Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Covering the queer spectrum: My new MxM India post

In a new, lengthy post commissioned by MxM India, I argue that the media needs to go beyond the superficial in their coverage of queer issues and offer some pointers. No, 'MxM India' is not shorthand for 'men who have sex with men'. It is all about 'mainstream media' (which is abbreviated similarly to 'MSM'). MxM India is a "360-degree business-to-business media company that plans to empower the media and marketing fraternity with indepth news, information, research and analyses."

Here's a teaser from the post:

There’s little to be happy about the state of journalism today, but this piece will try to remain upbeat and offer constructive comments on coverage of LGBT (or queer issues). The focus is mainly on the English-language media. First, a pat on the back for doing by and large a good job, especially in the editorials department! A lot of the reportage is either by queer and queer-friendly journalists themselves or driven by them.
These journalists are also the most innovative in their approach to queer issues and in touch with the pulse of queer communities despite not being on an ‘official queer beat’— another sign to management why they need diversity and inclusion in their organisation. Having people in your media house from different communities helps you understand them, reach out to the communities and broaden and strengthen your coverage. One editor deserves a special mention here. Aditya Sinha, currently with DNA, launched a weekly ‘Sexualities’ page (it was mainly about queer issues) back in April 2008 when he was with The New Indian Express. The practice continues at DNA, which has a monthly page. Quality may be ultimately important but for marginalised identities this is great exposure in the short run.
This is not to say that there is no homophobia in the media. Of course there is sensational and sleazy reporting (TV9’s “sting” op in Hyderabad; “Central Park a Gay Paradise”: Mid-Day); insensitive, even biased writing (“A baby for gay, deaf, mute couple? It’s cruel”: Deccan Chronicle) and totally muddled, pseudo-scientific horrors as well (“Lesbian? Not quite, say psychiatrists” and “Trapped In Bad-Girl Taboo”: The Times of India). Then, there is the let’s-not-talk-about-it attitude, which is probably true of quite a few publications, but probably nowhere as ingrained as at the Reader’s Digest. However, change is inevitable and so is a debate on queer issues.
What the media needs to do most is to go beyond the superficial, else both reader and writer will be bored! And which reader would like to start their day with a humdrum piece on a Pride parade when there are so many other colourful diversions? There are many interesting queer stories waiting to be told yet. If mainstream newspapers and channels won’t tell these, then the competition will (for instance online news magazines such as The White House has a new LGBT liaison but how many people know he is of Indian origin: Gautam Raghavan. Usually, the press goes gaga over desi achievers, even those who want to deny their Indian origins. So isn’t the Gautam Raghavan story worth an interview or at least some column inches? Let’s start with the basic issue though....

Read much more here: