A Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation spokesperson responded tonight to my criticism of their selection of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as one of the nominees for the gay media watchdog group's annual Media Awards in the “Outstanding Newspaper Overall Coverage” category.

Also nominated were the Denver Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and the Salt Lake Tribune.

Rich Ferraro, GLAAD's Director of Communications, sent our Dyana Bagby the following e-mail late tonight:

GLAAD responds to criticism over Atlanta Journal-Constitution media award nomination

Dyana, I spent some time with the folks in charge of nominations and I wanted to shed some light on the nomination – we welcome any additional questions.

We share the community’s disappointment that this year the Atlanta Journal-Constitution chose not to cover this year’s PRIDE event, but urge community members to review the newspaper’s overall coverage of topics that impact our lives, which this year’s GLAAD Media Award nomination is based upon. The paper ran dozens of positive and fair LGBT articles in 2010. Such visibility is especially important in a state where our equality is too often debated. The coverage included reporting on the raid of the Atlanta Eagle in-depth, following Derrick Martin’s personal story as well as reporting on the Bishop Eddie Long controversy in a way that pointed out injustice and demanded answers.

The newspaper also provided a platform for pro-LGBT staff columnists including Jay Bookman to discuss the rising support for marriage equality in October. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution gave voice to staff Politics Columnist Cynthia Tucker, who discredited Tony Perkins’ claim that gay and lesbian service members in other countries “don’t fight wars” in September, called for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in July and wrote that marriage equality would not affect heterosexual marriages in June.

A powerful op-ed piece from the Family Equality Council also ran in July which criticized Ga. Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Karen Handel’s inaccurate and defamatory comments about gay and lesbian parents.

Looking at the overall coverage of LGBT issues, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution covered local and national LGBT news and did so in a way that merits a nomination.  We look forward to working with the paper on improving their coverage of LGBT national and local issues as we do with papers around the country.

Best, Rich

Rich Ferraro
Director of Communications, GLAAD

While I definitely agree that highlighting positive and fair coverage in Georgia is important because of our local political climate, skipping Atlanta Pride was just one of the AJC’s recent mistakes. We have more to share, like failing to cover Vandy Beth Glenn’s story early on, or using a term like “transvestite” in their recent coverage.

Also, while it is good that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution chose to cover stories like the Atlanta Eagle raid and Derrick Martin taking his boyfriend to the prom, the daily paper rarely led the way on those stories — often they were following behind other mainstream or gay press.

Finally we agree that Bookman and Tucker are excellent advocates for LGBT rights, but it is worth noting that the AJC has minimized their columns to reach out to more conservative readers. When the AJC revamped its editorial board in 2009, both Tucker and Bookman (the two most liberal voices) were removed, with Tucker dispatched to DC to write commentary from there.

Glenn Paul Freedman, a volunteer with the Atlanta Pride Committee and the chairperson of the Atlanta Police Department’s LGBT Advisory Board, made a great point when he commented on my earlier blog:

GLADD 100% missed the mark on this one. How do you give the AJC this award when they refused to cover the largest LGBT event in the Southeast “Atlanta Pride Festival” and other LGBT events & issues. Maybe the national group should have spoken with local LGBT folks who organize events before they gave this award.

I agree. GLAAD should speak to local gay advocacy groups, especially those that deal with media, when making their nominations.