In Media Circles, GLAAD Flexes Its Pro-Gay Muscles: Activist Group Influences Print, Broadcast Portrayals

By Duin, Julia | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 16, 1999 | Go to article overview

In Media Circles, GLAAD Flexes Its Pro-Gay Muscles: Activist Group Influences Print, Broadcast Portrayals


Duin, Julia, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Soon after word got out on the national wires 13 months ago about the fatal attack on Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, Cathy Renna swung into action.

The community-relations director for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), flew out West within 48 hours and arranged to help handle media interviews for everyone from local residents to the University of Wyoming.

The 34-year-old spokeswoman was able to give her organization's spin on the matter, which was that a "climate of hate" caused by conservative groups caused Mr. Shepard's death. Within days, national media such as NBC's "Today" show hostess Katie Couric had parroted that viewpoint.

"They put pro-family groups in the same league as Aryan Nation," says Peter LaBarbara, founder of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality. "The reason they have so much influence is because the rest of the media wants to believe the best of homosexuality and the worst of pro-family people."

Miss Renna may be the most visible spokesperson for a relatively small national organization with a staff of 27. Operating on a $3.7 million budget, it has had amazing success in influencing the media and gaining access to movie and TV scripts.

"We like to think we're influential," says Scott Seomin, entertainment and media director for GLAAD in Los Angeles. Formerly with "Entertainment Tonight," he estimates he meets several times a day with writers, producers and actors to discuss how homosexuals should be portrayed on screen.

"They are more powerful than we are," says Tom Snyder, managing editor of MovieGuide, a conservative publication affiliated with the Christian Film and TV Commission. "Hollywood is very pro-gay. They accept the homosexual agenda of GLAAD."

It doesn't help, he adds, that groups from yesteryear, such as the Catholic League of Decency or the Protestant Film Office no longer operate in Hollywood, leaving a void of conservative influences. Mr. Snyder's office is 30 miles north of Hollywood in Ventura County.

GLAAD also hosts yearly media-awards banquets in Los Angeles, New York, Washington and San Francisco.

"Ninety percent of our work is relationships," Mr. Seomin says. "It's having lunches and coffees. I've met the Los Angeles Times to introduce myself, to ask them to use us as a resource and to say `We're also going to call you on coverage we're not happy with.' "

Media that do not comply with GLAAD's standards are listed on GLAAD's on-line "GLAADalert," sent to 150,000 people every two weeks. On May 20, it castigated the Washington area's CBS affiliate, WUSA-Channel 9, for interviewing Anthony Falzarano, then-national director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (P-Fox).

"Please voice your concerns that this segment was unbalanced and that it privileged P-Fox by presenting only their contact information at the close of the telecast," the alert read, with a copy of WUSA News Director Paul Irwin's phone number and e-mail address. GLAAD, it added, had met with WUSA, which agreed to prepare a piece on ex-ex-homosexuals. The piece has yet to run, says Miss Renna, who is on WUSA's community-advisory board.

"We've evolved as an organization that has access to the media," she says. "We've spent a lot of time developing relationships with people. They're built on mutual relationship and basic trust. We know this is a process of education."

In early May, a coalition of conservative groups had attempted to air ads touting the ex-homosexual movement on Washington TV stations.

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