US State Department meets local Journalists
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.