“Homosexual”: Sometimes you just have to have a conversation

During Monday's evening newscast on KDKA, sports reporter Jory Rand covered the story about Larry Johnson's use of homophobic slurs. Johnson plays foortball for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The episode began Sunday night, when Johnson questioned Coach Todd Haley's football credentials on his Twitter account.

He used the slur during an exchange with one of his Twitter followers. A day later, he used it again as he brushed off reporters and told them he would not comment, according to the Kansas City Star, which recorded the comment.

Rand presented the story and referred to the “homosexual slur” which made my head spin around a few times.  I was stunned that KDKA doesn't have a better grasp on the media basics of covering LGBTQ issues.  I can't recall ever hearing a reporter describe something as “heterosexual” unless they were contrasting it with homosexuality. 

My objection is primarily is that this slur was about homophobia.  Johnson dropped the bombs because it is socially acceptable to use that language in a derogatory way.  Derogatory is also what has happened to the term homosexual which has been coopted by the wingnuts to marginalize and reduce our community to our sexuality, rather than integrate us based on our humanity.  We talk about anti-Semitic slurs, racist slurs, sexist slurs, etc.  In doing so, we recognize that that slur itself is rooted in intolerance, oppression and fear, not the identity of the target.  Its the beliefs of the one who slurs.  It is Mr. Johnson's lack of respect for homosexuals (and the rest of us in the LGBTQ community) that motivated/permitted the f-bomb, not the fact that we exist. 

Yes, I use it all the time – in a manner meant to convey mockery and as part of the subjected class.  Mr. Rand was reporting the facts in a story and he made a poor choice of language.  First, I tweeted (and had a little exchange about being PC …. ah, yes).  Then I looked up the GLAAD media kit and decided to email Mr. Rand.

He responded and explained that he simply didn't know that homosexual wasn't an appropriate term.  He said he would share my email with the KDKA news team.  I hope a few of them click through to read the GLAAD information. 

Homosexual lesson?  🙂    Twitter maybe the best way to immediately vent/confirm something, but 'tis far more productive to channel the energy into a constructive teachable moment.  It is sad that KDKA's management hasn't incorporated these issues into their leadership of the station, but it was good that Jory responded to my email.  I'm willing to believe he didn't know, but I also wonder whose responsibility it is at KDKA to educate their news team on diversity issues? 

As I said to Jory, this is going to continue as an issue.  Homophobia is deeply embedded in American sports culture, but the light is shining as former athletes come out (some current ones) and the size of the LGBTQ fan base continues to make its presence known.  The sports reporting community is going to have to get up to speed on the appropriate language or risk 1) being unprofessional (and thus, not doing their job) and 2) alienating viewers and fans.  GLAAD is a great resource and I hope folks like Jory Rand browse their site. 

So, I'm putting the ball squarely in KDKA management's court.  They need to ensure their news team understands the issues around homophobia and the appropriate way to cover stories related to our community.  Kudos to Jory for responding to me so quickly.

(I have to chuckle when I think of how Scott Mervis is going to cover the Pgh spin on the “no homo” phenom in hip-hop music….)


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  • Don't expect too much in the way of diversity training at KDKA or any of the other commercial stations. They don't have the time. Their life is to get the story, get it quickly, be the first on the air and to keep repeating to the audience that they were first on the air. Commercial news is ruled by the consultants that are continually brought in to script buzz-words for anchors and reporters to use to keep people watching. Examples like “Here's a disturbing story you'll only see on 11,” “stanger danger,” “I can tell you that…, “are your children at risk for cancer?” Sorry my cynicism is shining through, but I've seen it. Remember that TV news serves advertisers, not the audience. The audience is merely the product that the news stations bring in to sell to advertisers.

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