GLAAD’s “Local Media Accountability Index – U.S. South” is Out Now

GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is today releasing its “Local Media Accountability Index – U.S. South,” a measurement and evaluation of LGBTQ and HIV coverage in local news outlets across nine Southern states.

GLAAD’s “Local Media Accountability Index – U.S. South” researched 181 local media outlets, both print and broadcast television, across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, over an 18-month period, June 2019 to December 2020. The evaluation period was designed to include coverage before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has heavily and disproportionately impacted LGBTQ people and LGBTQ people of color.

This new research is part of the Gilead COMPASS Initiative®, an unprecedented more than $100 million commitment over 10 years to support hundreds organizations working to address the HIV epidemic in the Southern United States. In its first four years, COMPASS has helped train over 13,000 people across the U.S. South to become better advocates, combating HIV stigma and educating communities across the region. COMPASS focuses on providing concentrated investments in the region to reduce HIV-related health disparities, build awareness, advance education, and reduce stigma. The Index is part of a $9 million multi-year grant to GLAAD designed to improve the quantity and quality of news coverage of LGBTQ issues and HIV as well as provide media preparation to hundreds of LGBTQ and HIV advocates in the Southern United States.

“Local media have a tremendous responsibility to represent all in their communities, and that must include LGBTQ people. As anti-LGBTQ legislation is on the rise and HIV continues to impact communities across the U.S. South, GLAAD’s Local Media Accountability Index shows significant under-reporting of LGBTQ stories, a lack of local LGBTQ voices in stories and limited coverage of issues like HIV. Fair and accurate news coverage can break HIV stigma and accelerate acceptance of LGBTQ lives. Our new report is a baseline count to partner with local Southern newsrooms to ensure more stories are told that include LGBTQ residents and organizations from across the region.”-Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President, and CEO

“HIV remains a public health crisis in the United States and it continues to disproportionately impact Black and LGBTQ+ communities, particularly in the U.S. South,” said Brett Pletcher, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and General Counsel, Gilead Sciences. “Stories to present facts and raise awareness about HIV while dismantling stigma are essential to helping end the epidemic in the region. Gilead is proud to partner with GLAAD and we hope this Media Accountability Index will help impact change within media outlets in the Southern United States.”

Key Findings:

  • 1,300 stories about or including LGBTQ people across all nine states
  • 39 outlets had no or negligible LGBTQ content in their reports; at least one outlet in every Southern state studied did not produce an LGBTQ-related story during the 18-month period
  • Mississippi had the most number of outlets (12) with zero LGBTQ coverage
  • Only 79 stories were produced that addressed HIV across a region that has the highest rates of new infections, deaths and includes an estimated 500,000 people living with HIV
  • Of the 79 HIV-related stories, only 27 were substantive, including any facts about latest science about prevention, treatment, and transmission, and how people with HIV are living long, healthy lives and, when on proper medications, cannot transmit

GLAAD also evaluated Southern local news coverage for basic reporting practices, and includes recommendations for improving coverage of LGBTQ people and issues:

  • Including LGBTQ voices and local LGBTQ people in stories
  • Reporting authentic names and pronouns of transgender people, avoiding misgendering and “deadnaming”– reporting the birthname a transgender person no longer uses
  • Covering HIV issues with facts about how HIV is preventable, survivable, treatable and when treated effectively becomes undetectable and untransmittable (U=U)
  • Avoiding false “balance” storytelling; factchecking anti-LGBTQ sources with objective data, including a history of anti-equality advocacy

GLAAD and COMPASS partners across the South are reaching out to newsrooms to discuss the findings and share best practices to improve coverage of LGBTQ stories and HIV, in the region where a majority of LGBTQ Americans live.

Read the full report here.

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