Representatives from 19 countries visited the office of the Philadelphia Gay News to see how a newspaper for the LGBT community operated in the Unites States. Among these questions: What rules do we follow and do we use the ethics of the mainstream media? More importantly to them: How is a gay newspaper able to prosper in a country that was once so oppressive to the LGBT population?
And how could it operate when most of the community was still in the closet when the newspaper was founded?
Many came from countries where even meeting with LGBT media could cause major problems with their respective governments, as the countries either prohibit homosexuality, or the taboo and stigma is severe.
One journalist stated “death to homosexuals” summing up the cultural norms of their country, while another stated that there were no homosexuals in his country. Others were from countries overwhelmingly influenced by the Catholic Church.
While many marveled at our freedom to write articles about wrongdoing by the U.S. government authorities and our community’s fight for equal rights, it was hard for some to understand the First Amendment, which guarantees such freedom. Harder still was explaining that the First Amendment was under attack by our president; confusing too as were talking about it so openly.
Our points to them were simple. Just write. Tell your readership what is happening in its LGBT community because, often, the real enemy is invisibility. By doing that simple but brave act, they can change the world. It can and will be dangerous. This must be acknowledged, but that’s the core of journalism, what it’s all about: Report basic facts and tell people’s stories.