ABC's Nightline attacked from both sides of gay rights debate

NEW YORK: The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)

appears to have chosen its next target for likely protest: ABC news

program Nightline.



The two entrenched sides are scheduled to meet tomorrow for a last-ditch

effort at a truce.



For five nights in late September, Nightline will air a miniseries

examining gay and lesbian lives. GLAAD helped producers find interview

subjects, including residents at a gay retirement center. However, the

advocacy group was angered by Nightline's choice in program title: "A

Matter of Choice?"



Via Internet, GLAAD has informed its constituency how to contact

Nightline to complain about the title. Cathy Renna, GLAAD's news media

director, said the title is a misrepresentation of the nature of sexual

orientation and a perpetuation of a dangerous stereotype.



"It's especially irritating because the series stands to be a piece of

groundbreaking journalism - just the kind of stuff the news media should

be covering when it comes to our community and our issues," said

Renna.



Tom Bettag, Nightline executive producer, responded to criticism by

posting a statement on the program's Web site. His message is that it is

the job of a journalist to ask unpleasant questions, and that the issue

of choice was woven throughout the series and is therefore not

exploitative.



Bettag said that he and ABC's PR team have responded to phone calls not

only from gays and lesbians, but also from members of the Christian

right who were pressuring the network to portray gays as "evil."



"One of the reasons why people have not covered this subject very much -

and this is no excuse - is when you go into this area, you can please

none of the people none of the time," said Bettag. "Between now and when

this goes on air, we will be inundated by people on all sides. But if

you don't like that, you shouldn't be in journalism. It's not our job to

tell people what they want to hear."



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