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Don't ignore or misrepresent us, LGBT advocates tell Utah journalists

Published November 22, 2013 9:46 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah news organizations sometimes do stories members of the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community view as positive.

Other times, they view news stories as negative.

What often can be the worst thing media outlets do, however, is to not cover issues important to the community at all.

That was one message delivered by LGBT community members and advocates during a discussion Thursday at the Salt Lake City Main Library.

Sponsored by the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the event offered an opportunity for journalists and those representing LGBT Utahns to openly discuss ways to foster respect and understanding and improve coverage.

"One of our goals is to counter the argument that stories [addressing issues and building understanding about the LGBT experience] aren't important enough to run," said Erika Munson, founder of the group Mormons Building Bridges, which aims to make LDS congregations and homes more welcoming to LGBT individuals while still living within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' doctrinal teachings, which she believes are too often misconstrued.

She joined Equality Utah executive director Brandie Balken in saying they want to see inclusive coverage of LGBT Utahns who live, work, parent and contribute in multiple ways in their communities just like everyone else.

"Allow people to tell you who they are" and represent that in coverage, Balken said. "Allow people to fully express themselves."

That includes allowing LGBT Utahns to self-identify when gender preference or transsexuality are at issue and to reflect that self-identification in stories, she said.

Balken said she understands journalists have a job to do in covering the myriad issues that involve the LGBT community.

She isn't asking members of the media to take sides.

"The job of a journalist is to present facts in a fair and accurate manner and in some cases, that's not happening," she said.

The discussion, which also involved Democratic state Sen. Jim Dabakis and David Andreason of the group OUTreach, was illuminating.

It served as an appreciated reminder of the responsibility we have to be inclusive and accurate in our coverage.

At The Tribune, LGBT coverage is an important component of our families and communities coverage.

We regard many of the issues facing this community as the civil rights movement of our time, and we cover them aggressively as such.

We welcomed the opportunity to have our coverage evaluated at Thursday's event and to hear how our competitors' coverage is viewed.

But it needn't end there.

How are we doing? I'm always open to questions, comments, criticisms or ideas.

Don't hesitate to comment at the end of this blog post, send me an email at lisac@sltrib.com or direct message me on Twitter: @lcarricaburu