Casual homophobia or editorial judgement?

Working in PR I’m used to working with all sorts of different publications and I’m sensitive to the needs of most in terms of the types of stories they like, the material they need to cover those stories or the attitude they are likely to take (for example, The Guardian are always negative about cosmetic surgery).

What I don’t expect to come across these days, however, is casual homophobia in editorial judgements being made by national newspapers.

A colleague recently put forward a male case study to one of the red tops for a big piece about the rise in male cosmetic procedures. His story was great, his pictures were very strong and the journalist was very excited to have secured such a strong case study.

The journalist asked if the case study had a girlfriend or wife but my colleague told him that the chap concerned was in a long-term relationship with another man. The journalist then let slip that if he didn’t have a wife or girlfriend then he would have to be described as single. Not gay and single – just single. When asked why, the journalist said the paper concerned didn’t like using the term ‘partner’ because it was too ambiguous.

The sexual orientation of the patient involved is completely irrelevant to the story but the fact that the paper wanted to mention him being in a relationship but only if it was with a woman, is appalling. Are gay men not allowed to have relationships in tabloid land? So how come George Michael and his new boyfriend are this week splashed all over the papers?

What underlies this is an assumption by the journalists and editors that their readers (who are all assumed to be straight, obviously) couldn’t relate or identify with a gay case study – they would rather just label him as single than identify him as gay by mentioning the gender of his partner – despite all the other case studies in the piece being asked about their partners thoughts about the procedures they had been through.

I’m now wondering – if I come across this situation again do I pull the case study out the paper and risk the client losing a major piece of coverage?

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Steve BustinAuthor: Steve Bustin (20 Posts)

I'm a media and communications trainer, working under the Vada Media and Medical Media Training brands, based in Brighton but working nationally and internationally.

You can also see my google+ profile here.