GLAAD Releases Guide for Media Covering Sochi Olympics

By Ran Aubrey Frazier

Originally published on Advocate.com January 30 2014 4:12 PM ET

A week before the opening ceremonies in Sochi, GLAAD has released a comprehensive resource guide for journalists covering the 2014 Olympics, hoping to encourage reporters to portray the impact of Russia's antigay laws and climate.

"It is critical that the media shine light not only on the anti-LGBT Russian policies, but on the real stories of the horrific persecution facing LGBT people and families in Russia," said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "These families cannot be kept invisible any longer."

In its Sochi Olympics Playbook, GLAAD provides media players with a guide for telling stories of LGBT athletes and spectators. Among its contents, the playbook contains a timeline with background information on Russia's ban on LGBT "propaganda," beginning in June when the nation's Parliament passed a law banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships" to minors. As the manual explains, the definition of propaganda under the law is vague and overbroad, and "could include speaking favorably about LGBT people [publicly], displaying a rainbow flag, holding hands with a same-sex partner, or even the simple act of coming out as LGBT."

Other materials in GLAAD's guide include an overview of Russia's anti-LGBT climate, highlighting the uptick in violence since the propaganda law passed last year, and a summary of LGBT advocacy by such celebrities as Madonna, Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez, and Elton John, and athletes like snowboarder Seth Wescott, runner Nick Symmonds, and speed skater Blake Skjellerup.

In its prescriptive section, the playbook outlines best practices for media coverage in order to bring personal stories of Russian LGBT people to the fore. It also notes pitfalls to avoid, such as speaking only to Russian officials about LGBT people, focusing only on the gay bar in Sochi to the exclusion of other gathering places, or intentionally omitting coverage of Russia's anti-LGBT laws altogether.  Lastly, the guide offers potential story ideas, leads to follow, and candidates to interview.

The guide is the first publication in GLAAD's new Global Voices program, which strives for global LGBT equality through transcultural sharing.

Contributor: 
Ran Aubrey Frazier