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How NOT to Write an Article

This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the other authors at this site.

Timothy Kincaid

April 22nd, 2008

out.jpg
If one were to write, say, an article about gay Republicans, one might think it smart to interview a living breathing gay Republican. With about a quarter of self-identified gay voters pulling the Republican lever, and with Log Cabin Republicans operating a full time office, these are hardly elusive folks hiding in the shadows.

Yet Charles Kaiser managed to write a piece for Out Magazine without input from a single gay Republican. An excerpt from Washington’s Gay War:

Welcome to gay Washington in the 21st century, where the gay Democrats are proud and out on the Hill and in the lobbying firms on K Street, while many gay Republicans still cower in the closet until they trip themselves up with off-color instant messages to teenage pages, or conduct unbecoming to a United States senator in an airport bathroom.

It really doesn’t improve much as it goes along. Kaiser’s imaginary Washington doesn’t contain Jim Kolbe or any of the many openly gay Republican staffers. Nor does it have any of the many Democrats who are closeted. Riddled with ancient anecdotes and wild assumptions, it has about as much resemblance to “gay Washington in the 21st century” as it does to Narnia. Washington Blade’s Chris Crane perhaps said it best:

The result was a 2,800-word, one-sided hack job that failed to report even one single new fact.

I doubt that Kaiser set out with the intent of maligning a huge chunk of the community. I suspect he is simply a victim of his own limited experiences. Not knowing gay Republicans, he cannot fathom why such a creature would exist. So his article included the opinions of “people like us”, not those oddities.

And in the process he embarrassed himself and his magazine.

But Kaiser’s article can provide a lesson to us all. I have been guilty of writing from the perspective of ignorance and misunderstanding. We have all made assumptions about the motivations and intentions of others, especially those who we perceive as anti-gay, and in the process painted wide swathes of people with the same brush.

I like to believe that at Box Turtle Bulletin we try to avoid presumptions and stereotypes to the best of our abilities. But this incident has served for me as a reminder that care should be taken to avoid making broad declarations about those with whom I am not familiar.

Comments

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Jim Randell
April 22nd, 2008 | LINK

When the Republicans start respecting me, I will consider respecting them (anecdotal evidence does not count).
Gay Republicans are like Ex-Gays, its some weird kind of denial/self-hate thing.

NancyP
April 22nd, 2008 | LINK

What’s “out”? Does the staffer have a picture of his (and I mean his) male lover on his desk, and a rainbow sticker proclaiming that this is “safe space”? Is the staffer out to his boss, his coworkers, the constituents that walk in the door wanting tickets to see the Senate or the White House, non-gay members of the Administration, headhunters from other party members or organizations…. Or is “out” just out to other gay staffers, and reliance on the code at the local gay bars and other gay venues?

It’s hard for me to believe that most Republicans (and many Democrats) in higher elected office are happy to have staff that show their gay self to the public in DC or at home.

Timothy Kincaid
April 22nd, 2008 | LINK

Nancy,

It is actually quite surprising how many conservative Republicans have openly gay staff members. The legislator knows, all of the DC politicos know, often times it has even been carried in news stories.

Some folks say these staffers are selling out; others say that they are making a difference when and where they can.

Now it would have been an interesting article if Kaiser had approached his story from the angle of finding out why these guys and gals are doing what they do. This could have been a chance to debate the merits of working within the system v. standing up for ones integrity… but sadly, he didn’t bother.

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