Reporters, bloggers, editors, producers? We’re a lazy ass lot. Feed us a decent press release and we might just do your bidding, because dammit, we have content voids to fill, and it’s such a pain. On the off chance we make a stab at actually practicing journalism, we also have some laziness about us — in following the rule we’ve always been taught about fairly representing the opposing sides of a debate. So when it comes to same-sex marriage, or repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, we’ve always got to hear from someone who disagrees with equality. It’s why CNN entertains the lunacy of discredited hack therapists. And it’s why even groups like the Traditional Values Coalition can still get their message out.
But for the same reason the Human Rights Campaign is the go-to gay group whenever a reporter needs a soundbite or a cable anchor needs a segment guest, TVC is often included in gay articles because, as Michael R. Triplett notes, they make themselves very available. Andrea Lafferty, TVC’s executive director, is a reporter’s dream, always there with a bite-size pullquote or a press release flying in the wind. Ring her office and, just like HRC, there’s always someone ready to talk to you. That helps assure they get included in lazy reporters’ pieces, because why bother finding anyone else out there who might offer a more reasoned view?
Moreover, when it comes to finding that opposing voice on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, TVC is “the only organized opposition to ENDA in Washington,” says Triplett. “There’s the dilemma that reporters face when covering ENDA. They need some balance, members of Congress are incredibly vague about their opposition, staff don’t like to talk about it, so you call up TVC because you need a lively quote from the opposition. On deadline, it’s a natural move.” And, “since ENDA can’t seem to ever get passed, there is clearly opposition out there. But the opposition doesn’t really have a spokesman or interest group, only enough votes to filibuster in the Senate. That creates a bind for journalists. How do you reflect that opposition if no one seems to want to talk about it? You end up turning to TVC or Focus on the Family or other social conservative groups, even if ENDA is ultimately a business or legal story.”
So what’s the solution? Media organizations would do well to agree on a certain set of protocols they all adhere to. Namely, that the issue of “equality” is not some social experiment that is worth debating, but one that must be supported on all fronts. No news organization would ever invite the White Aryan Resistance on to discuss immigration reform. And even the most objective journalist in the world would say, on the record, discrimination based on race and religion and gender is wrong. That’s just common sense.
So why can’t we all agree that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is also wrong, and anyone who supports it, let alone makes a career out of endorsing it, isn’t fit for reasonable dialogue?
There is a difference between individuals and groups “opposing” certain legislation and individuals and groups endorsing discrimination. It is, frankly, that black and white. And any media organization that continues to pretend otherwise, lending credence to human beings who believe their immutable characters make them better and more deserving than another soul, is guilty of egregious journalistic and moral malpractice.
(UPDATE: Video of Lafferty on CBSNews.com’s Washington Unplugged segment, with no mention of TVC’s approach to hate. Kudos to HRC’s Allyson Robinson for holding things down. CBS: Guilty.)