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"Outing" Media Complicity


Published July 22, 2009 at 10:22 a.m.

In reporting an item for this week's "Fair Game" I had the chance to talk to one of the main protagonists in the documentary film Outrage — journalist and blogger Michael Rogers of PageOneQ and BlogActive.

The movie premiered Sunday night at Merrill’s Roxy in Burlington as a special fundraiser for  Pride Vermont, and was hosted by the House of LeMay under the auspices of the League of Drag Queen Voters.

The documentary examines the roles of closeted gay politicians and key political operatives who vote or work against equal rights for gays and lesbians — and relevant legislation, such as funding AIDS research.

The movie also looks at the media's complicit role in keeping this all hush-hush from the public. It's what Rogers calls a "pact of protection."

Amongst politicians, this protective pact is almost a given. But, the media shouldn't be sidling up to politicians in such a way as to abdicate their role as a watchdog.

That was largely the focus of our post-film discussion, led by myself and Amber LeMay of the League of Drag Queen Voters.

The question was posed: What would happen in Vermont if such a politician were discovered? In fact, I noted, this topic arose during last session’s same-sex-marriage debate. Had some Vermont lawmakers not voted in favor of the legislation, there was talk of “outing” them for their hypocrisy.

I openly admitted wrestling with how I would handle such a story. Don't fear, said the audience, report it just like any other investigative story. If it's OK to report the corruption of money in politics, and other issues where private decisions and actions often weigh heavily on public debate, then it's OK to report on closeted public officials whose votes and influence are doing harm.

In fact, most in the audience were galled by the complicity of the media in D.C. Many audience members also wondered if the rise of "new media" would allow these secrets to be unveiled to the public.

"New media is really media," said Rogers. "What I used to call media is now called the old media."