GLAAD Media Monitoring

I just finished the online training for to be a GLAAD Media Monitoring volunteer. For those who don't know, GLAAD is the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. They're the people that go after reporters, news organizations, TV shows, etc. who represent GLBT people unfairly or inaccurately, as well as hosting their own awards show (which I volunteered for a couple of years ago) for awarding postive portrayals of gay and lesbian people in the media. Although I've criticized GLAAD before for being over-sensitive, I think what they do is generally a good thing, so I'm excited to be volunteering for them. If you're not officially signed up as a volunteer, you can still help by filing an incident report whenever you see something in the media that you feel is defamatory to the GLBT community in some way.

The first part of the training was essentially just a summary of what GLAAD does and why. I would encourage you to click around their website a little bit to get an idea of it, but the general idea is that they want to ensure news stories are fair (reporters contact LGBT people or allies, not just anti-gay people), accurate (factually correct, and not defamatory), and inclusive (including LGBT people even in stories that aren't directly about them, when appropriate). Next, they went into more detail about specific words that should be used/avoided by reporters. If you don't think words matter, take a look at the numbers from this CBS news poll from a few months ago:

The other good/bad word pairs I managed to jot down were "adoption by gay people" (good) vs. "gay adoption" (bad) and "sexual orientation" (good) vs. "sexual preference" (bad). Lots of other word-choice recommendations can be found in GLAAD's official Media Reference Guide.

Because the media works on a 24-hour news cycle, information and stories are constantly being written and published, which is why it's important for organizations like GLAAD to react quickly. If a story appears on the AP wire this afternoon, GLAAD can act and possibly get parts of it reworded before it goes to print in newspapers the next morning. Even after something goes to print, it's important to act quickly. Newspaper editors aren't interested in complaints about stories posted several weeks ago.

The direct action that volunteers take, is filing incident reports. All this really means is sending an email to incident@glaad.org telling them about anything defamatory that you find in the media, including where you found it (whether it's a newspaper, magazine, internet, TV, etc.) and why you think it's defamatory. There was a little more information given in the training (for example, noting that you have to treat a news story different from the way you treat an opinion piece, although both can be defamatory) but really, that's basically it!

The trainers mentioned that GLAAD also has a guide about how to write effective letters to the editor (of course, most of the information would also apply to blog posts and comments, etc.) but they implied that it's not available online. I asked them to send me a copy, and maybe I'll summarize it on this blog as well. But I will also encourage them to post it online, as well as perhaps posting a video of today's training. Update: It turns out this information is online, on page 72 of their Media Essentials training manual. I still think they should post the powerpoint or video from today's training, though. Making your materials open and accessible is a good thing!

Anyway, if you find yourself fighting defamation against GLBT people or anyone else, let me know! And I will keep you updated on how this goes for me.