The story that wasn’t
The gay media/blogger stream was all fired up in the last few days, because it was being reported that the body of Christina Santiago – a prominent lesbian activist who was killed in the weekend’s state fair tragedy was not being released to her partner. It was further claimed that the Indiana coroner’s office was citing DOMA as the reason for denial. Turns out, it’s all a non-story:
Shortly after the coroner’s office made a statement, an organization called Amigas Latinas put out a statement that denied the incident. Since this source of information was secondhand through an out-of-state group, I was unsure of the veracity of their claim. After all, who knew if they actually knew what was going on in another state. My sources said they had direct knowledge!
Their statement read:
Amig@s. We’ve seen a few posts asking folks to call the media because of a claim that Alisha’s wishes aren’t being respected because the tragedy took place in Indiana. This is NOT TRUE! We appreciate the passion for equality and justice on behalf of these mujeres, but everyone has been working together to honor Christina Santiago. Please intervene if you see this news…
As the afternoon ground on, more and more doubts crept in to my mind as more and more people close to the two women contacted me. What if the coroner’s rep was just busy and unused to speaking to the press? What if this “misunderstanding” comment was her way of saying that the entire incident was untrue? Everyone I spoke to at the corner’s office seemed to tacitly agree that the incident had happened, but what if my history of dealing with homophobic behavior by Indiana office holders was coloring my opinion?
Not too long ago, I’d have my own professional journalistic creds tied up in knots and be yammering on about citizens playing journalists and the mistakes they make. But you know what? I must be mellowing in my old age. I’ve been the first to slam gay bloggers for some sloppiness before (remember the Syrian lesbian that wasn’t?), but now I’m just not that wound up.
Browning stepped back up to the plate and owned his mistake. Could it have been prevented? You bet, and it’s something I encourage in my professional realm. If my people are working a story where getting to the bottom of things is nebulous, I tell them to bottom line their subject: (in effect…)
“I go to print in 30 minutes, and my story is going to read (fill in the blank). Do you have any statement of denial, otherwise it’s showtime.” Anybody you tell that to is going to realize that they have to get off the hesitation train, I’m not going away and unless they tell me differently that’s how my story is going to read with their name on it. Browning ran with his assumptions, and it came back to bite him. Again to his credit he owned it, and it seems that he’s learned from it based on his account. As of now, his site is also the only one that’s stepped up with a “whoops” so that counts for something to me.
For me, that’s enough. I’m not a fan of the gay bloggers who constantly clip/paste from each other, and to me it seems that Bilerico is trying to make a difference in standing out from the pack with original content and having a sense of responsibility about things. Hell, my 17 year old kid reads the site daily, so perhaps that’s tempered my judgement and inadvertently taught me to back up off my high horse a little. Am I a fan of Bilerico? Not particularly, but I’m also not as cranked up about their content as I used to be. So, to pawn an already cliche’d saying, “I’m evolving.”
I want to see gay media succeed, because right now it’s virtually nonexistent and those that control the media stream have no code of ethics that they abide by. Flying by the seat of their pants is not a way to gain credibility, keep credibility, and makes it extremely tough for sites like mine to get any sort of foothold because we get judged by the mistakes made by those before us. With every story I write originally, I’m STILL challenged as to my identity thanks to the Syrian lesbian/LezGetReal debacle. I don’t see anyone filling up my inbox with an apology for making my job tougher.
But, on this one, enough.