HOUSTON VOICE / MARCH 29. 1996 15
Texas chapter of NLGJA
meets in Houston
"Navigating the 90's," the conference theme, focused on the challenges
faced by gay and lesbian journalists in
a turbulent era marked by upheavals in
the news business and fast-paced
changes in the means and concept of mass
communications. (Indeed, participants in the "Ask the Editors" panel
noted that we in the throes of an age in
which a massive amount of information is delivered to society that is not
"filtered" through what we the media,
nor the mission or ethics of that institution).
The bulk of the conference, however,
centered on more traditional and
familiar issues faced by gay and lesbian
journalists, such as coming out.
A panel discussion titled "Coming
Out to Colleagues. Sources and the
Community" brought together a
diverse group of journalists who
shared their own "coming out" stories. Interestingly, the group included
people in various stages of the process, and even a heterosexual reporter
who admitted having occasionally
allowed those he has interviewed to
believe he is gay. The panelists' stories revealed a wide range of experiences, as well as divergent views
regarding what it means to be 'out.'
Todd Camp relayed how he was transferred from his job as editor of Class
Acts, a special children's magazine
section of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, and reassigned to a feature
writing position in January, after a
single reader complained about cartoons by Camp that had previously run
in the Texas Triangle, a gay newspaper. Camp lamented that while a flood of
stories in both the mainstream and gay
press identified him .is an "openly gay
editor." he wasn't sure what the term
meant. "I'd been in the position (editing the children's magazine) for tour
years, and there had never been a problem," until the newspaper received a
single letter from a reader who had
received a copy of one of Camp's cartoons in a mailing from the anti-gay
Texas Family Assoc lat ion and recognized his name. "The letter itself
was rather innocuous," said Camp, "It
didn't ask for punishment, it just said
that the woman felt the cartoon was inappropriate."
The cartoon in question showed the
strip's main character having a steamy
cyber-chat, then going into hysterics
after learning his "computer sex"
partner is 14. It was included in a mailout from TFA targeting ihe Triangle's advertisers, among others, with
the apparent suggestion that it promoted pedophilia. "My comment is,
you would have to be a complete ami total
idiot to misinterpret the meaning of
this cartoon," Camp fumed. And
although Star Telegram Executive
Editor Debbie Price insisted the transfer wasn't a "gay issue". Camp said the
experience taught him that, even in his
progressive workplace (the Fori
Worth paper is one of the few media outlets in Texas lhat provides domestic
partner benefits), there is still much
work to be done and a great need for an
organization like NLGJA.
Ironically, the mode rami ol ihe
panel. Juan Palomo, currently the
religion reporter for the Austin American Statesman, reported that a religious tight minister's effort to target
him had much less effect. Palomo, best
known locally as a columnist for the
now-defunct Houston Post, told the
group ih.it TFA'S director. Wyatt Roberts, had sent a letter to pastors in the
Austin area advising them ol the new
Statesman religion reporter's sexual
orientation and the fact that he, also,
had contributed columns to the Triangle. Palomo noted that he has not had
any pastors decline to be interviewed
by him; he has, however, received calls
offering support. "I have yet to have
any problems because of this," he said.
"It's a luxury to be out, and not have to
worry about these things."
Others offered a sharply different
take on the out-in-the-workplace issue.
Dan Meador, director of weather communications for KHOU-TV Houston
(Channel 11), puzzled: "What does
that mean, being 'out?' If your definition of 'out' is having a picture of your
lover on your desk.. .1 don't know if I'm
comfortable wilh that. I have my work
and I have my (social) life," said
Meador, a 25-year TV veteran who has
been an on-the-air meteorologist
with the Houston station since 1982.
"I'm farther along than I used to be.
Before, people would come up to me in
the bars and say, 'hey, aren't you that
weather guy?' and I'd say, 'No..J just
look like him.' I don't do that anymore.
Now. I'm not afraid to let people know."
Meador added this advice for on-the-air
gays in broadcasting: "Just keep your
nose clean...act responsibly."
Tim Halley Awards Presented
Two journalists received awards at the
NLGJA state conference, both for stories lhat appeared in Texas gay/lesbian
newspapers. Andrew Edmonson
received a Special Merit Award for feature siories he wrole lor The Houston
Voice, while John McCoy of the Dallas
Voice received the Tim Halley Achievement Recognition Award for a scries of
news stories on AIDS issues.
The Texas NLGJA Awards are named in
honor of Halley, a journalist lor ihe
II c an in ii ii I Enterprise and association hoard member who lost his battle
wilh AIDS in 1994. Martha Liebrum,
former assistant managing editor
for the Housion Post judged this year's
A new award, for workplace advocacy,
had also been introduced this year.
However, an award was not presented
as the association did not receive any
nominations in time for the conference.
The conference also included a presentation on using the Internet for
news gathering and inter-media communications: a luncheon featuring
keynote speaker Daniel Helminiak
(see related story) and entertainment
by Houston comedian Nancy Ford, who
is also columnist for Outsmart magazine.
The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association is an organization of news media p ro f e s s i o n a I s
whose goals include making newsrooms more hospitable for gay and lesbian journalists: fostering fair.
comprehensive and accurate coverage of lesbian and gay issues; stimulating dialogue on professional and
ethical issues; and serving as a professional and social network. The
organization has a total of about 1200
members in the United States and Canada.
This year's conference was the fourth
annual event for ihe Texas chapter.
Individuals interested in the chapter, its activities, or the NLGJA can
obtain more information by calling
Fitness Exchange signs 'DFZ'
Following a discussion with Suzanne
Anderson Properties that settled initial
concerns about an ad to be placed in the lobby
of his fitness club. Fitness Exchange owner
Al McClerren has signed on as the latest
participant in the Discrimination Free
Zone, a project of the Houston Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus and the African-
American Lesbian/Gay Alliance.
Rick Barnes, a Realtor with Suzanne
Anderson Properties, had purchased
space on an advertising board in the Fitness
Exchange lobby, according to Anderson.
The real estate company generally touts
itself as "Houston's Lesbian, Gay, Bi and
Transgender Realtor" in all advertising.
After some discussion regarding the ad,
McClerren agreed to place it in the lobby of
his Kirby Drive business and to commit to
participation in the Discrimination
Free Zone. Barnes and Anderson said. The
DFZ initiative is intended to encourage
businesses, particularly those with a
sizeable gay clientele, to publicly pro
claim and affirm a position of non-discrimination.
"I am thrilled that we were able to facilitate this process," said Barnes. "We are
proud to stand with Mr. McClerren in our
fight for equal rights for all Americans."
HGLPC President Pat Gandy lauded the
Fitness Exchange "for setting an example
for other businesses in Houston and across
this nation to follow. We must stand tough
together in order io bring attention io the
unfortunate need for projects like this."
"Mr. McClerren called me this morning
(Monday) to say that he is proud to support
the Discrimination Free Zone initiative," said DFZ chair Clarence Bagby. "We
anticipate having at least one hundred
participants by ihe end of the year"
Bagby also said that AALGA and HGLPC are
working with several community organizations to secure commitments to co-
sponsor the DFZ. He added that additional
information on the program and current
participation is being compiled and will
be reported soon.
All Day-Wadnasday-AII Night
All Longnecks $1
Friday, Match 29th, 9pm
G-aest Bartaadeis - Tha R.S.I.C.S.S.
Satuiday, April 27th • Mr. Venture-)! Contest
Ask a bartender far details.