Magazine article The Quill

Do Your Homework for Pride Festival Coverage

Magazine article The Quill

Do Your Homework for Pride Festival Coverage

Article excerpt

IT'S HERE: SUMMER FESTIVAL SEASON. It can be a great time for a young journalist - and even the veterans now getting roped into weekend shifts with more frequency - to learn about local neighborhoods and cultural groups. But these seemingly easy events to cover carry risks for reporters, photographers and editors who don't do their homework before Saturday comes around.

Gay pride is among the first summer events many newsrooms will cover. On various weekends throughout June, you'll find speeches, marches, parades, community fairs and other events around the country advocating equal rights and celebrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. As with any other event, it's important to pay special attention to the words and images journalists use to cover gay pride. Here are a few tips to help you prepare:

KNOW THE LANGUAGE

The Associated Press Stylebook and your media outlet's own style guides are a great place to start, but they may not cover the terminology you need to cover a pride event. Fortunately, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association publishes a free stylebook for LGBT terms on its web-site, nlgja.org. The NLGJA's Stylebook Supplement on LGBT terminology does a great job of flagging words and phrases to watch. It explains why some terms are preferred over others - for instance, the more politically neutral "sexual orientation" is preferred over the politically charged "sexual preference" because the latter term indicates a choice in whether someone is gay. The guide also explains the correct usage of the terms "transsexual," "transgender" and "cross-dresser," which are often used incorrectly.

DON'T JUST COVER AN EVENT; COVER A STORY

Check out the clip files for past coverage and read up on current events to get an idea of what participants may be talking about this year. Figure out which events throughout the day seem to be the most topical or most significant. If you don't do this kind of research ahead of time, you risk putting together a forgettable story that may even misrepresent the event.

Of course, that doesn't mean you should be rigid in your approach. Your research may indicate marriage as the best angle for a story, but events on the ground may focus on a different topic, such as bullying.

UNDERSTAND THE RISKS OF OUTING

Disclosing an individual's sexual orientation remains a sensitive issue, even at pride. On one hand, pride events often happen in public places. But it's important for journalists to understand that some participants may not be out to their families, friends and co-workers.

The SPJ Code of Ethics urges journalists to minimize harm. …

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