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My Big Fat Gay Wedding

Will the buttoned-down Morning News go with the changing Times?
By James Fowler |

Dallas is sooo gay. The city of contradictions hosts not only
Southern Baptists and Republican judges, but also the world’s largest
gay church (Cathedral of Hope), America’s premier all-gay voice
ensemble (Turtle Creek Chorale), and one of the biggest annual
fundraising events for gay rights (Black Tie Dinner).

Still, we were surprised to learn that gay union announcements might find their way into the Sunday Dallas Morning News
wedding pages. The conservative News has heretofore abstained from such
notices, but management is discussing changes to the policy. And the
discussion appears intimately related to the New York Times’ coming out.

In August, the Times
decided to recognize same-sex ceremonies, largely as a result of the
efforts of Robert Dodge, then president of the National Gay and Lesbian
Journalists Association (the group’s self-imposed nickname:
“Negligee”). Dodge and other Negligee members made the pitch to Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger in his office.

“[The Times]
wanted assurance that they weren’t the first to do this,” Dodge
says.  “They wanted to be somewhere in the middle.” Given that the
daily in Fayetteville, North Carolina—among approximately 111 dailies
nationwide—was already printing same-sex notices and hadn’t been
pipe-bombed, the Old Gray Lady felt comfortable enough to loosen her
corset. “The New York Times  is like an iceberg,” Dodge says. “It moves slowly but with great force.”

As for how the News’ discussions are related to the Times: Robert Dodge just so happens to be an economics reporter in the News’  Washington, D.C., bureau. He refuses to comment on the record about the evolving News policy and whether he’s had a role in it. And, in any case, the News itself acknowledges it has been watching the Times. Fritzi Pikes, the News’ executive vice president for advertising, says the Times’ move “really put the heat under us” to act.

Reading the tea leaves to see what lies ahead at the News isn’t difficult for two reasons. The first concerns money. With the Times, all couples must prove their fabulousness to the newsroom before they warrant a mention—it’s an editorial call. But the News
wedding announcements turned into an advertising section last year, so
it’s a business decision. Pikes says the paper is mindful of its
“responsibility as a member of the community and [its] principles as a
journalistic institution,” but one principle of all journalistic
institutions is to make money. With classified dollars fleeing print
for online outlets, a prudent newspaper could hardly refuse a check
from Chris and Pat’s joint bank account.

The other reason it’s easy to see the way the News
is leaning: in September, the paper extended health benefits to
“domestic partners” of employees. Gay wedding announcements may be
radical to some, but partnership benefits have been a newspaper
industry standard for years now. So the News is simultaneously helping break new ground and playing catch-up. That is sooo Dallas.

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