CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina’s Moral Monday founder and president of the state affiliate of the NAACP will travel to Philadelphia this weekend to address a national gathering of LGBT journalists and bloggers. Organizers of the event say the weekend’s conference will focus on bridging intersectionalities within the LGBT community and with other communities engaged in civil rights struggles.
The Rev. Dr. William Barber, II, is scheduled to speak at a Friday night opening reception at the sixth annual LGBT Media Journalists Convening. The weekend conference brings together dozens of editors and writers from local and state LGBT newspapers, bloggers and other media figures in the LGBT community. It is presented by the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and sponsored by the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund, which covers the cost of attendance for those journalists invited to attend. This writer will attend the event.
Convening organizer Bil Browning said Barber’s opening keynote will set the tone for a weekend focused on building bridges and equipping local, state and national LGBT journalists with the tools they need to better cover their communities.
Barber’s role in the African-American Civil Rights Movement and North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement will also provide context and lessons for those at the event.
“With Moral Monday,” Browning explained, “what he has done is bring together various civil rights priorities and shown his community that there is a commonality and that working together is what actually moves a message. It’s bigger than just one small portion of the pie. You have to be able to take a fork and eat the whole thing.”
Moral Monday has attracted national attention for its coalition-style collaborations and its focus on a wide spectrum of civil rights issues, including voting rights, education, healthcare access and LGBT rights. Barber came out strongly against North Carolina’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment on marriage in 2012, a move that eventually led to the national NAACP’s endorsement of full civil marriage equality for same-gender couples.
That coalition-style work will be a focus during the Philadelphia journalists’ meeting, especially as the LGBT community looks past a decade’s worth of marriage equality work and begins to ask, “So now what?”, Browning explained.
“For a long time, the debate over marriage and amendments and all those discussions have overwhelmed the LGBT community and LGBT media,” he said. “So much media has been taken up by the conversation around marriage that a lot of times, journalists are struggling to figure out what the next priority will be and what they should be talking about.”
Browning hopes that exploring the intersectionalities of social justice work will give LGBT journalists the context they need to better inform and guide their reporting. He points to current examples of efforts to slowly chip away at LGBT rights advances, as states across the country pass laws allowing discrimination against LGBT individuals or couples by private businesses and government officials. Similar setbacks have been experienced by other communities, namely restrictions on abortion in the years after the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and voting rights restrictions in states that have passed new voter ID and other disenfranchisement laws.
Topics of workshops during Saturday’s day-long conference include a primer on anti-LGBT “religious liberty” laws, a discussion of bisexuality, a panel discussing race and gender and a discussion of HIV-related story writing and news coverage. Additionally, journalists will have a chance to visit Philadelphia’s John C. Anderson Apartments, billed as a first-of-its-kind affordable housing complex for LGBT seniors.
Strengthening local papers
The LGBT Media Journalists Convening, now in its sixth year, has always focused on providing information and continuing education to local and regional LGBT journalists, writers who often work for smaller publications lacking the broader resources of larger news companies. Despite their smaller size, local LGBT media brings value to their local communities, organizers believe.
“I still think the local LGBT paper of record is vitally important to the community,” Browning said. “While a lot of times, people get their news online sometimes faster than a weekly newspaper, you don’t see the same depth of local coverage on Buzzfeed, for example, for an issue in Charlotte. These newspapers are covering what is specific to their geographical area and most of the time they have a better understanding of what’s actually going on on the ground.”
But the media landscape has shifted and changed, Browning admitted.
“One of the things that stands out to me is how many states actually don’t have any queer publications, which means readers are getting their news literally online,” he said.
So, the convening also brings in local and regional bloggers, as well as bloggers and writers with larger, national audiences — the very places where readers without local LGBT media are finding news and commentary about their community’s issues.
“They come from different areas around the country and have different priorities,” he said. “Being able to bring everyone together and talk about those priorities and where the future of the movement is going is one of the biggest priorities we can have as LGBT journalists.”
The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which is presenting the weekend event, also believes in the importance of skills building for LGBT journalism.
“The LGBT Media Journalists Convening is just one program that NLGJA supports to provide professional development for LGBT journalists and bloggers,” said Executive Director Adam Pawlus. “LGBT stories are as important as every and local storytellers, both bloggers and the LGBT media, continue to play an important role in sharing our stories.”
NLGJA also presents other programs through the year, such as their annual LGBT Media Summit, held in conjunction with their annual conference. For the second year this September, the summit will also bring together LGBT media publishers.
Browning hopes the Philadelphia gathering will give journalists and writers the tools they’ll need to cover what he expects will be a new wave of community organizing.
“The personal stories shared not only by our presenters but also attendees weaves into a narrative that we are all connected,” Browning said. “At one time, we were more connected and history can help teach us about not only our own movement, but also the history of other movements and on how we can keep the gains we’ve won.”
This year’s LGBT Media Journalists Convening is the sixth such conference held for LGBT journalists. Other host cities for the conference have included New York City, San Francisco, Houston and Washington, D.C. This is the second visit to Philadelphia. Past conference themes have included immigration, LGBT youth support and suicide, elections, seniors and transgender issues, among others.
— Readers, activists and others can follow along with the conference — all workshops and sessions are “on record” — on social media with the hashtag #LGBTMedia15. See the convening’s Facebook page for more information.