US State De­part­ment meets lo­cal Jour­nal­ists

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By An­gel­ica O’DonoghueHolder

On the heels of the re­cent anti-sodomy law strike-down in Belize, the US Em­bassy on Thurs­day en­gaged the lo­cal re­porters at a work­shop that in­cluded rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the U.S. State De­part­ment, the U.S. Em­bassy in Bridgetown, and Slate mag­a­zine. The half-day event saw only seven seated me­dia per­son­nel, most of them from the STAR. Other me­dia en­ti­ties popped in and out for photo ops and record­ings but did not to stick around.

Mark Stern, an award­win­ning jour­nal­ist at the USbased Slate mag­a­zine, spoke about his mag­a­zine’s cov­er­age of mat­ters re­lated to LGBTI is­sues, same-sex mar­riages and trans­gen­ders. He un­der­scored the need for sen­si­tiv­ity when re­port­ing is­sues af­fect­ing the LGBTI com­mu­nity.

Al­though same-sex mar­riage and sodomy are il­le­gal in Saint Lu­cia, the jour­nal­ist ex­plained that re­port­ing on the “an­ti­quated law” would nev­er­the­less re­quire some level of jour­nal­is­tic in­tegrity. Sev­eral words and ter­mi­nolo­gies, of­ten used in a col­lo­quial sense, he noted, might not have a place in the me­dia. “For ex­am­ple, in­stead of say­ing ‘sodomy’ or ‘bug­gery’, use the term ‘same­sex in­ti­macy’.”

Stern re­it­er­ated that some words are of­fen­sive to the LGBTI com­mu­nity, among them “she­male”, “dyke” and “tranny”.

Dis­tinc­tion within the LGBTI com­mu­nity was an­other fo­cal point of the work­shop. Stern ex­plained that al­though the LGBTI is a com­mu­nity, it is made up of sev­eral sex­ual mi­nori­ties. To un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence is im­por­tant when re­port­ing on is­sues af­fect­ing the mi­nor­ity groups. Trans­gen­der Iden­ti­fiers was an­other sec­tion to which the work­shop host made ref­er­ence.

It is the jour­nal­ist’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to re­frain from “per­pet­u­at­ing in­co­her­ent or mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion in re­gards to the LGBTI com­mu­nity,” Stern as­serted. Re­peat­ing un­crit­i­cally com­mon claims by op­po­nents of LGBTI rights should be avoided.

The ses­sion ended on a high note, with the me­dia spe­cial­ist from the U.S. Em­bassy, Aye­sha Lett, and Jeff Bar­rus, Deputy Pub­lic Af­fairs Of­fi­cer from the U.S. State De­part­ment, thank­ing the hand­ful of re­porters at the work­shop.

Be­fore head­ing out, the vis­i­tors met for a re­ward­ing hour-long ex­change with the STAR pub­lisher Rick Wayne at the news­pa­per’s head­quar­ters. He had not at­tended the work­shop but, in turn, he en­light­ened the vis­i­tors.

US State of­fi­cials and prize-win­ning Slate jour­nal­ist Mark Stern (back row, cen­tre) pose with lo­cal re­porters at Thurs­day’s work­shop.

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