Engaging CultureChristian Media

GLAAD’s Media Strategy is Paying Off for the Gay Community

Regardless where you fall on the gay marriage debate, a look at the media strategy the leadership of that community has used is fascinating.  Anyone who doesn’t believe that strategy works in the media, need look no farther than the massive shift the gay community has made on network television.  Today, the advances in the courthouse haven’t been nearly as successful as the advances in the media.

Years ago the classic daytime drama “All My Children” portrayed popular character Erica Kane (played for 39 years by actress Susan Lucci),  as she joyfully watched her TV daughter marry another woman.  It was a full soap opera / over-the-top lavish ceremony that ended with the brides kissing.  As Megan Basham reported in World Magazine:  “While same-sex weddings on television are hardly new (a lesbian ceremony featured heavily in a Friends episode from 1996, for example), the real-life drama surrounding legal challenges to California’s recently passed constitutional amendment against homosexual marriages has made the milestone all the more significant. By tying the episode to Proposition 8, those associated with All My Children have reaffirmed the perception that the entertainment industry is of a single mind on the issue.”

The GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) strategy has been at work for a long time.  They began lobbying the entertainment industry two decades ago, and the group’s Media Programs Department (yes – they’ve dedicated an entire department to it) has impacted sports, news, and even family programs.  For instance, they convinced the Associated Press news organization to drop the word “homosexual” from their style book in favor of the term “gay.”  They then successfully convinced the four major networks to do the same in their TV program scripts.

They’ve even met with Spanish language network Univision, which resulted in the network agreeing to re-train their staff led by a GLAAD Team that would go affiliate station to affiliate station holding classes.  In 2002 the organization created a 5 year strategy plan focused on “media markets that attract youth.”

Entertainment Director for GLAAD, Scott Seomin, said that they used to “Wait until something bad happened and then get pissed off.”  But he says that “We don’t protest anymore.  Why stand outside the building when with one phone call we can be invited inside.”

The realization that protests and boycotts don’t do much good sounds like a lesson a few faith-based organizations should pay attention to…

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  1. In the "college youth" area: GLAAD frequently sponsors NODA regional conferences, the Leadership Development group a lot colleges send their orientation/transition leaders to (Biola & Azusa included). While the focus of the conferences is leadership development and networking, the year I went a transgender was the keynote speaker, and several of the workshops promoted tolerance and the like.

  2. Being retired Air Force Public Affairs I’ve seen what positive messages can do to help educate the public. When all the public hears is one side of an issue until there is a big blow-up in the mrdia then the other side of an issue is reactive and and always seems to sound negative. For Christains’s in the media it seems they are shown in a negative and ignorant light. We need to get pro-active in a loveing but intelligent way. Leaving all the Christain lingo out of well thought out responses to the issues could present a loving educational response instead of the sound bite responses to reporter’s accussing questions. How can we step-up education realizing non-Christains don’t understand somethings we take for granted. Meeting the public on a higher plane in aneducational way would do two things: Show we aren’t mindless followers and help us to reach-out to show where love really exisits.    

  3. "Regardless where you fall on the gay marriage debate".  ???  What????  Phil, now I want to know.  Where do YOU fall? 

  4. Definitely Christians should be more proactive in their approach to the media and related issues.  And yes, GLAAD has proved that just as surely as Camel and Marlboro did following WWII.

    The point that many protesters miss is that the little things make the most difference. 

    Like having 2 Christians who write and co-executive produce a certain TV show on the CW that deals with heaven and hell…

    Like telling a story so well that an episode of Law & Order SVU not only has a redemptive message, but also shows major characters praying with suspects and discussing Catholic theology.

    Like taking one of the major characters on CBS’s Numb3rs on a spiritual journey back to his Jewish roots.

    Like having Aaron Sorkin discuss and use as show themes concepts from both Jewish and Christian theology in his critically acclaimed shows – even having one character who is an outspoken Christian and accepted for her beliefs instead of mocked by the show or fellow characters (Studio 60, West Wing, Sports Night)

    Like having a lapsed Catholic and a non-practicing Jew running one of the most popular shows on television, exploring the elements of their belief as they search them out, while telling a compelling story of island castaways.

    Like having Phil & his cohorts from the Studio Task Force, supporting a film education program at a Christian university that is as good as any other out in California, teaching young minds how to truly make a difference in entertainment – by telling good stories with excellent, quality work.

  5. You missed the point of that statement. It’s a given that if someone is a supporter of GLAAD then they will probably like reading about the media strategy. However, this strategy is a good strategy to study even if you don’t support Gay and Lesbian "rights". That’s the only definitive point you can draw from reading that statement. Instead of attacking one sentence, why don’t you read the article? 

  6. Also, I live in California (aka Hollywood).  I’ll be nice and overlook the whole paragraph on Hollywood, which never needed "convincing".  Gimme a break!!

  7. Ms. C: I’m sure you’re a wonderful person, but you’re also a great example of why we’re losing our influence in the culture. While I write an entire piece on media strategy on a critical issue facing our culture, you miss the entire point by getting hung up on a single phrase. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day for being able to read the weather, but missing the signs of the times. Look at the bigger picture. Raise your window shades. Don’t stumble on a pebble when you’re climbing a mountain…

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