media coverage of LGBT service members has been transformed into fair and accurate in 2009. Last month, GLAAD launched an Action Alert against “Gunny” Bob Newman, host of The Gunny Bob Show on Colorado’s KOA-AM Radio:
Newman used his Clear Channel-owned media platform to make false and defamatory comments about gay service members. Newman suggested that lifting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ban on allowing qualified gay military personnel to serve openly in the armed forces, would lead to greater HIV risk.
Despite setbacks like KOA-AM, the media coverage of LGBT military personnel is on the whole improving. As President Obama's administration continues to make decisions around "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," media coverage will hopefully continue to portray the issues fairly and give voice to our community.