Where Are The Gay And Lesbian Opinion Columnists/Pundits?

Flip on MSNBC and you see Rachel Maddow staring you in the face.  Glance at your computer, and you will see wide-ranging opinion blogging by Andrew Sullivan, John Aravosis, Pam Spaulding, and others.  But open up a big-city newpaper’s editorial pages and you will be faced with . . . well, almost nothing.

Despite the presence of LGBT pundits and writers online and even on MSNBC, there is a major absence of gay and lesbian voices in the editorial pages of the newspapers.  With the exception of Deb Price at the Detroit News and Jamie Kirchick at the New York Daily News, there are no regular opinion writers in America to be found in the newspaper world.  When progressive media watchdog Media Matters did its 2007 analysis of the opinion columnists in major newspapers, only Price was listed among the 100 most distributed columnists.

There have long been complaints about the lack of diversity on the opinion pages and in the pundit class that populates panels on Meet the Press and ABC’s This Week. Just as female and African American opinion writers and pundits bring their own view of the news, so do gay and lesbian opinion writers and pundits.

So who are the major newspapers and news shows overlooking when they fail to include gay and lesbian opinion writers and pundits who focus on general news (as opposed to a specific LGBT issue)? The following list includes many well-known names who already do opinion writing, but also a few choices from left field. A unique challenge in identifying candidates was determining whether certain writers were “openly gay.”  There are at least two people who could easily be placed near the top of the list—the editorial page editor of a major newspaper and a political blogger– but there were questions about how public they were about their sexual orientation.

Jamie Kirchick – The young-turk conservative/libertarian whose opinions appear to show up everywhere, including the New Republic, the New York Daily News, the Advocate, and the Los Angeles Times.  Kirchick’s specialty is rocking-the-establishment, on both the right and the left.  Think of a less-stuffy, more opinionated Andrew Sullivan who is more interested in Israel than Sarah Palin. He’s also great on a panel and isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo.

Jonathan Capehart – He has the editorial page cred–the Washington Post and the New York Daily News–and he’s a regular on the MSNBC morning shows.  But he seems to like the glare of the television lights more than writing columns, with very few bylined editorials at WaPo. He’s proven he can write columns–he also wrote a column for Bloomberg–but he doesn’t seem to be that interested in taking his pro-business moderate views on the road.

Jonathan Rauch – The thinking-man’s writer, Rauch has toiled away as a columnist at the wonky National Journal and achieved acclaim for his thoughtful, intelligent writing on a wide-range of topics. He’s a David Brooks-styled conservative with the ability to cut through the minutiae of politics and policy. His writing on same-sex marriage is among the most reasoned around.

Frank Bruni – If a theater critic like Frank Rich can become an op-ed columnist at the New York Times, why not a former restaurant critic who spent years covering the White House and the Vatican?  Bruni is one of the NYT’s Lavender Mafia—including Richard Berke and Adam Nagourney—who could easily find themselves on the op-ed pages.

Andrew Sullivan – Okay, the guy’s everywhere.  But when he writes an op-ed column, it’s for the Times of London.  Why isn’t he writing more for U.S. papers?  Is he not interested?  Read his blog or watch him on Bill Maher or Chris Matthews and you know he has opinions on everything.  He also may be one of the best writers among the gay public intellectuals.

Pam Spaulding – The darling of the netroots, Spaulding is a versatile blogger at Pam’s Houseblend comfortable with a variety of topics and she’s proven agile at writing longer pieces. While the trackrecord for bloggers-turned-opinion columnists isn’t great–Ross Douthat’s lackluster year at the NYT comes to mind–Spaulding may be able to make the transition.

Dan Savage – Savage is a regular on Keith Olbermann and is often called upon to be the “opinionated gay liberal.”  But Savage is a great storyteller and, well, an opinionated gay liberal.  His sex column is a must-read and his work as top editor at Seattle’s alternative newspaper The Stranger shows Savage has the writing chops. But can he take his progressive-cred mainstream?

Karl Frisch – Another netroots favorite, Frisch has a regular column at Media Matters and has the Capitol Hill credentials to speak authoritatively about politics, as well as the media. He’s very funny, but also had a wonky edge that makes his writing interesting, but not boring.

Winnie Stachelberg – If opinion writers can come from think tanks, there’s no reason Stachelberg shouldn’t be on the short-list of smart opinion thinkers.  A former top lobbyist for the Human Rights Campaign, Stachelberg is now at the Center for American Progress.  She’s smart, reasoned, and well-connected.

Sandip Roy – The guy you’ve probably never heard of, but should be reading.  He writes for Huffington Post and New American Media and hosts his own radio show in San Francisco. He writes a lot of cultural commentary–with a focus on India and South Asia–and also brings an interesting viewpoint to the LGBT discussion. Another great storyteller, he deserves a bigger audience.

LZ Granderson is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com, and has contributed to ESPN’s Sports Center, Outside the Lines and First Take. A popular campus speaker, Granderson is more than “the gay sports guy” and his opinion pieces–including one on race and sexual orientation–often prove to be controversial. He’s incredibly charismatic and could easily become a top pundit or opinion writer.

Kerry Eleveld – Eleveld is the Washington correspondent for The Advocate who has quickly become one of the biggest names in the LGBT journalism world.  But her background is in business writing and she launched her own publication when she was 26 years old. She understands the Washington-beat and the camera loves her.  She shines when writing longer, thought pieces.

This Is Real: Media Matters Installs A ‘Glenn Beck Phone’

The war of the symbolic telephone line is on! Regular viewers of Glenn Beck will likely be familiar with the fact that a while back Beck installed a red phone on his set so that the White House could call him and correct any factual errors he might have made whilst proving his case that the current administration are Mao enthusiasts (and other stuff). Alas, perhaps not surprisingly the phone has yet to be put to use.

Well two can play at that game! Or four if you count the actual red phone in the White House, which I think still exists in some capacity (oh those simple Cold War days). Anyway, Media Matters, the site which apparently inspired this week’s fact-checking mania when they dubbed Beck the ‘Misinformer of the Year’ is not taking Beck’s harried response lying down. They have got their own phone! I’m not kidding. They literally got their own ‘Beck Phone.’ From Media Matters:

“Media Matters’ President Eric Burns sent Beck a letter inviting the Fox News host — who has repeatedly professed an interest in accuracy — to call the newly installed “Beck phone” anytime he believes he is being unfairly criticized.”

After the jump Burns’ full fact re-checking letter. Be warned, it’s long. Of course, in a perfect cable world some enterprising teenage computer whiz would get their hands on the actual phone number for Beck’s red phone (presuming it exists) and proceed to call in with a killer Obama impersonation. Hello America!

>>> NEXT: Media Matters’ letter to Glenn Beck

WH Transparency Is Promising, But Still Not What We Were Promised

Although most news operations seem more concerned with transparency as it relates to our clothing at airport scanners these days, the White House is taking fire anew over the President’s campaign pledge to strip-search healthcare negotiations in full view of the public. There may be good, reasonable answers to these questions, but what the White House gave us yesterday isn’t it.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was pressed on the issue of Health Care transparency yesterday, spurred by a letter from C-SPAN which requested access to the upcoming process of reconciling the House and Senate bills. Here’s some of what Gibbs had to say:


Q Okay, just lastly, why can’t you answer the C-SPAN question –

MR. GIBBS: I did.

Q Well, you didn’t, because you said –

MR. GIBBS: I said I hadn’t seen the letter, which I haven’t –

Q Why do you need to see a letter? I mean, this is something the President said during the campaign and he talked about he wants everything open on C-SPAN –

MR. GIBBS: Dan asked me about the letter and I haven’t read the letter.

Q Well, I’ll just ask you about having it on C-SPAN –

MR. GIBBS: I answered Dan’s question and I answered this before we left for the break, Keith. The President’s number-one priority is getting the differences worked out, getting a bill to the House and the Senate. We’ve filled your newspaper and many others with the back-and-forth and the details of what’s in these bills. I don’t want to keep that from continuing to happen. I don’t think there’s anybody that would say that we haven’t had a thorough, robust, now spanning two calendar years’ debate on health care.

Q There are a lot of reasons not to do it on C-SPAN — people could showboat. Does he regret making that statement during the campaign?


This isn’t the first time this has come up, and Gibbs’ responses are pretty consistent. This White House, as even consummate skeptic Jake Tapper points out, has an excellent record of transparency relative to past administrations. This has been the White House’s drumbeat, that the Obama administration has been more transparent than any in our history. The release of the White House visitor logs and the almost real-time reporting of Recovery Act data are good examples of this, as well as some of the problems that can accompany this kind of openness.

Even on Health Care, the promise of openness has been partially fulfilled. Gibbs is quite correct that there has been an unprecedented level of public involvement in the debate. An extensive healthcare summit at the beginning of this process was a model of what the President had promised, engaging a wide variety of stakeholders in full view of C-Span’s cameras. Along the way, there has been copious coverage of various debates and votes in Congress.

But Gibbs’ responses yesterday failed to address the most important part of that pledge, the one that has gone unfulfilled. Secret negotiations like the one between the pharmaceutical lobby, the White House, and the Senate Finance Committee are the Obama pledge’s raison d’etre. Hours of debate and information are nice, but the real value of transparency is in keeping everyone honest. By meeting with insurance and pharmaceutical industry leaders in private, the administration has shielded the parties most in need of being kept honest, the ones most likely to poison the process.

In fact, the President even referenced the pharmaceutical lobby specifically when explaining the benefits of an open process:

If there had been television cameras at those negotiations with PhRMA, would that deal have ever been struck? Probably not, and that might be the tough answer that’s being left unsaid. If the administration felt that removing the pharmaceutical lobby as an obstacle was crucial to getting reform done, so much so that it outweighed their pledge for transparency, that would be an ugly truth, but a truth nonetheless.

We were promised transparency filet mignon to replace the bread and water of  previous administrations, and we’ve ended up with Domino’s Pizza. Granted, it’s the new and improved Domino’s, but still. The White House owes the American people a better explanation of the menu change.

Rush Limbaugh: ‘What Happened To Me Has No Resemblance To Obamacare’

Rush Limbaugh returned to the radio today, and he was back to form.

After first noting how many Democrats quit on the day he returned, he moved to his hospital visit – and how it was completely unlike Obamacare, despite what others have said.

Here’s how he started his show today: “Boy am I glad to be back! And folks have you noticed what happened my first day back? How many Democrats have now quit? How many democrats? Five or six! Five or six have said ‘no mas, no mas.’ And there will be more!”

He then went into detail about the circumstances that landed him in a Hawaii hospital, before turning his attention to the reaction to his “innocent little press conference.”

All of a sudden I have made a personal attack against Obam and the American health care system. It’s been funny here to watch and listen to the state-controlled media go through its contortions to first say I took a swipe, and then say I got tricked into supporting Obamacare because I praised the health care system in Hawaii.

He wanted listeners to know – he was most certainly not back-handedly endorsing Obamacare at all:

What happened to me, the health care system in Hawaii has no resemblance, zilch, zero nada, to Obamacare. There wasn’t one bureaucrat between me and the doctors. There wasn’t one insurance company. It was me dealing directly with the doctors. Me and my checkbook.

He also dropped this interesting line, without revealing exactly how much he paid: “it was 35% less than it would have been had I had insurance.”

Yep, Rush is back. Here’s some audio from his first day:

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Network Reporter Of The Decade (By Air Time): Andrea Mitchell

Which reporter logged the most minutes of air time during from 2000-2009?

The honor goes to Andrea Mitchell of NBC, according to the invaluable resource that is Andrew Tyndall’s TyndallReport.com. Here’s a full breakdown.

Michell currently serves as Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for NBC, as well as anchor of the 1pmET Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC. Tyndall reports she had 2,416 minutes of air time on the NBC Nightly News – an astonishing figure. Right behind are her colleagues Robert Bazell, with 2,328 and Pete Williams, with 2,280.

Here are the top 10:

NBC Andrea Mitchell Diplomatic 2416
NBC Robert Bazell Medicine 2328
NBC Pete Williams Justice 2280
CBS David Martin Pentagon 2096
NBC David Gregory White House 2082
NBC Lisa Myers Capitol/Investigative 2069
CBS Jim Axelrod White House 1960
NBC Jim Miklaszewski Pentagon 1829
NBC Anne Thompson Domestic/Environment 1758
CBS Anthony Mason Economy 1697

One thing this shows is NBC and CBS have kept their reporters on the beat for longer than ABC News and ABC World News, which has seen far more turnover (with Dan Harris coming in at #11).

When looking at the top stories of the decade on the evening newscasts, ABC comes up again. The #1 story by far covered by each network was the war in Iraq (invasion, combat all added together). CBS spent 2,329 minutes on the story, followed by NBC with 2,149 and ABC with 1,967. It’s hard to find which stories ABC made up the slightly less time it had covering the Iraq War story. They spent more time on Pres. Obama’s 2008 campaign, Tornadoes and TARP, but only very marginally.

Either way, it’s fun to look at – check out TyndallReport.com for more.

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Joan Rivers on Larry King: Air Travel A Nightmare, Airport Agent A “Moron”

On last night’s Larry King LiveJoan Rivers was not pleased about her treatment at a Costa Rican airport. Thanks to a mixup at the ticket counter, she was held back by airport security while her family flew home to the US.

Rivers wasn’t afraid to show her indignation: she called the agent who detained her a “moron idiot” and speculated that the woman was “premenstrual.”

An aside: “Joan Rivers A Security Threat?” would make a pretty enticing Chyron of the Day.

Here’s what happened, in a nutshell: Joan Rivers is, in fact, a stage name: her real name is Joan Rosenberg, and her American passport says “Joan Rosenberg, AKA Joan Rivers.” But the airport gave her a boarding pass which read “Joseph Rosenberg,” which got her past several rounds of security, but which got her held up at the last minute by an agent who was also apparently confused by the “AKA” designation: (transcript via CNN)

JOAN RIVERS: A wonderful vacation. We were told to get to the airport with a lot of time, because it was already after there was trouble. We did. Bring all kinds of identification, which we did. I was taken through four different checkpoints, all of which I was glad to do, took off my shoes, took off everything.

Then, at the last minute, some moron idiot decided, as we’re literally going onto the plane, and ripping your ticket, they didn’t understand why my passport had two names on it. And I was denied access to the plane.

KING: Has this ever happened to you flying before? RIVERS: Never. I’ve been all over, Larry, India, China, Nepal, Korea, you name it, Russia, never.

KING: What was the gate agent’s point of view, then? Was it a he or a she?

RIVERS: It was a woman. And I think she was premenstrual. And she was just in a terrible — she just wasn’t going to understand that I was flying under two names with my passport that the United States government says also known as, AKA.

At the end of the segment, a caller asked if Rivers was ashamed of calling a woman who was trying to do her job a “moron:” in as many words, Rivers said ‘no:’

“I was given a boarding pass with the wrong name on it. I went through five different security passes. And then a woman at the gate, who will not look at my passport, who will not call Continental, who will not call for help, who will not recheck into their records, says to me, you cannot go on? No, she is a moron. And I stand on that.”

Ann Coulter Is Worried About “Foreskin” And “Anus” Bombing

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter and the ACLU are teaming up to take on these new intrusive body scan machines at airports.

Obviously, they have very different angles on the story. Coulter has a few reasons, but most interestingly is her worry it won’t stop “foreskin” and “anus” bombing.

Last night on The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly and Coulter talked about the “most intrusive” new method the TSA has implemented to crack down on potential terror attacks. Coulter worries about the privacy issue (you know, she is sounding like the ACLU now). “Your naked body will show up on Page Six,” she tells O’Reilly. Also: “Females do object to this a lot more than males, particularly the ones with the better figures, worried about Bill Clinton signing up for a civil service job.” (Zing! Someone’s been moonlighting as a Jay Leno Show writer.)

But mainly, according to Coulter “it won’t do anything.” O’Reilly disagreed. “If you have a body scan and you have a bomb in your underwear, they can see the bomb through the body scan,” he said.

But Coulter countered, quite graphically:

It was spread throughout the diaper. Unless the bomb is inserted under the foreskin, and by the way, I don’t see a clear angle on the anus. That’s a pretty easy hiding place for this.

So Coulter has examined these body scan images, and, at this present time, she doesn’t “see a clear angle on the anus.” She has looked, though. And no clear angle yet. As for whether the body scan could have stopped the Christmas Day attempted terror attack, it sounds like O’Reilly is right. Coulter is wrong that explosives were “spread throughout the diaper.” Instead, it was a “six-inch packet of explosive powder sewn into the crotch of the underwear.” We know this because there are images of the packet still in the underwear, since it never ignited.

If Coulter thinks the body scan is too intrusive of a process, she has yet to give an alternate option. Obviously she would agree something must be done, but she gives no indication what that would be. Even if there is profiling, she makes the claim the body scan is ineffective. So what’s your next best option, Ann?

Here’s the Coulter interview:

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