UPDATED: Placing 2nd in the Best of Pittsburgh Local Blog Category

The results are in in (print) and this blog was voted 2nd place by the readers voting in the City Paper Best of Pittsburgh poll for 2021. That’s not shabby.

I was debating posting about it because I wanted to give the City Paper a shout-out for being an important media source especially on queer issues.

Then I debated doing that because they recently published a very bad article on queer issues, one that can cause trauma and perpetuate dangerous cycles of “fake news.” I spoke with the editor about my concerns and she told me they would address it next time.

That’s not good enough. I’m sure she has her reasons. I’m sure there’s an explanation. But still not good enough.

The article in question was about the attempts to trademark Pittsburgh Pride. You can read it here.

Here’s the problem – the journalist did not mention, at all, that the person interviewed was on the board of the Delta Foundation and in fact, the most recent President of that Board. The pivot to decrying Delta will probably work magic with most LGBTQIA folks who don’t pay nuanced attention to board memberships. It is a play right out of the Delta handbook after all.

From WESA

Van Horn is one of three founding directors of Delta’s board, which can range between 7 and 15 members. The organization’s bylaws state that each of the three founders can, until the day they die, choose a person to hold a seat on the board. Changing that provision would require the consent of Van Horn and other senior directors.

Jim Sheppard, who became Delta’s interim president after Van Horn stepped down, said he wasn’t sure those provisions meshed with state law. But when asked whether the provision seemed to allow Van Horn to name himself to the board again, Sheppard said, “That is how it reads to me.”  

If you know of other foundations in the LGBTQ community, maybe ask to read their bylaws and see if they have similar provisions. Cause that’s not good.

The connection is a very salient fact, a relationship that any journalist should have included. And I bring it up because it matters that the LGBTQIA+ community is being covered by people who know what they are doing. People trust the City Paper.

Diving into the history of that particular individual might also be salient, but I’m unsure about that. I’m not a journalist. Speculating about their political ambitions since their current boss has a new job and there’s an Administration change looming might also be salient. Or not.

I was also disappointed that the CP didn’t expand how the appeal process of a trademark application works. It isn’t like offering public comment via a website. It requires $50 to just start the process and the assistance of an Intellectual Property lawyer AND it requires the appellant to have standing. A lot of applications do not have an impact. One good application does. Who among us hundreds of dollars to to make that happen? I was fortunate to find a business lawyer who took the time to explain it to me without charging me.

The only entity I can see having that standing and clout is The People’s Pride organized by SisTersPGH. But I’m not a lawyer and I’m not going to hire one to die on this hill when there are better uses of my resources. And the People’s Pride is not using the phrase in question.

Still before you jump on the appellant bandwagon, do your research on the process. Our opinions and outrage don’t matter. This is a business decision by the federal government.

Am I being harsh on the CP? Not really. They are seasoned professionals who can handle blowback and reasonable critiques. I’m not criticizing their character – I’m criticizing their work product. Because it matters. The journalist should have asked him directly about his connections to the Delta Foundation. The CP editorial staff should have caught this. If they are not paying close attention to the LGBTQIA+ community to know the players, who is? Me? That’s not okay.

Failing to adequately describe the actual appeal process or at least provide a link is also an unfortunate oversight.

Do I fear the CP won’t write about me or my projects again because of this post? That’s not really a concern. If big PghLesbian news happens, I’ll be talking with the Trib, I guess. That’s a joke to ease the tension of a blogger casting stones at a scrappy media outlet – I know they choose stories based on news worthiness, not personalities. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t try to offset the harm myself after asking them privately to do so. If I don’t say something, what will ensure they stop being soft on Delta in the future?

Do I worry about retaliation from the person in the original article? Absolutely. That’s why I went right to the editorial staff and then decided to write this post – this is not someone to fuck around with. Giving them the cover of an inaccurate CP story is dangerous as well as poor form. The paper is putting the most vulnerable members of our community, including youth and QTPOC, at risk by this decision. Again, not okay.

As for the trademark, here’s my prediction – no one will have standing so the trademark will be issued. It will then be transferred to Persad Center which I believe is behind the application since Delta shouldn’t exist.

Here’s what I wish would happen – local journalists would dive into the dissolution of Delta, lay out the financials, tell us who got hold of their email list (ahem), and where the final board members landed. Explore how much smaller LGBTQIA+ organizations with leaner budgets managed to survive, but an organization funded over the $1 million mark did not. This is Chris Potter or Rich Lord level work, but it is not in their respective beats. I’m not sure how many other journalists could write this story. I’d love to find out.

This is unlikely to happen because no one has those sort of resources any longer. Or thinks the LGBTQIA+ community’s trauma at the hands of the Delta Foundation warrants investing the resources they do have. And while I get that, at least stop making it worse. Please.

Thank you for voting for my blog. We are proud to be finishing up our 16th year of blogging LGBTQIA+ Pittsburgh (in December) and eager to see what the next year holds for us. It has been a pleasure to be part of this “Best of Pittsburgh” multiple times and I will never forget the sheer pleasure I felt in 2016 when I was the first blogger to ever win that brand new category. That’s been one of my great honors. I value the City Paper and think they can do better, no doubt about it.

Now I’m going to write a post about cats …

UPDATE – It was brought to my attention by CP editor that the original story had been updated to include this sentence

Sheppard used to serve on Delta’s board, and served as intermin president for a period of time shortly before the organization reportedly dissolved.

Unfortunately, the reporter did not actually note that this was an update or that any of the content had been updated. So how would a reasonable person know that an update – actually a correction, I believe – had been made? Also, it would be more robust to tell us about the wholeness of his involvement with Delta? And something I just learned right now is that Sheppard’s business partner in QBurgh and the trademark challenge, Jeff Freedman, had also been a board member as of May 2020. He was the treasurer. The TREASURER of an organization that literally broke so many financial rules, including good faith. So I guess the reporter’s mistake gave me valuable information.

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