Tucson’s KGUN-9 Gunning For Gays

Jim Burroway

February 2nd, 2007

I’ve gotten used to seeing a lot of hit pieces put out by Focus in the Family, the Family “Research” Council, Peter LaBarbara, Lou Shelton, and of course, Fred Phelps. When you go into those websites or read their publications, you pretty much know what to expect.

But when you turn on the local evening news, you don’t expect the see the same thing you find coming from the most homophobic organizations this fine country has to offer. Unless, of course, you happen to turn on the Channel 9 news, Tucson’s languishing third-place newscast here in Tucson.

KGUN-9's Jennifer WaddellThursday evening, our local ABC affiliate aired a lurid segment as part of its “KGUN-9 On Your Side” series, in which reporter Jennifer Waddell portrayed gay men as being on the prowl for sex in our parks. (You can see the video here.) In this report, Waddell and KGUN pull out all of the dangerous stereotypes of gay men in order to create fear and panic in the community — as well as to increase advertising rates for their shareholders.

Notice what is missing from the so-called “report”:

  • There’s no indication anywhere that local gays and lesbians also oppose this activity, especially those who are parents. They are completely left out of the picture. Instead, the entire community is represented on camera by a lone, unidentified and shadowy figure who admits to public sex and beating the rap. The viewer is left to assume that this is considered “normal” behavior for gay men in particular.
  • There’s no mention of the LGBT advisory board that has worked very closely with the City of Tucson and the police department to develop standard operating procedures for dealing with public sex and solicitation. This is clear evidence of local gays and lesbians taking a pro-active role in trying to address the issue. KGUN completely ignores this.
  • KGUN also completely ignores the fact that Wingspan, our LGBT community center, condemns public sex acts, and that Wingspan’s Anti-Violence Project has worked with the Tucson Police Department for more than five years to address park safety issues.
  • Whenever a local news outfit reports on a problem related to our sizable Mexican-American community, it’s standard practice to solicit comments from a local Mexican-American leader. The same is true for the African-American community or any other community in Tucson. But when Wingspan learned of this story and tried to contact Waddell to discuss possible solutions to the problem, they were completely rebuffed.
  • In fact, this entire piece is notable for its lack of substantiation and its lack of a proposal for a solution. Instead, it leaves the viewer with a sense of fear and loathing for gay men. I can only conclude that this was intentional.

GLAAD calls this piece, “little more than a sweeps-month stunt that abandons basic journalistic practices and ethics in favor of lurid tabloid sensationalism.” And as Wingspan notes, “the story likely left viewers fearful of public parks and suspicious of all gay men who happen to use the parks for legitimate social and recreational purposes.” This, of course, can lead to some dangerous consequences to gays and lesbians who enjoy the many jogging trails and other recreational facilities that our taxes paid for.

Tucson is a wonderfully affirming community for gays and lesbians. After the senseless murder of Richard Heakin more than thirty years ago, Tucson became one of the first cities in the nation to enact anti-discrimination measures for sexual orientation. Tucson also defeated the Arizona marriage amendment by the widest margin in the state. We’ve come a long was as a community, and I am very proud to be part of it.

And I am too proud of this community to remain silent while a “journalist” slanders us in spite of all of the contributions we have made to our city. That’s why I am asking for your help. I ask that you look at the video and call Jennifer Waddell at either her direct line (520-290-7719) or on her cell phone (520-260-6355), and tell her how hit pieces like this affect you and your community. (But please, be nicer to her than she was to us. This is important!)

And call or send an e-mail to station management. Here is the contact information:

Jennifer Waddell
Reporter, KGUN-9 News
Tel: (520) 290-7719
Cell: (520) 260-6355

Andrew Stewart
Vice President and General Manager, KGUN-9
Tel: (520) 290-7633
Fax: (520) 733-7080

Bill Berra
Vice President, News, Journal Broadcast Group
Tel: (414) 967-5319
Fax: (414) 967-5378

Ask them to remove the clip from their website, to apologize for the hit piece, and to air another “KGUN9 On Your Side” segment about the positive contributions of gays and lesbians in our community. I would certainly appreciate having KGUN9 on my side.

See Also:

Tucson’s KGUN-9: Will They Apologize to the LGBT Community?
KGUN-9’s Anti-Gay Newscast Out-Gunned
Tucson’s KGUN-9 Gunning For Gays

Wingspan’s Statement: “Wingspan Responds to Jennifer Waddell’s Sensationalistic Journalism”
GLAAD Statement: “GLAAD Urges Tucson ABC Affiliate to Address Defamatory News Coverage”

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