By George Daniels | July 17th, 2010
Friday’s New York Times article “When the Bride Takes a Bride” is a keeper of a media example on how to reflect diversity in your news product.
Not only does writer Kevin Sack spotlight a couple who has started an online magazine, EquallyWed, to fill a void in the media outlets that address concerns of same-sex couples, but he also identifies other media outlets and reviews mainstream media’s challenge in deciding how to handle what is still a controversial issue- same-sex marriage.
Historical Context Included
If you’re like me, handling the issue of same-sex marriage in my stories is not something I’ve done a lot of in my work as a journalist.
So Mr. Sack, who has won two Pulitzer Prizes in his journalism career, provided a little background on the fact that gay wedding have been depicted on network TV since the mid 1990s.
According to his article, 70 percent of daily newspapers also carry same-sex wedding announcements.
Following CNN’s Lead?
While I certainly think neither Mr. Sack nor his editors had CNN in mind when he wrote this piece, it’s interesting to note that this week’s story follows another reporting on the experiences of same-sex couples.
If you missed it, CNN’s latest installment of its “In America” series included a depiction of the challenge of same-sex couples who try to adopt.
Leaving Out the Naysayers
I thought University of Pennsylvania Communications Professor Katherine Sender’s comment in Sack’s story was especially important to mention.
“The market doesn’t wait for politics to catch up,” she told Sack.
That’s why I’ve been talking about the business imperative of diversity for years.
Absent from this article was the political debate about same-sex marriage. That was not relevant for the reporting on this media trend.
CNN was criticized by some for not giving “both sides” (presumably those opposed and those supporting) of the issue of gay marriage.
In our reporting on diversity, we have to be comfortable enough to establish parameters for our stories that they don’t get sidetracked by politics, which is a fight for another day.
Sack mentions that Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and District of Columbia joined Massachusetts as areas where same-sex marriages have been recognized.
But, that’s sufficient to acknowledge the political context without allowing it to dominate the reporting on this trend.
Appropriate Media Critique Adds to Diversity Within Diversity
There is no one way to write about the experiences of same-sex couple.
In the concluding graphs of his story, Lack engages in a little media criticism by noting how EquallyWed is more content driven than competing sites. He also depicts the diversity in content in the online magazine.
But, Sack also addresses those, like me, who are new to covering this trend, this part of America. He includes a quote from EquallyWed’s Kirsten Palladino about how there are some photographers who were uncomfortable with knowing how to gather images of a gay wedding.
That discomfort is an important part of the story that comes with covering or reporting on anything that is different. But, media outlets like the New York Times (which has a fairly long history of covering issues of sexual orientation) have to have the courage to tell this story.