Fox News bankrolls major LGBTQ convention
This weekend in Philadelphia, a four-day-long convention of LGBTQ (gay, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual, queer) activists is meeting with leading mainstream journalists and corporate media producers and executives. The stated purpose is to influence mainstream reporting on issues close to the heart of the LGBTQ activist community. The issues include same-sex marriage, transgenders in the military, isolating conservative religious groups as hate-mongers, and even how to cover President Donald Trump. Incredibly, the journalists are there not to report on the event, but to be enthusiastic participants while their employers help to pay for it.
It's one thing for a group like the NLGJA – the Association of LGBTQ Journalists, the sponsor of the event – to hold a convention of its members. It's something else entirely to have this agenda-laden meeting sponsored and supported financially by the very news media that the LGBTQ association is trying to influence – while leading members of the media appear in person at the event to endorse the goals of the organization.
NLGJA fundraiser, New York, N.Y., March 20, 2013. Don Lemon of CNN (L) takes a selfie. Others include Shepard Smith and Jamie Colby (Fox News) and Ashleigh Banfield and Ronan Farrow (MSNBC). Photo by Michael K. Lavers.
But that's exactly what is going on. And I seriously doubt that any of the happenings at the Philadelphia convention will be reported by the media who are there not to cover it, but to actively participate.
Hat Tip to Alex Nitzberg
The tip-off to the existence of this well planned annual professional gathering came during an appearance by journalist Alex Nitzberg on the Hagmann Report on September 5. I was intrigued by Nitzberg's mention of the NLGJA's 2017 national convention and immediately started looking into it.
Fortunately, there is a lot of information about the convention and the activist organization behind it online, including a detailed agenda of convention speakers, topics, and events. What I wasn't quite prepared for was the prominent listing given to corporate sponsors of the convention, in particular a number of major media companies.
Right behind Coca-Cola and JetBlue came the #3 sponsor – the first "editorial sponsor" on the list – and it was Fox News! Yes, Fox News, which in the past, at least, has purported to give conservative/"fair and balanced" coverage to controversial issues. But that was then, and this is now. Other media further down on the sponsors list are Google Newslab; Comcast NBCUniversal; Gannett Foundation (Gannett owns USA Today, and a large number of local newspapers and TV stations around the country); CBS News; McClatchy; and, with a surprisingly minor mention and no logo, CNN.
Fox News full-page ad in NLGJA 2017 convention program.
This effort appears to be aimed partly at recruiting more members of the LGBTQ sexual minority into the organization, as if they were seen as underrepresented in the news or broadcasting industries. Gallup polling shows that Americans vastly overestimate the percentage of the population that is lesbian or gay, with a mean estimate of 23%, as compared to the 3.8% of the adult population who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in Gallup Daily tracking in the first four months of 2015 [corrected]. Only 9% of the public holds the accurate view that this minority is 5% or less of the population, meaning that 91% of the public substantially overestimates their numbers.
In addition to organizing an annual convention with at least 350 attendees, the NLGJA, founded in 1990, serves as a full-fledged LGBTQ lobbying organization with headquarters in Washington, D.C. It is a tax-exempt non-profit, and its 2014 Form 990 federal tax return (the most recent one available) describes the organization's mission as:
Opposing all forms of workplace bias and providing professional development to its members who are journalists, media professionals, educators, and students working from within the news industry to foster fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues.
To that end, the NLGJA publishes a very detailed and obviously influential "LGBTQ Stylebook" to establish a standard for the media's reporting on "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & queer terminology," among other things.
The organization's 2014 federal tax return describes its annual convention:
This program attracts attendees from across the United States and Canada for three days [sic] of skills training, professional development and networking. The convention program also includes a career and community expo, [and] a training program for journalism students.
The tax return goes on to note one of the organization's major agendas: its programs and outreach aimed at students. An excerpt:
One of NLGJA's most successful programs is the annual student project held at the national convention and LGBT media summit, a six-day intensive training program for student journalists.
In other words, get to and influence fledgling journalists while they are young.
Presentations at the NLGJA 2017 convention are not limited to LGBTQ issues alone. One panel, for example, advises attendees on how to "cover Trump."
Source: NLGJA 2017 convention program.
One wonders if the situation would be different in a parallel universe – for example, if a group of conservative journalists, maybe religiously inclined, founded an organization to support concepts like traditional marriage or the right to life. Would these same corporate sponsors, including major media conglomerates, that are falling over themselves to support the LGBTQ organization's convention and agenda lend it their support?
Don't hold your breath.
This investigation continues.