In this first post, our Director Andre Charadia looks at the need for an advocate for LGBTI people in the media landscape, and the aims he sees the Centre having into the future.

This time last year I went to the United States on a State Department program called the Intentional Visitor Leaders Program. My program was entitled “LGBTI Rights in a Developed Society”. Alongside Perthinality Misty Farquhar (her blog, Samavesa, is here) and fellow Sydneysider Raymond Roca, we visited Washington, New York, Indianapolis and the San Francisco Bay Area, meeting with LGBTIQ organisations that are at the coalface of the big changes happening in the United States. Excitingly, it was right after the US Supreme Court decision about marriage equality.

All are doing interesting and vital work, but two organisations that really caught my attention were the Washington-based National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) and GLAAD in New York. These two groups focus on the representation of LGBTIQ people in the media, both popular media and the news press.

The US holds an incredible amount of soft power through Hollywood and global news agencies, being ranked second globally to Germany by the most recent Monocle Soft Power Survey, so this work is an important vehicle for advancing the cause of LGBTI rights globally.

My trip was personally important, but it also ignited a pilot light for an Australian news media advocate like GLAAD and the NLGJA. Like many areas of LGBTIQ advocacy in Australia, this particular field is underdeveloped, if non-existent, and Australian LGBTI people and the media have had a fraught relationship in recent times (which I cover separately and very briefly here so this post isn’t enormous). After 12 months of bubbling under the surface, and with a plebiscite on marriage equality likely to happen, I think it’s finally time to start.

The Australian LGBTI Media Centre (a working title at this stage) will be a mainstream advocacy organisation that aims to change the way LGBTIQ people and issues are covered by the news media, to create a more sensitive and productive debate around these issues

I envisage the ALMC having two key focuses. Initially this will be examining the news media as it is, reacting to stories as they break. This involves pointing out when news organisations do something wrong and pointing them in the right direction for next time. This shouldn’t take the form of a public shaming, but rather as a fact check, drawing attention to a transgression and showing how it can be done differently.

It would be vital for the ALMC to work with news media. While pointing out when a newspaper article or TV bulletin does something wrong is a useful tool, real change will only occur when journalists and reporters feel confident to do so, with resources and advice available. Ultimately, journalists should be able to cover a diverse range of views on LGBTIQ issues without feeling they need to turn to reactionary groups that promote fear and prejudice. This would involve being proactive.

With the internet, resources can be created and readily accessed by news organisations, before a journalist even writes a story. During the pitch process, when gathering information and sources, while sub-editors are checking copy, and when editors decide to actually hit ‘publish’, outlets could turn to the ALMC website for lists of contacts, a glossary of appropriate terms and examples of previous articles covering the issues, whether they be less-than-ideal or more exemplary ones.

While I have obviously much loftier goals, such as being a membership organisation that helps LGBTIQ journalists in the workplace, in the meantime, these two focuses provide a good framework for which to begin.

Now for the hard bit…

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