Wilks also explained theNews’ coverage in June, the day after the U.S. Supreme Court decision dismissed an appeal to uphold Prop 8, which had been overturned by a lower court. The paper chose to balance coverage with two front-page stories and photos—one of an LGBT gathering and the other of a pro-traditional marriage conference. Though most media outlets focused only on images from those celebrating the decision, he said that the News’ audience, which hovers around 90 percent Mormon, also cared about the conference.
The discussion wasn’t only about the church-owned media outlets. Lisa Carricaburu, Salt Lake Tribune
assistant managing editor, said her newsroom sees LGBT issues as one of the major civil rights stories of contemporary America. Terry Gildea, news director at NPR affiliate KUER, said his reporting staff of six actively pursues LGBT stories for the FM newscast. A recent KUER report was headlined, “LGBT Mormons try to bridge divide through music.”
Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, encouraged journalists to exercise care when describing transgender people. Where possible, she said, let people self-identify their preference of terms such as gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgendered. State Sen. Jim Dabakis, founder of Equality Utah and now the state Democratic Party chairman, urged journalists to get to know members of the transgender community so they can better report on them.
KTVX news director George Severson, who is gay, said the state is changing and becoming more accepting of all people. “We need to reflect what is happening in Utah,” he said. Severson added that he wants KTVX to simply represent all Utahns in the news it covers, though he did speak frankly about the “F” word: fear, of offending some viewers and lowering ratings.
Panelists also discussed specific storylines journalists can follow. Some would apply in many places: educating the public about the lives and work of LGBT people; covering what it’s like for a young person to come out to family and friends; exploring the unique obstacles LGBT people encounter as they go through key life events, such as buying a home, getting health insurance, getting a name change or drivers license.
But a couple ideas were more specific to Utah. They were:
— Write about same-sex attracted students at Brigham Young University who remain celibate so they can attend the university and remain members in good standing of the university’s sponsor, the Mormon church.
— Cover the debate over local anti-discrimination ordinances, as the Tribune did in an article about Provo this week. More than a dozen Utah cities have adopted these ordinances; a statewide bill failed in the 2013 legislative session, but will likely be introduced in 2014.
Correction: The original version of this story misstated Lisa Carricaburu’s title at The Salt Lake Tribune. She has been managing editor since July 2012. CJR regrets the error.
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