GLAAD, the LGBT media watchdog organization, has always had something of a checkered history, particularly with grassroots community media. It took GLAAD many years to acknowledge the work of LGBT bloggers and independent content creators.
Over the years, GLAAD has rightfully been repeatedly called out for its tendency to promote the glamorous celebrities their major donors love seeing at their galas while preferring to downplay or even ignore the work of lesser known content creators.
I don’t say this to bash GLAAD. They do good work and have been an unquestioned leader among nationally-focused LGBT advocacy organizations in putting trans people into their leadership.
Nevertheless, they are who they are, who they’ve always been. Much like the Human Rights Campaign, they have an annoying habit of focusing on the corporate big shiny and overlooking the grassroots little guy (and gal). Also like HRC, they have an unfortunate tendency to spend years building up community credibility, only to squander whatever progress they’ve made by doing something that validates the most negative perceptions of the organization.
This year the category of “Outstanding Blog” has been dropped from the GLAAD Media Awards, with the organization claiming that they can’t tell the difference between a blog and a mainstream news site, lumping them all under the category of digital journalism.
That’s right. The organization that holds itself out as a watchdog and the arbiter of quality LGBT-relevant media says that it can’t tell the difference between independent blogs like TransGriot and Back2Stonewall and mainstream corporate media sites MSNBC.com and Buzzfeed. Seriously.
As you might expect, this has the effect of rendering independent bloggers invisible and unrecognized as few, if any, unpaid bloggers who create their work in their spare time can compete with the professionally-staffed and well-resourced content created by mainstream corporate media outlets.
So, it’s no surprise that all of the nominations in this year’s digital media category went to sites like Vice, Mashable, and Buzzfeed, without the work of even a single independent blogger being nominated. After all, since GLAAD is the sole judge of what’s recognized by their awards, that’s obviously the way they want it.
Frankly, I think it stinks. Many of the voices writing for LGBT commercial media today, including myself, got their start on the blogs. What GLAAD is clearly saying by no longer choosing to recognize independent bloggers is that this kind of grassroots journalism doesn’t matter, that only the content published by rich, slick, mainstream media organizations deserves to be recognized.
GLAAD’s move isn’t sitting well with many in the LGBT media community. Bil Browning, the founder and publisher of The Bilerico Project, the LGBT blog site, which I contributed to for about eight years, didn’t mince words.
"GLAAD has dumped the Outstanding Blog category this year after we fought so long to have it included. Instead, they say independent bloggers should compete with mainstream paid news outlets like the New York Times because it's all "online journalism." What horse shit. The award was meant to honor the smaller folks who put their heart and soul into doing the work without all the monetary rewards of paid journalists. But as [My Fabulous Disease creator Mark S. King] says, this is all about the ticket sales. When they wouldn't even present the award on stage to the winning blogger, it was never about honor as much as appeasement apparently."
Nor did Pam’s House Blend creator and principal writer Pam Spaulding.
“It's shameful, considering independent voices (including Pam's House Blend, nominated once), helped shape the political gains over the last decade.”
This is why, try as they might, no matter how much trans-relevant media they nominate or how many trans people they put on staff, our community remains as wary of GLAAD and their motives as we are of HRC. It seems very likely to me that Mark S. King is right and what this is really about is maximizing gala ticket sales, generating cash for the organization, not honoring worthy LGBT media.
In my opinion, it’s not a coincidence that the content creators who make the least, or nothing on their work are the same group who are being rendered invisible in favor of the people who make the most and therefore can afford to fill expensive awards gala tables with their friends and supporters.
On the top of the front page of GLAAD’s website appear the words “accelerating acceptance.” It’s a nice sentiment, but these days GLAAD only seems to apply it to those wealthy enough to afford it. For grassroots independent content creators who can’t afford the steep price tag of that acceptance, GLAAD has apparently decided to slam on the brakes instead.