June 29, 2009 PrideDEPOT.com
Yesterday PrideDEPOT.com received an email letter from Yvonne Simons, News Director of the local CBS affiliate KBCI Channel 2, shortly after she was contacted by the regional GLAAD office.
GLAAD received a complaint on KBCI’s coverage of a “gay sex sting” story in addition to reading our story, “KBCI TV-2 manufactures ‘gay news’ for ratings.” before contacting Simons. Below, Simons responds to PrideDEPOT.com’s story and our response to her directly follows.
It was interesting to get your blog about our coverage, but I do want to point out some errors in your story.
1) We most certainly DID cover the Gay Pride activities in our 5:30PM and 10:0PM newscasts. This, despite getting no information from the Pride Week organizers. We found it for ourselves because we knew it was happening. If you are interested in more coverage, press releases will help you get the word out and let us plan coverage more easily.
2) We did not “make up” the name Fantasy Island. Neighbors to the area in question called it that back in 2006. We reported it.
3) In 2006, members of the gay community came to Channel 2 saying they believed police were unfairly targeting gays in their stings on the island. We reported it then. We called Gay advocate groups this time around to see if that sentiment still existed. It apparently does not… and we reported that in this most recent story.
4) We have no agenda. We are proud of the fact that we pay attention to many issues for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals in our community to make sure they have access and a voice. We were first to speak with Farenbach when the military booted him out to let him tells his side of the story. We were first to report on the Nampa Health Club that denied a gay couple “family” membership and let the couple speak about why they were discriminated against. We have no anti-gay agenda.
5) Fisher Communications is proud that we have a no gender discrimination policy. We offer full benefits, rights and privileges. I have several gay employees on my staff. We are not an anti-gay company.
6) The full screen graphic you attached to your blog to insinuate that we were associating gays with crimes against nature showed a strong disregard for what we actually reported. We made a point to explain that an antiquated law exists on Idaho books that not only discriminates against gay couples, but also straight couples who are unmarried, also illegal under that same law.
7) We should have been more sensitive about describing the sexual acts as gay and just described the acts. I think that was the one fair point that you made. We will be more diligent. We did not manufacture the story, however, and you should know that for the typical audience who watches CBS 2, this is not a ratings grabbing story. And, we were not in ratings when the story aired. Ratings start this Thursday.
Mostly, I am sorry that you felt the need to characterize my newsroom without ever attempting to talk to me. When Paul sensed that you were writing for attribution from your emails, he rightly told you to call me and gave you my number. That’s because, by company policy, I am the proper spokesperson for the newsroom, and Larry Roberts, GM, speaks for the station. We are always happy to talk to reporters about our coverage. However, you never indicated that you were writing a story and needed quotes. Perhaps if you had answered our phones calls instead of dismissing the question, it would have helped inform our coverage. It’s hard to say. Lastly, I am really disappointed to be portrayed as leading biased coverage. I have supported gay rights for years, personally. My brother is gay. I have cousins who are gay. I am not an expert, but I am not an exploiter, either.
I also had a very cordial and informative conversation with folks from the Salt Lake office of GLADD about your story and our coverage. I was able to explain the errors in your story and discuss how it came about. It was quite a different encounter than just getting sent your blog. I prefer talking straight with you in person or by phone in the future. It’s just better when conversation is dynamic, don’t you think? Feel free to call me anytime.
Thank you for your comments on our story. We will be posting your letter to PrideDPEOT.com verbatim on our website so that KBCI’s voice can also be heard. Along with your letter, will be my following response.
I respectfully disagree with your characterization of our story and this is why.
1. April 2006 Story. What is your response to the fact that at the time of KBCI’s April 2006 story, when according to the Bureau of Reclamation, the banks of the Boise River were at flood stage and Plantation Island was under water? How could anyone have sex on Plantation Island when it was under water?
2. Fantasy Island. Dusting off the term “Fantasy Island” from a 3-year-old non-news story and injecting into this story while attributing it to the unnamed 3-year-old source, “residents” provides KBCI with plausible deniability, but it is a weak justification. Who made the decision to revive the term then feed it to an out of state station that just happened to use it their headline?
For the record, PrideDEPOT.com did not report that KBCI “made up,” as you say, the name “Fantasy Island.” We simply made an editorial comment where we stated we had a “suspicion” that it “may” have been made up in the newsroom. Readers can make up their own minds.
3. KBCI coverage included an unidentified 80-year-old. Was this man arrested or not? If he was arrested, why then did KBCI not identify him in the same way Wayne Olin was identified? If this man was not arrested, why then was he included in the story and why did you fail to correct the record in follow-up news casts?
4. “Crimes against Nature” imagery. When the story is about a “gay sex sting,” which you admit you should have been more sensitive about, and that image is shown behind both the news anchor and reporter several times in more than one broadcast, as a news professional you know the power of images, this created the implication in the viewers minds that gay sex is a equated with a crime against nature. This is particularly true when watching the video online under two headlines that read, “Police nab two in Boise River undercover gay sex sting” and “Suspect in Garden City gay sex sting arraigned” and just below in the very short story is mentioned, “Fantasy Island” and “men going into the bushes together.” What other message could be conveyed here?
5. Contacting KBCI before publishing. What we were reporting was the messages being conveyed in KBCI’s coverage and news judgment regarding coverage that just did not pass the smell test. We were not reporting on KBCI’s intent behind a story, that was already out there. We therefore, did not feel it was necessary to our report that we contact you or your office beyond my several email communications with KBCI’s Managing Editor Paul Fredrick’s, who was pushing for me to comment on this story shortly after I received and email from reporter Adam Rodriquez.
When KCBI, or any other news outlet contacts me, I understand that any communication with that outlet would, or could, be used for a story. I assumed that there would be a mutual understanding of this particularly since Mr. Rodriquez and Mr. Fredrick’s know who PrideDEPOT.com is, the nature of our work and that I always identify myself as Editor. I perhaps took for granted this would be a mutual understanding when communicating with other news professionals.
6. Other KBCI Gay Stories. Hiding behind the Nampa Rec center and Boise Pride stories is no justification for this story. We could not find the Boise Pride story on your website at all. Did the Boise Pride and Nampa Rec center stories lead as CBS 2 Eyewitness News’s “Big Story” How much air time did you devote to those stories? For Pride, did you cover the rally, the parade AND the festival that had 2000-3000 people attend with the largest turn out ever in Boise? Did you mention the 40+ booths with the many supportive non-LGBT and Christian organizations? Did KBCI cover the first ever 30×100 foot pride flag that took about 30 people to carry along the parade route? Did your coverage note the historic first time float entry of the Ada County Democrats? PrideDEPOT.com did.
You say KBCI “DID” (your emphasis) show the Pride story on 2 broadcasts one evening, the gay sex sting story was shown on 5 consecutive broadcasts over two days and posted on 2 CBS websites. This is simply not the same standard.
For the record it was PrideDEPOT.com that did the most in-depth coverage of the Nampa Rec Center story than any other local news outlet, including KBCI.
PrideDEPOT.com does not organize the Boise Pride Festival, nor did we organize the rally or parade. Therefore we had nothing to do with the media relations side of those events. So the idea of more coverage on gay events, in my mind, is not related to KBCI’s news judgment on this particular story.
7. Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). I talked with the same person from GLAAD after you did, he told you, just as PrideDEPOT.com reported, one person being charged with a misdemeanor does not rise to the level of being newsworthy. Even after the charges were reduced, KBCI kept reporting from the same angle. Why?
Will you be doing a follow-up story as was suggested to you by GLAAD?
Will you tell your viewers and readers in broadcasts and posts on both KBCI and KVAL websites there is more to this story? Will you cover the very high rate of married men whom identify themselves as straight but who have sex with other men who, more often than gay men, are arrested in these situations? Will you indicate that these men by their own self identification are not gay? Will you also report the gay community does not claim these individuals as part of the gay community?
Do you understand that exactly this kind of story is what our opponents point at to denigrate gay people, and with this story, KBCI gave them more ammunition?
If you do such a follow-up, and we hope you do, will you run the story on 5 consecutive broadcasts and both on KBCI and KVAL website, just as you did with this story?
I ask this of you because if, as you say, you and KBCI are not biased or being sensationalist, then you will do a follow-up to correct the record because characterizing incidents in the way KBCI reported this story does real damage to gay men in our local communities and at large. Stories like yours instill fear in the greater community that our men are out lurking in the bushes where children play.
This kind of perception is what insights those who fear and hate us to call our men faggots, beat them up or kill them. This is not just some story to PrideDEPOT.com and the LGBT community; theses are very real lives, our lives.
You mentioned having gay people on your staff. If they are reporters are they part of the team working on these stories? Did you once ask a gay staff or family member what their impression of this story was and how KBCI’s angle might be perceived? Perhaps that might be a practice you may wish to implement.
Final note, KCBI does not stand alone as a local news outlet that misrepresented this story and blew it out of proportion. We are presently looking at, and planning to respond to, coverage of this issue that was broadcast on other local network affiliates.
Although PrideDEPOT.com stands by our story, we once again thank you for taking the time to express your viewpoints about our reporting. You are welcome to do so again anytime.
Jody May-Chang, Editor