Op-Ed: A Rough Patch for the LGBT Community

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Robert Boo, Julie Seaver and Gary Resnick.

No community is better capable of withstanding hard times and bad press than ours. We have dealt with adversity and accusations for years. We will rise above it now as we have in the past.

The South Florida Gay News prints the news. We don’t make it up. We report it.

Our job, our duty, our mission, is to share with you the storylines that shape our lives and illuminate our community. But the sun which shines can also burn. Our obligations do not change. We report on the fire as well as the firemen. We report on the rescue as much as the tragedy.

The developing storm over the long-term employment of a registered sexual offender may lead to many casualties, lost jobs, and deep disappointment. It may bring scrutiny upon those we trust, and already the mainstream media, both the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel, picked up the story we first broke. We can’t say where it will lead, only that we will lead you there.

This is a newspaper not afraid to break stories, even if it means putting scam artists like the late Mike Cruz in jail for stealing money from Pride South Florida, exposing Bobby Blair’s million dollar media fraud, or Jim Ellis’s condominium con scheme at Wilton Station orchestrated while buying drinks for unwitting investors at the Manor. 

We simply tell the truth because that is what newspapers are supposed to do, independently, individually, and honestly. We are not here to solely coronate or celebrate our community, but there is nothing that gives us more pride. 

Of course, we want to be able to showcase our own successes, and we do, with the OUT \50.  However, if we learn they have run astray and have a tarnished past, as we discovered with Bruce Presley not too long ago, we disclose the damage. It’s my job, just like I had to publish an article about one of our reporters a few years ago who went to jail for DUI with serious bodily injury. He not only stole away a life and his career, but he careened onto our front pages. 

So it goes. 

Our task in reporting the news is to simply tell you the story of what has happened, what is happening, and what does happen. To do that, we rely upon our community leaders to reply and respond to our legitimate enquiries and professional duties. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t, but we need your help. We need whistleblowers and truth-tellers who are willing to buck the tide and provide us with credible sources when those in power poison their position or pervert their mission.

Legitimate discussion, debate, and dissent is healthy if you want to sustain a good community newspaper. As a radio talk show host for ten years, I can tell you the show was always a little more entertaining when callers took me to task than patted me on the ass. Controversy and adversity breed change and challenge. Running away breeds cowards. 

Stonewalling is no way to run an agency subject to public review. You don’t want to answer questions? Fine, but that does not mean we are not going to write about you.

SFGN is not about pillow talk. 

We run a paper the way it should be run, with our limited staff and budget. Our role as the tri-county’s credible LGBT newspaper of record is why we just hosted a conference for the National Lesbian and Gay Media Association, and a dozen legacy LGBT newspapers from across the country, including the Washington Blade, Philadelphia Gay News, Bay Windows, and many publications from places you used to live in. Additionally, we partner with CNN, the Sun-Sentinel, the Florida Press Association and a host of credible media entities. 

A few years ago, when we made him our Man of the Year, Robert Boo sat and answered all our questions. But when it came time last week to address directly the perplexing and problematic issue of continuing to illegally employ a registered sex offender, he won the award for Mr. Two-Step, purposely evasive and non-responsive. He could have done better.  The questions and answers speak for themselves. We reported on them. You make the call. You are the community. He is your director, and he rightfully won many accolades for his achievements and accomplishments. Today, you be the judge.

Robert Boo is not alone. Others in power often don’t feel an obligation to answer to the media. In a foolish and notoriously stupid comment last week, the outgoing mayor of Wilton Manors, Gary Resnick, told SFGN he does not “read our paper anymore.” This was after I asked him to review an editorial I did about a dangerous intersection jeopardizing the lives of citizens in our community. And his reply is he does not read our paper because his honor was upset that we have a columnist named Sal Torre who disses him too often. 

Well, guess what Mr. Mayor? He writes a half page column once every two weeks. In the interim, we publish about 120 other pages, and you don’t read our paper? You are the mayor in a same-sex centric city publishing one of the largest LGBT weeklies in America, and announce to its publisher that you “don’t read SFGN anymore.” 

Fine, you have that right, and guess what, I have the right to endorse a more qualified and spirited candidate for mayor this year rather than one who could not get a parking lot built here for the last ten. 

So don’t read our paper, but if you would like to, it’s available at over 150 locales in the Manors, including your law office. After this year’s election, you will be spending a lot more time there.

We are also proud to publish the Compass newsletter in West Palm Beach, but like other pride centers, all their decisions are not universally popular. Sometimes they too are called to task. We tell the story, that’s all. When we ask for a quote, it is to give the feature impartiality, fairness and be able tell both sides, not to take one or the other. Last week, we were doing a feature on its ED’s departure after two decades on the job. They had no time for us.

We got an email from its new director explaining that “we have a board full of CPA's and Auditors that are in the middle of their busiest time of year and the board's process is on their timetable and not the public or SFGN's timetable.”  Are you kidding me? No time for the public that pays their salaries, funds their mission, or the press which illuminates their work? Who do they have time for? 

OK, technically, Julie Seaver, is only the acting CEO, right. Like Robert Boo, she did not HAVE to answer our questions. There is no law requiring it. But nor is there a law that says I have to be silent about their stupidity in not doing so. It is not just stubborn and foolish – it is irresponsible and unprofessional. 

When the directors reply that they have "no time to reply,” they have replied, albeit silently and inefficiently. Your lack of a response is a response, as telling as your answers may have been. So you can ignore our deadline, but my editorials won’t ignore your ignorance. 

My friends, a free press is needed now more than ever before. In Washington, D.C., there is a president trying to shut it down. Without the LGBT community standing up to power and prejudice, we would not have community centers or newspapers or thriving gay communities. 

Let’s remember our obligation is to serve diversity, not diminish it.  There will be rainbows and rainstorms. We will get through both, but let’s own up to all. We are strong. We are one. We are proud. No one is turning us back.


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