As the 2014 gubernatorial race begins to heat up in Florida, the LGBT community will be turning to our local community publications in hopes of finding an unbiased moderator to facilitate dialogue and debate between all candidates vying for the highest elected office in the Sunshine State. But last week when the publishers of the South Florida Gay News and the Florida Agenda were partying-it-up at the home of Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis, the journalistic integrity of our community's publications was compromised.
Print journalism has long struggled to survive in an intensively competitive environment, and LGBT focused publications have not been immune to the struggle. I can't help but ask myself if the presence of these publishers at the fundraiser for former Republican Governor Charlie Crist was a betrayal of our issues in exchange for advertising in their respective publications. Remember, this is the same Charlie Crist who ushered in the Florida’s Marriage Protection Act, a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality in Florida; the same Charlie Crist that allowed Florida to have the nation's worst wait list for HIV medications.
While both publications have reported on Crist's "evolution,” including publishing editorials that I and others have authored, are they now cheerleaders for Crist and ignore their journalistic responsibility to provide all candidates equal opportunity to communicate their policy position on issues critical to the lives of LGBT people and those affected by HIV/AIDS? Additionally, when one considers the costly pharmaceutical advertising in each publication to promote certain HIV medications, readers should demand dialogue on HIV/AIDS from gubernatorial candidates! Fort Lauderdale, including sections of the City that are a part of Commissioner Trantalis’ district, ranks 2nd in the nation in the number of new HIV-infections.
What strikes me odd is that for a region of the country known as a Gay Mecca, I fear our community's publications have sold out too early in the primary process to ever be a viable resource for factual and unbiased information on the gubernatorial candidates. The publications have surrendered the ability to serve as a platform that encourages critical and meaningful dialogue on issues that gravely affect our community.
I'm left wondering if former Governor Charlie Crist will ever agree to debate former Senator Nan Rich? I certainly know that SFGN and Florida Agenda have officially taken sides and lost the opportunity to be unbiased facilitators of such a long overdue debate.
Michael Emanuel Rajner serves as the legislative director for the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus, was a co-author of the 2012 Florida Democratic Party Platform, served on the Florida Department of Health AIDS Drug Assistance Program Advisory Workgroup and is currently active as a Steering Committee member on the United States People Living with HIV Caucus (USPLHIV).