Tuesday, September 3, 2013

INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISM SEMINAR | Is it worth reporting names and naming extremely sensitive areas that could put LGBT at real risk?

You don't have to take my word for it.

You can read all about the seminar I organized on international journalism story coverage of LGBT issues and human rights from a two-time NLGJA Excellence in Journalism Award winner who attended the session.

A former radio journalist and a first-time novelist who won an NLGJA Award for a radio conversation between Edmund White and David Leavitt, writer David Swatling looks back on his experiences at this year's NLGJA National Convention and 9th LGBT Media Summit entitled "Boston: Uncommon."  Swatling somehow found time to jot down his thoughts about the panel discussions and breakout sessions he attended in Boston while he was participating in a mystery writers' convention soon after the NLGJA convention.

You see, Swatling has just completed writing his first novel Calvin's Head, a psychological thriller set in Amsterdam where he is based.

Roberta Sklar (IGHLRC), Jeb Sharp (PRI's The World), Charles M. Sennott (Global Post), Michael Luongo, me, Kevin Douglas Grant (Global Post)

Swatling attended numerous sessions at the NLGA 13 conference. He especially liked a session about gay comic book artists and another session on how the media can serve LGBT people over the age of 50. He also attended the session I organized.

In an August 31, 2013 post entitled "Uncommon Community," Swatling reports:
The conference began with the 9th LGBT Media Summit – a day of networking and breakout sessions focusing on strategies for the future. After a breakfast plenary that examined the early days of LGBT community newspapers as remembered by the men and women who established them, I opted for the panel assembled by Randy Gener on International LGBT Story Coverage. After all, I live in Amsterdam most of the year, had worked for international radio, and have been writing about developments concerning the Russian anti-gay laws for the past five months. 
After cordial introductions, the discussion got somewhat scrappy. Roberta Sklar, communications director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, urged caution in extremely sensitive areas where the “right to existence” was at stake. The traditional reporting of names and locations could put lives at risk. But Charles M. Sennott, editor and co-founder of GlobalPost, said he wrestled with the notion of “being careful.” Was he naïve to believe in the power of truth? A difficult question, one writer and photographer Michael Luongo faces often in his reporting, especially in the Middle East. He stressed that being a gay journalist gave him access to stories he felt needed to be told. And he’s willing to take responsibility for sources who get in trouble for talking to him.

Read more of Swatling's experiences here at http://davidswatling.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/uncommon-community/

His post includes a superb video profile of Michael Luongo, NLGJA's Journalist of the Year 2013 Award winner. In addition to being a revealing introduction to Luongo's conflict-based reporting as a freelancer, the video seems to me a perfect video resume. Surely a major news operation will have the guts to hire Luongo full time after watching this video. Soon after Boston, Luongo flew to Kurdistan where he is now reporting.

Here is the video about how he puts himself in harm's way to get the best story he can find:


As Swatling suggests in his post, the seminar I organized highlighted the healthy tension between international journalists and human-rights advocates. Is it worth naming names of LGBT people whom journalists cover? Are the LGBT media really covering the reality on the ground, or are they making LGBT lives in other countries worse and more dangerous by naming names and by creating an echo chamber of aggregated news and LGBT stories. Should the media tone down the volume?

To which I add: What about the stories of hope and resilience? Might the LGBT Media also produce restorative narratives that honestly and seriously inquire into the possibilities of empowerment and human strength? Can international journalism on LGBT issues and human rights also express revitalization and reveal opportunities in disruption?

On a personal note, thank you to these wonderful panelists who went out of their way to speak at my panel:
1) KEVIN DOUGLAS GRANT, a founding member of The GroundTruth Project and the Deputy Editor of Special Reports at GlobalPost;
2) MICHAEL LUONGO, 2013 NLGJA Journalist of the Year Award recipient and author of "Gay Travels in the Muslim World" and "Frommer’s Buenos Aires"
3) CHARLES M. SENNOTT, the Vice President, Editor-at-Large and co-founder of GlobalPost;
4) JEB SHARP, producer of the public radio program PRI’s The World, a radio news magazine; and
5) ROBERTA SKLAR, a veteran of social justice media campaigns and the Communications Director and Press Secretary of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

If you are interested, I prepared an "International Journalism Seminar Resources File and Tool Kit" that serves as a handout for the session. It is available on the NLGJA website at at http://www.nlgja.org/2013/international-story-coverage.

However, there is a more current and updated version of this PDF document, which you can download at http://euroacademia.academia.edu/RandyGener. It includes a PDF document from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) which outlines its LGBT priorities. Thanks to the U.S. State Department for  providing me with that ECA document. Attitudes and tolerance toward LGBT persons vary from country to country, just as they vary among U.S. cities and states.

The US State Department has launched a newly created LGBT Travel Information Page to help LGBT travelers be prepared and research their destination before they go. Visit it here.


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