Tucson’s KGUN-9: Will They Apologize to the LGBT Community?

Jim Burroway

February 13th, 2007

KGUN-9's Jennifer WaddellApparently not. If anything, they’re digging in their heals and becoming even more obstinate. Last week, they aired an update in which they refused to correct the many deficiencies in their original hit piece against the local gay and lesbian community.

Two weeks ago I told you about a lurid segment our local ABC affiliate aired as part of its “KGUN-9 On Your Side” series. In that segment, KGUN-9 co-anchor Jennifer Waddell portrayed gay men as being major culprits in public sex acts in Tucson area parks. In this report, Waddell and KGUN-9 pulled out all of the dangerous stereotypes of gay men in order to create fear and panic in the community, and to cynically use Tucson’s gay and lesbian community as fodder in a failed attempt to increase advertising rates for their shareholders during sweeps week.

Wingspan and GLAAD put out a call to action, as did I on this web site. I also provided a detailed critique of what was missing from that hit piece. Now it looks like KGUN-9 may be starting to listen what you’ve had to say. Wingspan has just released this letter that they sent to KGUN-9’s general manager and Jennifer Waddell:

Dear Jennifer Waddell and Andrew Stewart:

I received your telephone call inviting me to come on the air to respond to your story.

Wingspan, along with organizations such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), offered to work with you prior to broadcasting the story to ensure fair and accurate representation of the LGBT community. We are disappointed that you refused to work with us in advance. We have clearly articulated our concerns about the piece, and we know you have heard from countless others in our community who share these concerns. It is now your responsibility to listen to these critiques and evaluate whether your newscast was appropriate and met your profession’s code of ethics, such as the Society of Professional Journalist’s standard to “avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.”

As for appearing on the air to respond to your story, the damage is done and cannot be corrected. The time to do so would have been before the story aired. A follow up broadcast will only draw more attention to a non-story and further strengthen the negative impact of your generalizations of the LGBT community. It is your responsibility, not ours, to assess the merits of the complaints you have received and offer a correction or apology if it is merited.

We welcome further discussions with you, and strongly encourage you and KGUN 9 to work with GLAAD to ensure future reporting is done in a more balanced and responsible way.

Kent Burbank, Executive Director
Wingspan (Southern Arizona’s LGBT Community Center)

[All emphases in the original.]

We need to keep up the pressure. Believe it or not, you’re making a difference. I want to especially thank “Matthew,” who wrote to KGUN-9 and quoted what I said about the piece: “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.” His comment made it on the air. Good going, Matthew!

All of you are really making a difference. According to The Tucson Weekly, your pressure is being felt. So now’s the time to keep it up. Please call or send an e-mail to station management. Here is the contact information once again:

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

The original clip is no longer on the website. It looks like it may have simply “aged out.” But they still owe us an apology for the hit piece. And to correct the blatantly false impression they left with their viewers, they still need to air another “KGUN-9 On Your Side” segment about the positive contributions of gays and lesbians in our community. I would certainly appreciate having KGUN-9 on my side.

See Also:

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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