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Archive for October, 2008

REBECCA ARMENDARIZ
Friday, October 03, 2008

Mike Rogers, a blogger who gained notoriety for outing closeted Republican officials, is spearheading a new initiative to support training and funding for the next wave of gay bloggers.

Rogers recently established the program, called the LGBT Bloggers & Citizen Journalist Initiative, with a $50,000 grant from philanthropist Jonathan Lewis.

Lewis is the son of Peter Lewis, one of the founders of Progressive Auto Insurance. Jonathan Lewis awards an annual scholarship through the Point Foundation’s National LGBT Scholarship Fund.

Rogers said the goal of the LGBT Bloggers & Citizen Journalist Initiative is to bring the online world together with traditional organizations that are sometimes lagging in the technology department.

Rogers said the initiative’s driving force is best encapsulated by a quote from Pam Spaulding, a lesbian blogger who writes at Pam’s House Blend: “You can ignore us, but we are journalists, we are activists, it’s all one now.”

Rogers said that other progressive movements have been more effective in quickly disseminating their messages.

Citing this year’s killing of Lawrence King, the gay California teen who was shot Feb. 12, Rogers said fewer people online knew about that than last year’s “Jena 6” controversy, in which six black Jena High School students in Louisiana were charged with attempted murder for attacking a white student after a noose was found hanging from a campus tree.

“How do we strengthen our voice so that when one of our young people is murdered, it becomes just as big of a story?” he said.

The initiative will begin with a December summit of 50 bloggers and representatives of gay rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which are sponsors.

“The Human Rights Campaign understands the importance of online organizing, commentary and activism,” said Joe Solmonese, HRC’s president, in a statement. “This venture will help create a synergy between organizations and new media never before seen in our movement, and we are proud to be a part of it.”

HRC donated $5,000 to the initiative, and the Victory Fund gave $2,500. The two groups will also co-host a networking party for bloggers and staffers the weekend of the summit. Rogers projects that with other individual donations, funding will reach $70,000 by the conference.

HRC and the Victory Fund each maintain their own blogs, HRC Back Story and GayPolitics.com.

Rogers, who writes online at BlogActive.com, said he’s now seeking 35 people to participate in the three-day summit, which begins Dec. 5. Participants receive round-trip flights to D.C., hotel accommodations and free meals. More information is available at bloggerinitiative.com.

Members of progressive organizations, Capitol Hill staff and community leaders will meet with bloggers to help establish personal relationships, Rogers said.

The goal of the meetings, Rogers said, will be to facilitate partnerships for future projects, such as live-blogging events that are coordinated by the organizations.

Denis Dison, the Victory Fund’s communications director, said that he handles bloggers the same way he handles traditional journalists in terms of supplying information and maintaining relationships to share his group’s message.

“It’s vital to keep up a relationship that’s somewhat symbiotic,” he said. “If you’re not a part of [the blogosphere] as an organization, then your message doesn’t get out as quickly as it needs to.”

Dison said that the relationships between bloggers and organizations, though, won’t compromise the bloggers’ role of serving as a watchdog.

“I’ve had plenty of times when I’ve had to go to a blogger and ask them to set the record straight on something if they’re criticizing us,” Dison said. “I definitely don’t think the relationship ‘protects us,’ but it does let us plead our case.”

source: Washington Blade

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