A story PGN published last week elicited a number of online critiques about an issue we’ve seen crop up from time to time, and one that gets to the core of our mission as an LGBT community newspaper.
We covered the breaking news that the driver in the 2015 Amtrak train derailment will not face criminal charges after all. In our story, we identified that the driver is gay, prompting a number of online commenters to blast us for singling out his sexual orientation, and emphasizing that his identity should not have been a factor in the story.
The driver’s identity as a gay man, of course, had zero impact on the fatal derailment. However, it did have an integral effect on our motivation to cover the story.
Since PGN’s founding more than 40 years ago, we have been dedicated to covering the issues, ideas and events impacting the local LGBT community. As such, our content all has a decidedly LGBT bent. Yes, we cover mainstream news, but work to personalize it for a Philadelphia LGBT audience, such as analyzing the get-out-the-vote efforts in the community prior to the 2016 election or analyzing how large-scale events like the recent papal visit would impact Gayborhood businesses.
In the same vein, if an LGBT person is involved in a story that’s getting mainstream coverage, we see the issue as one we should cover, even if the person’s LGBT identity may have no bearing on the story itself; if we were a Jewish publication, an outlet for the African-American community or a Latinx newspaper, we would similarly keep our finger on the pulse of the city for stories involving our community members.
Some online commenters contended we should be covering mainstream stories anyway, regardless of LGBT connections. While writing about the sea of political happenings, crime and community movements happening across Philadelphia sounds like an ambitious challenge, it’s not one that we as a community newspaper are focused on (nor equipped for with our small newsroom!).
We report LGBT news for an LGBT audience. There are many respected mainstream news organizations in the city writing about stories impacting Philadelphians of all stripes. By leaving that ball in their court and hyperfocusing on the LGBT community, we’re able to keep our focus where it should be. While we all function in the context of larger entities like the city and within countless other parameters, to remain a true community newspaper, our priority has always been, and will continue to be, the local LGBT community.