The Sexist

Are “Undercover Gay Reporters” Causing Media Bias in Gay Marriage Stories?


In her online "The Barras Report" column this week, Jonetta Rose Barras accused "undercover gay reporters" of undisclosed bias in their coverage of the D.C. same-sex marriage bill.

"Some opponents of same-sex marriage wonder why they couldn’t get coverage in the press similar to proponents," Barras wrote. "Stand4Marriage coalition members . . . have been cast as backward, homophobic, discriminatory crew."

Well this crew of forward-thinking non-homophobes need wonder no further! According to Barras, "undercover" gay reporters engaged in a gay media conspiracy to unfairly characterize people who oppose civil rights for gay people as homophobes.

Okay. But where's the proof? Who are these closeted gay saboteurs? Oh . . . "they know who they are":

Opponents believe they have received the raw deal in the media because the deck was stacked against them. Several of the individuals who reported on the legislation are themselves gay. None revealed their status in the gay community, which surely created in TBR’s mind a bias. TBR doesn’t want to out anyone. They know who they are.

So if you're a gay reporter who has failed to out yourself as gay in every story you write that concerns gay people, Barras thinks you're a "disgrace" to the profession:

Standard practice in journalism is for reporters to publicly announce, whether in print, on the radio, on television, on the Internet, when there is a conflict of interest. But not one of the reporters made such an announcement. And that is a disgrace.

If gay reporters are expected to publicly announce on television that they're gay whenever they're involved in reporting out a story that concerns gay marriage in D.C., I'd hope that Barras would pepper every absurd column she writes about undercover gay media conspiracies with unneccessary disclaimers concerning her sexual orientation, and any other possible conflict of interest. Here's what Barras' column would look like, with the necessary modifiers:

UNDERCOVER GAY REPORTERS [Full disclosure: TBR is not an undercover gay reporter, but then again, if she were, how would you know? The whole point of being an undercover gay reporter is that you don't tell people you're an undercover gay reporter!]; IS IT FAIR? Some opponents of same-sex marriage wonder why they couldn’t get coverage in the press similar to proponents [Full disclosure: the TBR story you are reading is published in "the press"].

The press [Full disclosure: Again, TBR constitutes a member of "the press," but will nevertheless excuse itself from the following judgment it has made on other members of "the press"] repeatedly referred to Rev Harry Jackson as an outsider come to the District to create trouble. Hundreds of District residents are involved in the movement. But few in the press made an effort to reach out into the city to discern what are the real concerns of opponents. Instead, Stand4Marriage coalition members, who continue to fight District officials on the marriage equality bill [Full disclosure: TBR has been married and divorced] even after the DC Council approved it last week (11-2) and after the mayor signed it into law, have been cast as backward, homophobic, discriminatory crew [Full disclosure: TBR was later accused of being homophobic itself in the comments section of this column].

Opponents believe they have received the raw deal in the media [Full disclosure: TBR is a member of the media] because the deck was stacked against them. Several of the individuals [Full disclosure: TBR is an individual] who reported on the legislation are themselves gay [Full disclosure: TBR is not gay]. None revealed their status in the gay community [Full disclosure: TBR has no status in the gay community], which surely created in TBR’s mind a bias. TBR doesn’t want to out anyone. They know who they are [Full disclosure: TBR is not a member of the closeted gay media conspiracy].

Standard practice in journalism is for reporters to publicly announce, whether in print, on the radio, on television, on the Internet, when there is a conflict of interest. [Full disclosure: TBR is disclosing something]. But not one of the reporters made such an announcement. And that is a disgrace.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Jill

    Jonetta should have disclosed that she beat the crap out of Emmy-Jo from the New Zoo Review in order to obtain her headband.

  • Kyle

    Isn't there research out there that shows lots of homophobes are closet cases, themselves? In that sense, I'm prepared to call this whole "undercover gay" thing a draw.

  • Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace

    Kudos to DC, and to CT where we just celebrated the one year anniversary of our marriage equality law on 11/12.

    Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace,
    Washington, Connecticut, USA.

  • Jason Cherkis

    Barras is the same reporter who wrote a book on Marion Barry alleging that he had affairs with men. I heart Barras but her op-ed is offensive and stupid.

    It would have been helped by actually pointing out bias in the coverage of the gay marriage bill.

    Which stories were unfair? Barras complains that the good Rev. Bishop was labeled an outsider. Well, he was an outsider!

  • FlexSF

    Why do the homophobic bigots sexualize everything. They're perverts. The reporters sexuality is none of their business!

    Conversely, let the term bigot, and the psychological dysfunction homophobia, fester in their ears until they're delivered from it!

  • Skipper

    Ever since she was fired from the Kojo Show, I've found Jonetta to be kinda desperate to call attention to herself. Most of her Examiner columns are pretty forgetable, although she does have some good ones, usually when she calls both sides in the Mayor-Council wars childish idiots.

    Her online column is usually a jumble of half-thought ideas and B Side interviews that weren't newsworthy enough to be published in the Examiner.

    I guess she's trying to represent the "old black" DC demographic that is rapidly shrinking. But her columns are usually more about personal ramblings, than well researched opinion.

  • PearlsBeforeSwine

    Actually, the gay community wonders why none our leaders have gotten puff pieces, like Harry Jackson and Brian Brown got. Talk about media bias. Of course, that might be because our leaders don't have press agents.

  • Krusty

    Too gay? Or not too gay? Only her hairdresser knows for sure. What was the catch phrase from that old Memorex commercial? "I'll nevuh tell!"

  • Willard Lake

    This has always been an "issue"..since the times of Roy Cohen and I am pretty much sure,Before his time.
    Thanx,...Thank You...

  • Pingback: “Undercover Gays” Tilting Coverage of Same-Sex Marriage in DC? « The NLGJA Blog

  • proballdc

    I agree with Skipper. Rose is quickly reaching her journalistic final chapter.

  • dcblackdaddy

    Rosetta "Stoned" Barras let freedom ring and shut the hell up or write provocative columns with some thought behind the writings. Who do you think you are you has been with stale motions you exhibit in the examiner?
    Were you divorced and could not keep your spouse, let the gays and straights be happy and get you some of that fruit of sex matter the origin. I confess I am straight heterosexual who loves the virgina fruit 3x a week.

  • Bob Witeck

    The Barras Report should be called the "embarrassing" report masked as journalism.

    It is embarrassing for someone who labels herself a journalist to simply smear and make a blanket charge against gay journalists covering marriage equality in Washington DC. This is simply a form of professional malpractice without any supporting evidence.

    This suggests that radio journalists or online journalists (whose identities we cannot visually observe) should reveal their race when covering racial conflict and topics; or that religious stories should require journalists to disclose their own beliefs and faith whenever they write or report.

    How about political affiliations, or all other personal traits or characteristics?

    Bias is an issue that all newsrooms deal with -- perceived and real. Editors and their reporters know and understand their human limits, and on a daily basis, must choose when and how and who should cover all stories to achieve fair, accurate and truly balanced coverage.

    To single out LGBT professionals as a class of biased journalists is contemptible. Her commentary discovers a media conspiracy where there is none, and instead, harms both individuals and the profession of journalism practiced in Washington DC that makes her opinions desperate, worthless and fact-free.

    I am equally embarrassed for the City Paper allowing this mindless smear agaisnt the professional reputations and skills of local and unnamed journalists.

  • Joe Schmoe

    Although I don't oppose gay marriage, I don't think using the term "homophobe" improves the public dialogue about the issue. That's like calling racists "negrophobes". Fear is a legitimate emotion; what these people do is hate. Call it what it is.


    When in doubt, create a conspiracy. LOL

  • Richard J. Rosendall

    Amen to Bob Witeck's remarks. I encountered Jonetta in Kojo Nnamdi's studio in 2007, and did not perceive hostility. But in the present case, her conspiracy mongering is gratuitous and redolent of double standards.

    Mr. Schmoe: Regardless of its origins or the meanings of its word parts, "homophobe" is commonly used to mean "anti-gay." I generally prefer just to say anti-gay, but I am not the language police.

    I frequently see people who are taking anti-gay positions deny being anti-gay. Indeed, their attitude is, how could anyone *possibly* think them anti-gay. I mean, what an outrageous charge to level at someone! Please. It is as if there is an entitlement to oppose gay people's rights while imposing a social etiquette that requires us to treat it as no different from an expression of taste in food or movies. Excuse me, but when you oppose my equal rights, even if you do so politely, you are doing me harm.

    What this boils down to is the people who support anti-gay discrimination try to portray themselves as the real victims when they are criticized for their positions. One prominent example is Marion Barry, who at legislative meetings on Dec. 1 and Dec. 15 suggested that his right to dissent somehow entitled him not to be criticized for it and made his critics totalitarians. Please. Insult me if you wish, but do not insult my intelligence.

    BTW, other than saying "Shame on you, Marion" after witnessing his shameful (if pathetic) demagoguery at one of Bishop Jackson's rallies last spring, I have spent little time worrying about Mr. Barry.

    If the opponents of same-sex marriage did not want the carpetbagging charge leveled, they should have resisted letting a carpetbagger lead their effort. Instead of victim-mongering, Jonetta might try refuting Peter Nickles's Dec. 18 brief in the marriage initiative case. But if she is truly concerned about fairness, how does it not bother her to see law-abiding, taxpaying D.C. citizens accused of being a threat to society just because they want legal recognition of their committed relationships?

    The evidence will show that gay people are more sinned against than sinning. Look up the AP video story on the Dec. 15 Council vote, and watch the bellicose remarks of Rev. Anthony Evans (for which I was present), then tell us with specifics who among the leaders of the pro-gay effort has done anything comparable? As Loose Lips noted yesterday, we have actually defended our adversaries' rights.

    I have been openly gay for three decades, but I respect those who have chosen to remain closeted (though I wish more and more of them would come out) because I know the prejudice and discrimination they can face. I do agree with Barney Frank that "People are entitled to privacy but not hypocrisy." Incidentally, is Jonetta really unaware that some closet cases are anti-gay? Can you say Larry Craig? If she is so concerned about the need for people to disclose their orientation when speaking or writing about the marriage issue, why doesn't she do some reporting on anti-gay closet cases? If she doesn't want to go there, fine, but then STFU. Pardon me, folks, but as Harvey Milk said, these are our lives we're fighting for.

  • Peter Rosenstein

    This column by Jonetta is really over the top and ridiculous and I have shared my feelings on this with her.

    I have asked her if she thinks that every straight reporter, like the ones I assume are straight who wrote that piece on Bishop Jackson in the Post, or that fawning column on the head of NOM, should have declared themselves straight and therefore we should assume they had a bias against the GLBT community.

    I agree with Bob Witeck that the concept of disclosing personal traits can lead to very dangerous ends. People having to disclose their race, religion, or any other known trait can lead to in the end to people believing that no one can rise above their own personal beliefs to report on anything. Can Democrats not report on the Health Reform Battle if they potentially need insurance coverage? Should reporters have been asked to disclose their religion when writing about what the Catholic Church's response to marriage equality is? Should religion be disclosed when a woman writes about abortion since it potentially impacts them and they could be biased? Should race be disclosed when reporters write about racism since it may impact them and they may be biased?

    I have always given reporters the benefit of the doubt that they are writing based on facts. Of course this has been proven wrong, but rarely based on a personal traits but rather usually based on poor reporting.

    In Jonetta's defense she is a columnist not a reporter. Columnists today seem to be able to say anything they like no matter how dispicable or untrue. While they have the right to do that I am not sure that newspapers should then publish them, but they seem too.

    Jonetta has often shown personal bias in her writing, but I have usually given her credit for general fairness. I wish she would do so to others.

  • Roger

    I'm going to ignore the absurd bias claims and just ask where are these pro-gay marriage stories? I haven't see one in the MSM.

    Particularly on TV, the "debate" over gay marriage is always framed as god vs. gays. I've seen and grand total of one story in the MSM which took on the actual issues facing gay couples such as inheritance rights, visitations rights and various other issues. And that was four years ago.

    Everything else is some preacher pitted against some guy from a gay organization you've never heard of. Stories? What stories?

  • The Soldier

    You are an idiot and you should kill yourself.