Monday, August 20, 2007

LGBT Media Summit Ready to Go

Hundreds of journalists and media professionals from across the country will gather in San Diego next week to attend the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association's annual confab and LGBT Media Summit. I previewed the gathering for PressPassQ this month but the larger question remains: Does LGBT media remain viable?

LGBT media remains notoriously dysfunctional in its operation and arguably with its lack of ethics. I can certainly attest to my own experiences first hand. Cathy Renna of Renna Communications desribed this constant question during our interview for this story. She worked for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for more than a decade and has insight onto the industry most others simply do not. She said LGBT media often publishes LGBT stories which mainstream media simply does not. Renna added this medium allows her and her communications colleagues to reach their target audience. Both of these facts justify LGBT media's continued relevency. It will certainly continue to evolve, however, as media in general remains in a sort of crisis.

As the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) makes final preparations for its convention in San Diego, organizers hope the fourth annual LGBT Media Summit slated for Aug. 30 will provide attendees the opportunity to compare notes and share ideas about the industry and how to improve it.

CBS News on Logo executive producer Court Passant, Advocate editor Anne Stockwell, BoiFromTroy blogger Scott Olin Schmidt, and Human Rights Campaign director of media relations Brad Luna are among the more than two dozen journalists, media professionals, and activists from across the country who will discuss gay press coverage of GLBT conservatives, the impact of the continued consolidation of GLBT media, and a host of other topics.

Summit co-chair Libby Post, whose syndicated “Lesbian Notions” column appears in GLBT publications across the country, said the summit provides GLBT media an opportunity to grow and expand their influence. (Post’s column is syndicated by Q Syndicate, co-publisher of Press Pass Q.)

Renna Communications managing partner Cathy Renna will join five others on a panel that will focus on how GLBT media interact with public relations professionals. The former Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation staffer said the summit provides her and her colleagues a great opportunity to interact with journalists who cover GLBT issues. Renna added the panelists themselves reflect the larger debate around GLBT media's relevancy.

"The need for GLBT media is a question that's always being asked," she said.

San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Pat Sherman will discuss mainstream media's increased coverage of GLBT stories and the impact it has among traditionally pink media outlets. Sherman further expressed optimism that media professionals from both sides of the journalistic aisle will leave the summit with concrete suggestions on how to improve their GLBT-specific coverage.

"We want mainstream media to cover [our] issues," he said. "Now the challenge becomes how do we not become irrelevant. … Competition makes us stronger within gay media and mainstream media."

NLGJA held its first LGBT Media Summit at its 2004 convention in New York. Board president Eric Hegedus said the confab provides a unique opportunity for media professionals to discuss issues that he feels continue to impact both GLBT and mainstream media.

"These are topics that need to be discussed in open forums," he said. "We're giving everyone a chance to talk about what's important today, and what will be down the road."

Post agreed. "I'm hoping – as the Media Summit has been in past years – [it will] bring GLBT media people together in a setting where they can share their professional best practices and work together," she said. "It is an opportunity to help the GLBT media grow and move ahead."

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