We Must Hold The Media's Feet To The Fire Under Trump

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, it has been filled with messages not only of despair and dismay at the election results but also with expressions of a desire to do something positive in response. What I offer here is a small, but concrete suggestion that anyone--whether a member of the LGBT+ community or not--can take up.

During the campaign, too many in the media failed to do their jobs, and we now see where that has left the country. The reporting on the transition has already begun to normalize a "President Trump," treating this as if it were any other election where one party lost and another won. But there is nothing normal about electing a demagogue who works to divide the country by inciting hatred and violence. This seems to be lost on those (including, at least for a time, Trump himself) who label anyone who continues to oppose him a "sore loser." To ensure that the country does not become completely inured to Trump's demagoguery, we all must hold the media's feet to the fire and ensure that they do their jobs by reporting the facts and reporting them accurately.

For example, I was interested to see in my local newspaper in the days following the election a story about the reaction of the LGBT+ community to the election. The story recounted the fears expressed at the national level as well as at the local level here in Pittsburgh. But as I read on, I was moved to write a letter to the editor because the article was essentially fact-free. It left the impression of the LGBT+ community as a group of "nervous nellies" caught up in a general climate of fear but having no real basis for their concern. Unlike similar stories in other newspapers, the Post-Gazette story made no mention of the real, legitimate reasons why members of the LGBT+ community should fear a Trump administration.

Because my letter was short (as all letters to the editor must be), I reproduce it here in full:

Dear Editor:

An article in today's Post-Gazette (LGBT Community Worried About Rights Under Trump Administration, Nov. 11, 2016) reported on the fears in the LGBT community following the election. Perplexingly, the article talks only about the general climate of fear in the country among minorities following the election, rather than talking about the well-grounded reasons why the LGBT community now fears for their rights and safety.

The article failed to mention that Donald Trump ran for President saying that he would "strongly consider" appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn that Court's rulings legalizing same-sex marriage. Nor does the article mention that Trump supported North Carolina's anti-transgender "bathroom" bill. It also fails to mention Trump's promise to sign into law the "First Amendment Defense Act," which is nothing more than a federal license to discriminate against the LGBT community. As Governor of Indiana, Vice President-elect Mike Pence actually signed such discriminatory legislation into law. During the campaign, Pence confirmed that a Trump administration would roll back federal protections for transgender students put in place by President Obama.

Moreover, Pence, who will be a heartbeat away from the presidency starting on January 20, has consistently opposed LGBT rights. He opposed same-sex marriage, voted against legislation that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and opposed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Pence has even advocated public funding of conversion therapy--a practice that is opposed by medical groups and has been outlawed in some states.

The LGBT community, like other minority groups in the United States, has real reason to fear a Trump administration. Reporting in the Post-Gazette on feelings without mentioning any supporting facts serves to diminish these real fears and concerns and does a disservice to the LGBT community and to this newspaper's readers.

To its credit, the Post-Gazette did publish my letter criticizing its reporting. Not all letters are selected for publication (though, with one overly long exception, I have been fortunate to have the few letters I have sent in over the years published). But, in the end, getting published is not what matters most.

What matters is that the newspaper, television station, or other media outlet knows that you are not only watching but also willing to take the time to question their reporting on issues of importance, whether to the LGBT+ community or to others who have been the target of hatred or violence. It is also a good idea to circulate your concerns in other ways--whether by word of mouth or through social media--and to invite others to write or call to express their own concerns about the coverage. (Anyone interested in voicing concern to the Post-Gazette about the story mentioned above can contact them at 412-263-1100 (main switchboard) or through their website here.)

No matter what, this small action will show the media that they cannot simply slide into treating what is happening to America as the normal course of politics. They must know that we are all watching to ensure that they earn and deserve the right to speak freely that is guaranteed to them by the First Amendment's protection of freedom of the press.