The following is a statement from Matt Comer, editor of QNotes, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender newspaper based in Charlotte:
On Tuesday, Feb. 22, Charlotte news station WBTV ran a story by reporter Steve Crump (“Internet site links Charlotte to gay sex” http://www.wbtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=14080924) on alleged incidents of illegal sexual activity occurring in James Boyce Park in Southeast Charlotte. Their report was biased, sensationalistic and furthered, whether intentional or not, the stereotype and negative social stigma that gay men are a threat to children. For more details, you can read QNotes‘ story on the station’s coverage here: http://qnotescarolinas.com/10106/.
As I worked on covering WBTV’s original story and the response to it, I also conversed with both WBTV News Director Dennis Milligan and reporter Steve Crump regarding the production of their Feb. 22 story and the reasons why many people, including myself, felt that the story was biased and irresponsible.
Despite these conversations – which included my thoughts on “group blame,” in which an entire minority group, in this case gay men, are blamed or asked to apologize for or condemn the actions a few — WBTV’s follow-up report on Feb. 23 (“Commissioner requests investigation into alleged sex acts taking place in park” http://www.wbtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=14089194) wholly misrepresented my statements and thoughts.
Steve Crump reported:
“Meanwhile, Comer feels some in Charlotte’s gay community are being stigmatized by those who break the law in public places.
“‘I don’t think it’s the job of the entire gay community to apologize for the actions a few within our community,’ Comer said.”
It should be made abundantly clear that I do not believe the gay community is being stigmatized by its own, the majority of whom are likely gay or bisexual men who due to societal discrimination and prejudice are unable to acknowledge their sexual orientation in public and healthy ways.
Instead, as related to both Dennis Milligan and Steve Crump and as stated during my interview with WBTV, I believe it is the media and many times police departments — not only in Charlotte but across the nation — which too often and irresponsibly correlate illegal sexual activity among men with the entire gay community. Given that positive coverage of the gay community is often few and far between, negative stories like these do a great disservice to this minority community.
Obviously, Steve Crump and Dennis Milligan had a clear agenda in mind before producing the “follow-up” to their Feb. 22 story.
In this particular instance, the only people stigmatizing gay men are the staff of WBTV.
Real facts and figures show a reality much different from WBTV’s hysterical and hyped-up sensationalism. There have been no reported or documented incidents of illegal sexual activity in a half-mile radius of James Boyce Park since Jan. 1, 2009. Further, figures from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on the number of charges for solicitation of a crime against nature throughout the entire city and county in 2010 and 2011 reveal that the overwhelming majority of cases involve heterosexual prostitution.
If WBTV actually sought to be “on your side,” they would use their skills as so-called media professionals to report accurately and fairly on news of substance. Instead, they chose to forsake real journalism for sensationalistic tabloidism backed up by no numbers, no evidence and no fact – coverage that ultimately furthers stereotypes, discrimination, bigotry and prejudice against gay men.
It is not hard to tell whose side WBTV is actually on; certainly, it’s not with this minority community.