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Archive for March, 2008

The quote in the title of this post is a quote from Deborah Howell, Ombudsman of The Washington Post. In late January, Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers was killed in Iraq. In addition to clearly being a special person and soldier, he was gay. While The Post reportedly agonized over its decision, with the final decision made by its executive editor, it did not mention Maj. Rogers’s sexual orientation when it reported on his death and funeral.

Donna St. George, a Post staff writer who wrote about Rogers’ funeral, said she received an e-mail from an Army casualty officer stating that the deceased’s family was “nervous” about how Rogers was going to be portrayed in the Post article. The casualty officer did not mention the word “gay” or the phrase “sexual orientation” in the e-mail, St. George said. A decision had already been made about how the Post would handle Rogers’ sexual orientation by the time the e-mail was received, although the article was not yet published, she said.

Should The Post have reported on Maj. Rogers’s sexual orientation? I think so but others are not so sure. The Post’s Ombudsman thinks her paper blew it. Her column is below. What do you think?

What should a newspaper print about a person’s most private life in a story after his death?

The Post ran a story March 22 about the burial at Arlington National Cemetery of Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers, a decorated war hero killed in an explosion in Baghdad. The subject of much journalistic soul-searching, the story did not mention that Rogers’s friends said that he was gay and was well known in local gay veterans’ circles. The Washington Blade, a gay-oriented newspaper, identified him as gay in a story Friday that was critical of The Post.

For The Post, Rogers’s death raised an unanswerable question: Would he have wanted to be identified as gay? Friends also struggled with that question but decided to tell The Post that he was because, they said, he wanted the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule repealed. Yet a cousin and a close friend felt that his sexual orientation was not important; his immediate family members are deceased.

The Post story would have made any soldier proud. It quoted his commanding officer: “As God would have it . . . he shielded two men who probably would have been killed if Alan had not been there.” Rogers was “an exceptional, brilliant person — just well-spoken and instantly could relate to anyone.”

A gay group tipped The Post that there should be a story saying Rogers was the first openly gay soldier to die in Iraq. Reporter Donna St. George was assigned to the story and interviewed friends who said that he was gay but couldn’t share that in the military under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule.

St. George first wrote a story that included his friends talking about his orientation; some at the paper felt that was the right thing to do. But the material was omitted when the story was published. Many editors discussed the issue, and it was “an agonizing decision,” one said. The decision ultimately was made by Executive Editor Len Downie, who said that there was no proof that Rogers was gay and no clear indication that, if he was, he wanted the information made public.

Downie said that what Rogers’s friends said and the fact that Rogers was a former treasurer of American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) were not enough. Downie pointed out that many straight journalists belong to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

Downie’s ruling was in line with The Post’s stylebook policy. “A person’s sexual orientation should not be mentioned unless relevant to the story . . . . Not everyone espousing gay rights causes is homosexual. When identifying an individual as gay or homosexual, be cautious about invading the privacy of someone who may not wish his or her sexual orientation known.”

Rogers’s cousin, Cathy Long of Ocala, Fla., said that she was the closest in the family to him. To her, “The Post did a wonderful job. Personally, as far as the family is concerned, we really didn’t know about this until after his death. It was in the back of our minds, but we didn’t discuss it.” She is glad The Post story did not say that he was gay. “I really feel Alan was a lot more than that.” She thought the Blade story was “self-serving whatever their cause is and that they’re trying to use Alan to do that.”

Shay Hill, his beneficiary and University of Florida roommate, said that he and Rogers were “like brothers” and that he knew Rogers was gay. “He worked to change the system from within. You don’t out yourself to make a point. Just because he’s gay should have no more relevance than I’m straight. It’s not fair to make a bigger deal out of this than it needs to be.”

Other friends felt differently. James A. “Tony” Smith of Alexandria, an Air Force veteran, knew Rogers through AVER. He said that Rogers “was very open about being gay. It was a major part of his life. It does a disservice to his memory” not to mention it.

Rogers abided by “don’t ask, don’t tell” only because “he wanted to stay a soldier,” Smith said. “He was first and foremost a soldier, and he loved serving his country.” Rogers’s ties to the veterans group were “widely and publicly known.” Austin Rooke, Rogers’s friend and a former Army captain, said, “He was among the most open active-duty military people I’ve ever met. I can’t imagine him not wanting people to know.”

Tami Sadowski said that she was one of Rogers’s closest friends. She and her husband traveled and socialized with him regularly. “Being gay was a huge and very defining part of his life.”

Sharon Alexander, director of legislative affairs for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, was a friend of Rogers and lobbies for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” She ultimately concluded that he would have wanted “that part of his story to be told to help move the issue of repeal forward.”

Kevin Naff, editor of the Blade, said in an e-mail, “It’s a double standard to report basic facts about straight subjects like marital status, while actively suppressing similar information about gay subjects. It was clear that Maj. Rogers led as openly gay a life as was possible, given his military service. He worked for a gay rights organization, had gay friends and patronized D.C.-area gay clubs. It’s unfortunate The Post . . . chose not to present a full picture of this brave man’s life.”

The Post was right to be cautious, but there was enough evidence — particularly of Rogers’s feelings about “don’t ask, don’t tell” — to warrant quoting his friends and adding that dimension to the story of his life. The story would have been richer for it.

sources: washingtonblade.com, washingtonpost.com

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Finally a little about my trip to Vegas a couple weeks ago…

The purpose of the trip was for a convention but I went out early with some coworkers that had never been to Vegas. I’d share pics we took but coworker has yet to send them to me so the ones below I lifted from the Internet.

The JetBlue flight was suweet. I somehow snagged exit row seats for us the day of the flight, which made the long flight so much more bearable. Lots of free snacks and Juno was the in-flight movie. While I had seen it, I watched it again because it is such a cute movie.

After selecting the rental car and trying to leave the airport, the guard noticed the license plate was expired so we had to go back and switch cars. This was irritating since it was 2am Eastern time at this point and we were all beat. They said they’d knock some money off the bill for the inconvenience. I’m still waiting.

I stayed most of the trip at the MGM Grand. It is a huge hotel but we were able to find a short cut from our rooms to the lobby via the stairwells. That took some doing and involved getting lost outside in an employee area and getting rescued by a hotel worker at one point but ended up saving time in the long run.

The next day I took the gang to the Hoover Dam. It was incredibly windy that day but was not freezing and the dam was not terribly crowded. If you have yet to see the Hoover Dam in person, you should go at least once. Really is spectacular to think how those men were able to build so many years ago.

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We ate a late lunch at Claim Jumper, which was so yummy. After lunch we headed to Red Rock Park, which was really beautiful.

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That night, we went and saw Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere. It was a great show. One scene was so homoerotic I know I had to have been blushing. If you ever have a chance to see a Cirque show, it is worth your time and money. For the record, my favorite is Ka.

The next day we explored The Strip. The hotels never cease to amaze me. Lots of fun and great people watching. I learned how to play video poker and now have a mild addiction. Thankfully one doesn’t lose much playing the nickel machines.

The convention began the following day and was probably the best one I have attended in five years. The sessions were quite informative and I have already implemented some of the ideas I learned about.

Journey was the group performing for Fun Night and totally rocked. Their new lead singer is absolutely amazing. He sounded just like the original lead singer. I think I’d pay to see them again.

Bell Guy arrived that night and I’ll blog about the rest of the trip tomorrow ☺

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Remember Sally Kern, the bigoted Oklahoma state representative that spouted hate while unknowingly being recorded? Well she now has competition in the next election:

A 59-year-old social worker says he plans to run against an Oklahoma lawmaker whose anti-gay remarks have provoked calls for her resignation.

Democrat Ron Marlett said Monday he will oppose Republican Rep. Sally Kern in this fall’s election for her Oklahoma City-area seat in the state House.

Kern has been criticized for saying homosexuality poses a bigger threat to the U.S. than terrorism. Her comments to a Republican group were recorded and posted on the video sharing Web site YouTube by the Washington, D.C.-based Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

Marlett says he abhors hatred and believes everyone is worthy of respect. He says extremists share many of the same views voiced by Kern.

Marlett was introduced during a news conference called by Democratic Party head Ivan Holmes.

source: Washington Blade

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Jan. 1, 2007

3,000 may be a number to you, but its personal

with my head in the clouds, but feet firmly planted in a bear trap, its hard to figure out where i stand.

another person i call a friend has been killed,…brutally, and yet for selfish reasons i suppose, i still manage to march on. through all this blood, sweat and a countless number of tears, i still manage to fight another fight, and live another day.

at the end of each day….i capture what little hope is salvagable. but constant reminders of atrocity are not a hard thing to stumble upon here. focused on the future but keeping my eyes on the road i tell myself “ill be alright”, but with friends dying…….its an every

day struggle wondering who’s next…..who’s gonna eat it in this fuckin…..hell?

i have no clue, but i will tell my loved ones this……..i’m comin home. my enemies are determined to take me, but the survivors of any battle will tell you “the ones who live were more determined to live.” and no enemy of mine will waver that determination, nor stop my will to live. no enemy of mine is that powerful.

so i write this more or less for me…..im comin home…..im comin home

– Sgt. Ryan M. Wood on his MySpace blog

—-

Sgt. Wood, 22, was killed in Iraq on June 21, 2007 when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit an IED.

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Grandmother Dies

My grandmother died of Alzheimers disease today.

She had been in a retirement home for a few years and had been completely incapacitated for a long time. The last real conversation I had with her was maybe three years ago. I knew things hadn’t been great with her lately but I still wasn’t expecting this so soon. I guess one never really expects it.

I am glad that she lived a good, long and happy life. I am sad that she suffered more recently and that disease really takes a toll on the patient’s family.

I am not upset but I feel weird. I am glad that she will not suffer anymore but I think this will all really set in for me when the funeral takes place. I have no idea when that will be but I expect she will be buried next to my grandfather at Arlington National.

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A gun. A radio show. Feats of strength. Pete Rose. A rock. A dam. A Canyon. An addiction.

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Wife is away on Spring Break so Bell Guy is staying with me this week. Actually, he is laying here next to me. I am going to post more pics and the stories from our trip, alluded to at the beginning of this post, later this week.

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I am working on posts about my fab trips to Vegas and the Grand Canyon. I hope to have them posted soon and have lots of pics to post too! In the meantime, this was on my Starbucks cup today and I liked it: 

 

So-called “global warming” is just

a secret ploy by wacko tree-

huggers to make America energy

independent, clean our air and

water, improve the fuel efficiency

of our vehicles, kick-start

21st-century industries, and make

our cities safer and more livable.

Don’t let them get away with it!

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