UPDATED with reaction from WKOW-27.
Thursday night WKOW-TV reported in their late news broadcast how the faith community united for a focused message of inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community. It was a remarkable and truly uplifting event where 22 different faith organizations gathered for an interfaith assembly.
The need for bridge-building by various faiths along with their places of worship is due to the long history of bigotry against the gay community. The denial of basic humanity from many religious organizations has caused much harm to families and communities. As a result, it comes as no surprise that many people in the LGBTQ+ community feel estranged from houses of worship along with finding it difficult to locate friendly faith options in their community.
So, taking concrete steps to help remedy that longtime problem an assembly of faiths hosted an event at the First Baptist Church of Madison. The optics were most wonderful for a television news crew to capture the mood and tone of the interfaith pride event.
But then 27 news reporter Grace Ulch included Julaine Appling, President of Wisconsin Family Action, into the segment. The reporter noted that Appling “says this event veers from thousands of years of tradition”. The lobbyist stated that the faiths involved in the gathering “are not faithful to the teaching of the word of God”. Well, that certainly underscores precisely what the church event was aiming at overcoming. Was Appling making the case for the interfaith gathering, or trying to score one more quip for her side?
While getting contrasting views can certainly make a news story more insightful, using Appling, the source of too many years of hard-edged comments against gay people, was just not good journalism. It looked like a reporter was seeking the usual low-hanging-ever-ready-to-talk-in-front-of-a microphone possibility for this news story. Would it not have been more germane to the report to speak with a minister who feels compelled to hold onto more fundamentalist views? Or seek out a UW professor of religion about how institutions of faith adapt to changing times in society?
I certainly understand news reporting deadlines and packaging a segment for air that has more than one perspective. But placing the usual scold in the report looked like the ‘rolodex’ of contacts for news stories at Channel 27 needs updating. Appling again proved she has never turned down a chance before a microphone to be dismissive of gay people or that being mean-spirited, for the sake of such, is still her card of choice to play. News operations have an obligation to report the news and then add useful perspectives to better inform viewers, listeners, and readers. That was not fully achieved with the report on the interfaith pride event.
I reached out to the news director of Channel 27, Dani Maxwell, and expressed my concerns. She responded with brevity, but as I had hoped understood the issue that needs addressing. “Hi Gregory, I agree and have already addressed that with Grace. Thank you.”