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Mike Spradley Headshot

Calling on the LGBT Media to Return to Their Core Values

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The LGBT media do not have many occasions when we can come together and stand in unison. Over the many years we have worked for equality, we have created a rift within our own communities. We have slowly forgotten what price the LGBT community has paid over the many decades that the fight for civil rights has waged.

The LGBT community should never forget the loss of life in the concentration camps of World War II or the countless people who have died from AIDS epidemic. Did the LGBT media sell their principles to the advertisers of HIV clinics, human research studies, and county health departments across the nation?

As advertising dollars began to dry up and the competition for those dollars increased, we began to tell the people with HIV that they did not matter. For that we should reflect on what has occurred and where we are today.

There was a time when the world was different in dealing with HIV. Groups like ACT UP were around to tell us when we made mistakes and would stand on chairs in government offices demanding funding for HIV services. Slowly, groups like ACT UP faded away.

In our minds, the HIV battle had been won; we fail to realize that we are a long way away from winning that war. As people with HIV would come to the LGBT media, we slowly dismissed their stories of patient abuse, county corruption, human research and civil rights violations. LGBT community centers that are willing to take money from county governments stopped asking questions, even when a segment of your own community asked for your help.

As publishers and editors made silent decisions to take that money and turn to ridiculous stories on things that did not truly matter, did we sell ourselves cheap?

When the 73-year-old mother of an AIDS patient was physically assaulted by a doctor at the HIV clinic where her son sought medical care, blackened with bruises and bleeding from cuts on her arms, we refused to tell her story. When her son was thrown onto the pavement in front of that clinic by police, fire fighters and hospital security to force medical care on him, in front od gawking spectators, only to realize an hour later that the patient had every right to refuse medical care, we did not tell his story either. In fact, the LGBT media would let HIV patients think they did not matter and were crazy.

When patients from HIV human research studies came to us with determination letters from the Federal Office of Human Research Protection ruling that they had suffered damages and that the researchers had violated their own IRB procedures, we still did nothing. They did not matter either.

When HIV patients went to LGBT legal groups for civil rights violations, they did nothing, because the HIV/AIDS population did not matter to the officers of the courts. There were other battles to fight, however; some queers with AIDS didn't matter. What was even more disappointing is that these groups could have taken their time to create a resource network to help people with HIV fight civil rights violations, but they could not be bothered.

When an HIV case manager was dealing meth from a clinic that was funded with Ryan White Care Act dollars, we still didn't do anything, but at least he got fired!

When that corrupt county auditor was allowed to conduct an audit on the man whom his wife previously worked for, and when the audit was published, a member of the California assembly said it was the most biased document ever written. We said nothing and published nothing.

Not to forget the young lesbian who was assaulted by the bouncer at a gay bar, knocking out her teeth, shattering her jaw and crushing parts of her skull. We would not tell her story either, because -- you guessed it! -- the bar was a major advertiser.

That is why I am calling on the LGBT media to return to your core values. When the HIV patients come to you with their stories of abuse, I ask you to tell them. I ask you to hold those people responsible for their actions, financial corruption, deaths, incorrect diagnosing, civil rights violations and sheer laziness.

Because this is what being a member of the media means. We investigate, we research, we tell the truth and we do our jobs.

We do not jump out at elected officials in the middle of the night. We do not hack emails or bug private conversations. We do not stalk the royal family or members of Hollywood royalty. We certainly do not climb fences of private homes to photograph someone who is entitled to their sanctuary. That's the job of the paparazzi, and when we are wrong, we don't hide the retraction on page 35. If the story appears on page 1, the retraction goes on page 1. We have integrity, and we do our jobs.

To the publishers, editors and my fellow journalists, I ask you not to fear running a story on the HIV clinic, bar or any other advertiser. For where else are they going to go?

I leave you with the words of John F. Kennedy:

And so it is to the printing press -- to the recorder of mans deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news -- that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.

Author's note: This opinion editorial does not apply to all LGBT media groups. Journalism student Lily Mcelroy contributed to this article by conducting interviews with HIV patients.