Name: Jon Barrett Publication: The Advocate Title: Senior News Editor Preferred contact method: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.advocate.com
Jon Barrett has worked at The Advocate for six years, covering topics from the murder of Matthew Shepard to Dr. Laura Schlessinger's anti-gay rhetoric. Now, as senior news editor of the nation's principal gay news magazine, Barrett manages all stories concerning the gay community.
Here he talks to PRWeek about how unbiased journalism at The Advocate works.
PRWeek: Same-sex marriage has become a hot political issue in the early stages of the 2004 Presidential campaign, creating rifts of opinion even within the gay community. In reporting to this group as a whole, how do you address these differences?
Jon Barrett: Gay people, just like straight people, seldom share a unanimous position on any issue. So, just as any news magazine should, we take a critical look at a subject such as marriage by examining it from various points of view. In the end, our readers should be able to find all of their varying opinions represented on our pages.
PRWeek: In choosing what articles to run, how do you determine "gay interest?"
Barrett: The Advocate isn't unlike a daily newspaper in that stories that reflect the lives of our readers are those that we determine to be of "gay interest." Most often, this means the story has a gay or lesbian person in it. Sometimes with stories of huge national interest - like the Enron or Martha Stewart scandals - it means finding a "how-are-gay-people-affected" angle.
PRWeek: How frequently do you interview people who blatantly disagree with the views of The Advocate?
Barrett: Despite being named The Advocate, the magazine makes every effort to remain unbiased. While we do take the editorial stand in favor of equal rights for gay men and lesbians, outside of that we try to include all voices - including those of people who may disagree with the majority of our readers.
PRWeek: It's been almost five years since the Matthew Shepard murder, which you reported on extensively. Since then, how has The Advocate's news section changed?
Barrett: Since that murder, there has been more news coverage of gay and lesbian issues in mainstream publications. In some cases, that has driven what we cover in our magazine. By this, I mean that if The New York Times or one of the big national news titles covers a gay-themed story, we need to fish for our own angle to that story because our readers expect to read about it from an Advocate perspective.
PRWeek: When deciding what is relevant to the gay community, who do you imagine your audience to be - other than being gay?
Barrett: We imagine our audience to be anyone who is interested in issues that concern gay and lesbian people. And that's a pretty wide group of people that includes everyone from gay people, to family members of gay people, to straight politicians and businesspeople who work with gay people on a daily basis.