The Pennsylvania News Media Association is an organization of most of the professional daily and weekly newspapers in the commonwealth. It is also one of the oldest press organizations in the nation. After a lengthy battle, PGN became the first LGBT publication to gain admittance to the group more than a decade ago, and I now sit on its board of directors. But this is not a story about PNA, or PGN — it’s about the change taking place in America towards equality through the eyes of those who serve local communities: newspapers.
We have a private email chain that consists of Pennsylvania publishers. Therefore, this column won’t mention particular names or publications. Every once in a while, someone will ask his or her fellow publishers what they would do in a certain incident. This past week, a small newspaper in a very conservative area of the state was asked to post a marriage announcement for a same-sex couple. They had never done so before and requested suggestions from fellow publishers.
There comes a time with each of the activities with which you’re involved when you feel proud of the people you are associated with, and for me this was that moment, as the member newspapers of PNA stood tall.
When that first question hit my inbox, my anticipation to read the responses was intense. My input was a short note of encouragement, and then the responses from publishers around the state brought me to the realization that the polls that dictate that the population supports marriage equality are on target.
First, it has to be stated that my fellow publishers are a brave group, since the first publishers to be heard from were ones in similar conservative areas of the state. They had all taken the plunge and encouraged the questioner to do so as well, and some made the point that it’s an issue of fairness, since marriage equality is now law in Pennsylvania.
But the most surprising comments came from the publishers of those conservative publications who noted that, when they had considered this very question in the past, they worried about reader and advertiser backlash. But, each of them wrote that, if there was a backlash, it was small and was in the past.
So our friend finally published, and guess what happened? Very little.
My faith in how we in newsprint cover and work with our communities is higher than ever. My faith in professionalism, modernity in media and the sensitivity of my fellow PNA publishers makes me proud to be a member of an organization that at one time didn’t want us.