Thirty years ago, PGN publisher Mark Segal went head to head with the Pennsylvania News-Media Association after it denied the publication membership to its association — and this fall, the statewide journalism organization will present Segal with its highest honor.
Segal will receive PNA’s Benjamin Franklin Award at its statewide convention Nov. 2.
According to PNA, “Segal was selected for the award due to his remarkable achievements and contributions to the Philadelphia Gay News, the LGBT community and the news-media industry in Pennsylvania and beyond.”
Segal founded PGN in 1976. In the late 1980s, he sought membership in PNA, which the agency initially rejected.
“Mainstream journalists looked down on LGBT media as the stepchild of journalism,” Segal said. “We had to prove ourselves by beating them to stories and interviews.”
That work was started with PGN’s first issue, which featured a coming-out interview on the cover with Walter Lear, then the state health commissioner.
“It was a first-in-the-nation, and every news outlet had to quote our paper,” Segal recalled. “The following month we did it again: We interviewed the governor of PA. No LGBT media had ever done anything like that.”
When Ted Kennedy ran for president against Jimmy Carter, he gave an interview to PGN, which Segal said marked the first time a major presidential candidate was interviewed in LGBT media. The publication more recently has interviewed then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and last fall carried an exclusive op-ed from then-candidate Hillary Clinton.
His and PGN’s accomplishments were highlighted in a letter PNA sent notifying him of his award, which Segal said was a “very emotional” moment.
“The beautifully crafted letter they sent me created almost a movie in my mind of my professional career in media, and since I rarely look back, it was a view that surprised me: how others, my peers in media, have seen what I think of as humble contributions to journalism,” Segal said. “But I also view this as a validation of LGBT media rather than an award for me personally.”
The award highlights the ongoing need for LGBT-focused media, he added, especially outlets that push boundaries.
“It makes it clear that LGBT media has an important role in today’s media and with current politics. It also makes a point to LGBT media that it’s important to stay relevant and report on issues that sometimes are uncomfortable or might anger your own community. In the end, your mission as a journalist and a publication is to advocate for the LGBT community.”