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FIRST-PERSON: Is it news just because the N.Y. Times says so?

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–“Today’s decision by the ‘New York Times’ is nothing less than a watershed moment in the pursuit of equality for the lesbian and gay community,” trumpets the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) on its website. What has GLAAD all giddy is The Times Aug. 18 declaration that it will begin reporting the “same-sex commitment ceremonies and some types of formal registration of gay and lesbian partnerships.”

That The New York Times is sympathetic to the homosexual movement in America is a revelation that ranks right up there with the “Pope is Catholic” and “the sun sets in the west.” In His book, “The Gospel According to The New York Times,” William Proctor points out The Times has taken the lead in championing the gay rights movement since the early 1970s.

Proctor, Harvard Law School alum with more than 70 nonfiction books to his credit, reveals that in the early 1980s The Times began the practice of referring to the living members in same-sex relationships as “companions” in its obituaries. Shortly thereafter, “the newspaper of record” started to employ the term “gay” as a synonym for homosexual.

A charge made by Proctor in his book is that The Times goes well beyond simply reporting “all the news that is fit to print,” and actually makes an overt attempt to sway public opinion. One way he says this is accomplished is by “skewed story selection.”

Proctor believes The Times reports on topics disproportionate to their actual newsworthiness in order to create the illusion that something is more important or relevant to a reader’s life than it actually is. That, Proctor claims, is precisely what The Times has done for years in respect to the gay rights movement.

To support his claim, Proctor did a search of story topics in The Times archive. Included in his search was how much attention the paper gave to homosexual issues. During a 365-day timeframe, from July 1998 through July 1999, Proctor found The Times ran 2,178 stories related to homosexuality (almost 6 articles/stories per issue). With exposure to so many stories with homosexual themes, the frequent Times reader might well conclude that gay rights issue dominates American discourse to the same degree as the economy or the weather.

Though The Times has been sympathetic to the gay rights movement, until now it has had a strict policy against reporting same-sex commitment ceremonies/registrations. So why all of a sudden the change of heart? Times executive editor Howell Raines explains in the Aug. 18 announcement, “In making this change, we acknowledge the newsworthiness of a growing and visible trend in society toward public celebrations of commitments by gay and lesbian couples….”

Homosexual celebrations of commitments and/or public registration of their relationships, while nothing new, hardly qualify as a trend. A trend by definition is the general direction something tends to move. Do some gays choose to celebrate their relationships with public ceremonies and/or registration? Yes. Are most gays gravitating towards relationships parallel to heterosexual marriage? No.

I live in one of the most homosexual-friendly regions of America. Domestic partner registration is a given on the West Coast, and yet the vast majority of gays have not bothered to file their relationship status. As a “trend,” homosexual commitment ceremonies and registrations are right up there with sword swallowing — nonexistent.

According to GLAAD’s website, The Times’ decision is a culmination of a yearlong discussion the organization has had with the paper. At a meeting held in July, GLAAD reports that Times “managing editor Gerald Boyd indicated to us that we had made compelling arguments about the need for the paper to reflect the growing and visible trend of same-sex unions.” Knowing GLAAD’s “discussion” history, I interpret Boyd’s response to mean “we are caving in to your threats to boycott our advertisers if we do not go along with your demands.”

The decision of The New York Times to begin reporting same-sex celebrations and/or registrations is a coup for homosexual activists. Expect many other major newspapers to follow suit. Once The Times breaks journalistic ground it is hard for other newspapers not to follow suit.

The Times decision to report same-sex unions not only blurs the distinction between heterosexual marriage and all other types of domestic partnership arrangements, but it is also a major step toward the push for the acceptance of homosexual marriage. Expect The Times to spot that emerging matrimonial “trend” and begin championing — ah, I mean reporting — it in the very near future. After all, it will be deemed as news that is fit to print.
Boggs, whose column appears in Baptist Press each week, is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs