The Journalist's Guide to Reporting the Orlando Club Attack

14/06/2016 12:59

(Disclaimer: this article does not apply to every single journalist. I understand some are covering the incident appropriately. However, to those who are not, please give this a read)

Dear journalist,

Firstly, congratulations! You've finally included us 'gays' in the news! Despite the fact that LGBT+ people are injured, tortured and killed daily, I understand that you usually have much more important matters to report on. I get that letting us know about a dancing cat, or the outfit of some celebrity's second cousin is way more essential than covering news about us. So, thanks so much for finally finding some time to fit us in!

Secondly, although I am absolutely thrilled to finally see our 'kind' featured in your work, I have to say I'm not entirely happy with how you've covered the Orlando shooting story. Don't worry though: I get that reporting this particular story must be pretty hard for you. I know that you're really trying to get it right, but you're just not used to covering stories about LGBT+ people. Therefore, this is bound to be difficult.

I understand that opening your web browser, and doing your research about the oppression and hatred that LGBT+ people face daily takes a lot of time and effort. I mean, you've been good enough to let us have a whole few paragraphs on your news website - it would be rude to expect you to spend even more time actually doing your research, ensuring that the story is covered sensitively and accurately. So, let me help you out. I mean, I'm gay - therefore it's my responsibility, right?

Okay, so to begin with, let's get one thing clear: you're allowed to use the word 'homophobia'. The attack happened in a gay bar. The gunman chose this particular venue specifically because he knew it would be filled with LGBT+ people. It wasn't a 'coincidence' that this bar was chosen. There isn't a possibility that the attack could've happened at 'any bar'. This bar was specifically chosen because of the gunman's homophobic beliefs.

As Owen Jones argued in an interview with Sky News
, if the attack had happened at a synagogue, it would be labelled as anti-Semitic. You wouldn't argue that the attack was 'random' and, the fact it happened to be at a Jewish place of worship was a 'big coincidence'. Therefore, just as an attack on a synagogue is obviously anti-Semitic, targeting a 'gay' venue is homophobic. I mean, come on, even the gunman's father has spoken out about how much his son disliked gay people. If you can't accept this situation as homophobic, then what will it take for you to address that discrimination against LGBT+ people is still a major issue? Until you understand, and address, that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are still big issues for LGBT+ people, there's no way that these problems will ever be solved.

Oh, and speaking of LGBT+ people, it would be really great if you could feature more of them in your news coverage. Don't get me wrong, it's great hearing heterosexual newsreaders tell us all the facts we need to know about this story, but where are the people who are most affected by incidents like this?

Sure, I wasn't personally there. I'm fortunate enough to not have any friends or family physically affected by the attack. However, whilst none of my LGBT+ friends have gunshot injuries, many still feel emotionally wounded. Knowing that people have been targeted because they're just like you is terrifying. When it comes to most attacks, they're awful, but the people are chosen at random. However, in this particular case, these people were murdered because they were just like me: they were LGBT+. My friends and I often go to 'gay' bars, and treat them as a place of safety. The victims of this attack could've easily been us, and it's terrifying.

Honestly, just interviewing LGBT+ people, using LGBT+ staff to check over stories before they're broadcast, and getting LGBT+ guest writers in would make your coverage so much better. It would not only show your audience the true consequences of this incident, but also help them to understand and comfort their friends who are upset about it. Right now, people like myself need as much support as we can get.

Finally, please understand that the acronym 'LGBT+' doesn't just mean 'gay'. When writing articles, you might find it easy to refer to every victim as 'gay'. Well, I hate to break it to you, but 'gay' bars are usually safe spaces for a whole range of LGBT+ people. This particular bar aimed to attract all people, regardless of sexuality and gender identity. That means, when writing about the incident and victims involved, you may have to do more than just research 'gay people'. You may also have to search for other phrases related to sexuality and gender identity - you know, the ones that are usually unheard of in the media like 'bisexuality' and 'non-binary'.

I understand that I'm asking a lot of you here. I know that my suggestions to you may take you a little bit of time. But really, what's a couple of minutes of your time in comparison to those who have lost the rest of their lives due to this attack?

Yours Faithfully,
A lesbian who has read one poorly written article too many