GLAAD creates chief communications and digital officer roles amid trans student reversal

Rich Ferraro, previously at Viacom, will take on the chief communications officer role; and Jim Halloran, previously at Twitter, will serve as chief digital officer.

By Tony Webster (image via Wikimedia Commons)
By Tony Webster (image via Wikimedia Commons)

NEW YORK: The same day President Donald Trump rolled back Title IX protections for transgender students, GLAAD announced the creation of two top comms jobs: chief communications officer and chief digital officer.

Rich Ferraro, formerly of senior director of communications and public affairs at Viacom, will take on the chief communications officer role. Jim Halloran, previously Twitter’s head of global content management, will serve as chief digital officer. Both will begin work in March.

Ferraro, who worked previously at GLAAD two years ago, is returning to the organization to build up its news team to better work with the media and 

"When we share stories in ways that humanize LGBTQ issues and showcase the commonality that this community has with other Americans, it’s hard for fair-minded Americans to turn their backs," he said. "As the cultural and political times change, these personal stories are the first line of defense - and I could not pass up the opportunity to lead that work at GLAAD."

"I took this job because this is where the fight is," Halloran said. "The battles we’re facing today are being won or lost online long before they reach the courts or capital."

Though Ferraro and Halloran haven’t officially started at GLAAD yet, they have already developed plans to face challenges like Trump eliminating protections for transgender students.

"What we need to do is control our narrative rather than spending our time refuting their bogus claims," he said. "We need to provide tools to journalists, such as the Trump Accountability Project and the rapid response newsroom, to get that story right."

One of the main goals in the current situation is reminding people that the Title IX protections are not just about bathrooms. The GLAAD team will go about that by reminding journalists that the story goes beyond bathrooms and into people’s real lives.

"The job we should be doing at GLAAD is providing tools and solutions that help make journalists’ lives easier," Halloran said. "There's an LGBTQ angle to every story because they are everywhere; we need to highlight that intersectionality."

Halloran, who oversees the digital communications, data analytics, digital operations, and design and multimedia teams, is also focused on building support on social media with the #WeResist campaign.

Ferraro wants to ensure that the rallies in solidarity with LGBTQ teens are covered by the press and that trans voices are properly represented in the media during the Title IX crisis.

"It’s also so important to reach trans youth, who all too often feel isolated, with messages that they are loved," Ferraro said.

In the announcement, GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis cited the current social and political climate as the force behind the new roles.

"At a time when anti-LGBTQ hate crimes are on the rise and discriminatory legislation is being considered on both the state and federal levels, GLAAD is committed to expanding its long-term strategic capabilities as well as its capacity," Ellis said in a press release.

The current environment has created a surge of protests for everyone from women's rights to the environment to LGBT issues, which Ferraro hopes to capitalize on.

"There’s a lot of energy from the community and allies to take action and GLAAD is in a unique position to harness that energy in ways that can stand up to anti-LGBTQ policy or send messages of solidarity to LGBTQ people and families," he said.

Halloran added that GLAAD is also keeping up with the digital and social movement of every industry by bringing on a chief digital officer.

"Trump has definitely been a lightning rod for a lot of things, but it's not the only reason," he said. "His election highlights a fault in our system. Coming from Twitter and tech, we built all these amazing tools to connect the world and we didn't expect these tools to be weaponized against us. GLAAD is supposed to be a media organization and committed to being on the cutting edge of the industry; digital is next wave of it."

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