Here is a fascinating ombudsmans article from Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton, who responds to concerned letters and emails from readers who contend that the Post is pro-gay.
I’m shelving this over in Off The Cuff since we have a pretty pro-Gay (and often times, actually gay) set of contributors and readers; extending equal rights and privileges for GLBTs just isn’t a source of controversy at the League. But Pexton’s article is well worth the read, as it sheds light on the mindset behind the thinking of both sides of this Red/Blue litmus-test issue.
Pexton pulls an email to act as a typical complaint from those concerned about the paper covering gays and lesbians in a non-negative fashion:
“The conservative, pro-family side gets short shrift,” as one reader recently put it, and The Post “caters slavishly to Dupont Circle.”
Pexton goes on to chronicle an email exchange between a concerned reader and a Post reporter:
The reader wrote that Post stories too often minimize the conservative argument: “The overlooked ‘other side’ on the gay issue is quite legitimate, and includes the Pope, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, evangelist Billy Graham, scholars such as Robert George of Princeton, and the millions of Americans who believe in traditional marriage and oppose redefining marriage into nothingness. .?.?. Is there no room in The Post for those who support the male-female, procreative model of marriage?”
Replied the reporter: “The reason that legitimate media outlets routinely cover gays is because it is the civil rights issue of our time. Journalism, at its core, is about justice and fairness, and that’s the ‘view of the world’ that we espouse; therefore, journalists are going to cover the segment of society that is still not treated equally under the law.”
The reader: “Contrary to what you say, the mission of journalism is not justice. Defining justice is a political matter, not journalistic. Journalism should be about accuracy and fairness.
“Good journalism also means not demeaning conservatives as ‘haters.’ ”
The reporter: “As for accuracy, should the media make room for racists, i.e. those people who believe that black people shouldn’t marry white people? Any story on African-Americans wouldn’t be wholly accurate without the opinion of a racist, right?
“Of course I have a bias. I have a bias toward fairness,” the reporter continued. “The true conservative would have the same bias. The true conservative would want the government out of people’s bedrooms, and religion out of government.”
This exchange well illustrates the reasons why it is hard for pro- and anti-gay sides to find common ground from which to build. When the reader asks, “Is there no room in The Post for those who support the male-female, procreative model of marriage?” he or she sheds a light on a telling disconnect.
For those complaining about the Post’s coverage, acknowledging gays (in a non-negative fashion) is seen as a zero-sum game: column inches announcing the wedding of two women, for example, are column inches that are not dedicated to heterosexual marriages. (Or, one assumes, non-wedding stories about good conservative families.) For those of us on the other side of the debate, the notion that you can’t have both is puzzling. Acknowledging two men’s vows isn’t meant to be an attack on the vows made by a man and woman, any more than hiring an African American is meant to be an attack on white America. And yet to those caught on the short side of shifting norms, society’s rejection of one’s long-held beliefs can feel like a personal attack.
The exchange also highlights how fairness and freedom are not absolute, concrete things. To fight for what you see as being free and fair, you must often do so at the expense of others’ desire for freedom and fairness. To me, GLBTs having the same expansive rights and privileges that I have seems both fair and the very model of a free society. To the Post readers that took the time to reach out to Pexton, the paper’s refusal to condemn homosexuality is an unfair treatment to those that do; two men marrying is an infringement on their freedom to live in a world that allows (and supports) a lesser social status for GLBTs.
As I say, a fascinating read.