I originally wrote this article for NLGJA News.
By Robin J. Phillips
Apparently Rachel Maddow is so far out of the closet she’s out of mind.
As the news broke about CNN’s Anderson Cooper formally coming out, Twitter erupted and columnists began posting. Two main narratives took shape quickly: 1. Well, duh! and 2. Is this relevant?
In no time, Forbes had a piece up by Jeff Bercovici who wrote, “It’s not often you can make news by telling the world something it already knows.” The Forbes headline was “Anderson Cooper Comes Out As TV’s First Openly Gay Anchor.”
Oh yeah? What about CNN’s Don Lemon? MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts? Or Steve Kornacki who co-hosts at 3 p.m. for MSNBC.
Or what about Jane Velez-Mitchell from Turner’s HLNTV? Or how about MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow?
Later in the day, the headline was changed to add “Prime Time” and a correction on the post was added to point out that the original version omitted Lemon and Roberts. But while it might be simple to change a headline, or offer a correction, it is not so easy to change the original impression that there are no lesbian anchors on Network and Cable television.
Forbes argues that Maddow isn’t officially designated as an anchor. So I guess she doesn’t count. And they didn’t even mention Velez-Mitchell who CNN calls an anchor.
I get that Cooper is a household name and reporting on what they consider a “First” is more exciting than reporting on the “Fifth” or “Sixth” or “Yet Another”.
I get that discussions about whether journalists should be out (in their newsrooms and the world) are important. And his coming out did lead to a lot of these types of discussions and the impact they have on the way we cover the news. One of the most important things NLGJA can do is help young journalists navigate these waters.
Yet, what does a young LGBT broadcaster learn from the past week? Well, it may just depend on whether that broadcaster is a young woman or a man.
A young gay woman may come away from last week thinking that no matter how hard she works as a journalist, no matter how she proves herself or what job she lands, there is something about her being either a woman or a lesbian that will make her invisible.
We are not invisible, we are here. We are in newsrooms in all positions, from the bottom to the top, running websites, running papers, running newscasts and anchoring them. We want to be counted when big stories break, not discounted. Continue reading