The News Meets the Backlash Community

THE FRONT PAGE HEADLINE of The Dallas Morning News announced “A New Kind of Family. ” The accompanying color picture showed two gay men folding baby clothes by a crib. The story talked about a male homosexual couple sharing a baby with a lesbian couple. One of” the women had used artificial insemination with the sperm of one of the men to conceive the baby. In the paper’s “Today” section on that same day last summer was another lead story about families supporting their gay offspring, with a sidebar about kids with gay parents. And there on the metro page was yet another story about homosexuals, this one about gay and lesbian neighborhood volunteers.

The stories set off howls of protest. Readers called, sent e-mail, and mailed hundreds of letters complaining about the series. The unprecedented negative response eclipsed the reaction the paper received in 1994 when it printed a front page color photo of slain Mexican presidential candidate Donald Colosio.

Most of those who complained were upset about the sheer volume of the stories, which many said espoused an aberrant lifestyle with little dissenting opinion offered. “What amazed me was the portrayal of a male homosexual couple sharing a child with a female homosexual couple as being totally normal, with nothing wrong with it,” David Miller, director of the Tarrant County chapter of the American Family Association, told The Dallas/Fort Worth Heritage, a Christian weekly.

Morning News managing editor Robert Mong says that all of the stories were solid, legitimate journalism. But, “if we had it to do over again,” Mong says, “we probably would not put all of that in the paper on the same day.”

The stories illustrate the Morning News determination in recent years to cover every facet of the “community,” no matter how small, a goal further illustrated by the recently launched Saturday religion section. Since its inception, the section may have run more stories about tiny religious groups like the Baha’is than there are Baha’is in Dallas.

“It’s important that we not forget what the majority views and values are,” says Mong. “At the same time, the country is changing and there are new com- munities that were not vis- ible 20 or 30 years ago. There are many more con- stituencies out there than ever before. We must try to convey their humanity and their values.” And majority views and values aside, the issue of gay marriage and families is likely to become an important issue across the country; legal barriers to gay marriage are already dropping ? in Hawaii. “It’s our responsibility to help readers antici- pate those issues,” Mong says.

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