GLAAD Staff Visit Lone Star State

September 10, 2008
I just returned from five days on the road in Texas with Yana Walton, GLAAD’s new Southern Region Media Field Strategist.  GLAAD’s Media Field Strategy program is dedicated to improving both the quality and quantity of news coverage of gay and transgender issues in local and regional media outlets.  To that end, our Strategists provide resources to local media professionals and work with local community partners to expand their communications skills and capacity. Both cities we stopped in – Austin and San Antonio - have thriving LGBT communities. During our short five days on the road, San Antonio’s Stonewall Democrats held their annual fundraising dinner, Austin hosted the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF), and the University of Texas’s Queer Student Alliance provided back-to-school resources for LGBT students during their Queer Student Carnival.
Paul Karr speaks to members of the MCC

Paul Karr speaks to members of the MCC

While in Texas we met with several community organizations and local reporters to pitch stories and discuss future coverage of LGBT people and issues. On Thursday, we met with Jeorge Zarazua, the minority affairs reporter at the San Antonio Express-Times, who has authored several fair and accurate articles on San Antonio’s community.  Jeorge talked with us about his interest in profiling the work of local LGBT residents. That evening, Jeorge stopped by our first training at San Antonio’s Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) and spoke to a crowd of 20 attendees from PFLAG, the MCC Choir and local transgender advocates about sharing their stories and advocacy efforts with local media. After a short visit to the Alamo and the beautiful San Antonio riverwalk, we were off to Austin to meet with the Executive Director of Atticus Circle, Jodie Eldridge, and Paige Schilt, of Soulforce to discuss their Seven Straight Nights events.
Yana Walton (second from the right) meets with members of Soulforce and Atticus

Yana Walton (second from the right) meets with members of Soulforce and Atticus Circle

We also met with Karl-Thomas Musselman, the founder of the widely read progressive Texas political blog, Burnt Orange Report, to discuss coverage of LGBT issues and people in the Austin-American Statesman and the University of Texas’ student paper The Daily Texan. Through our four training sessions in Austin and San Antonio, several dozen community members and advocates learned about how GLAAD’s Media Field Strategy works and were given the chance to formulate their own talking points about issues affecting their communities and practice giving media interviews. Among the GLAAD trained spokespersons in Austin were leaders of OutYouth, the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) and the Publicity Chair of AGLCC (Austin Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce). In San Antonio, we trained an openly lesbian former San Antonio City Councilwoman who is preparing to run again, and transgender activist Julia Rose DeGrace who will be interviewed in the San Antonio Express-Times regarding her work on a petition to bring about a trans-inclusive federal ENDA. All in all, our trip to two of Texas’ most beautiful cities was a wonderful success. We look forward to working with our new community partners and featuring their work in future glaadBLOG posts.