It’s tough out there for an LGBT journalist — at least in college.
Maybe I’m exaggerating, but it’s easy to understand why LGBT media might be overlooked in a university journalism program. The curriculum often emphasizes national rather than community news. We’re taught from the beginning to be objective, leaving little room to acknowledge our LGBT identities in our reporting. Though some schools, like the University of California, Los Angeles, are home to LGBT-specific student publications, LGBT student media are pretty uncommon compared with general campus newspapers.
At Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., you can find opportunities in LGBT media if you know where to look. In most reporting classes, professors give you free rein to choose what stories you’ll cover, so it’s fairly simple to work LGBT-based reporting into class assignments. There’s a progressive publication on campus and an up-and-coming student chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. But still, Medill could do more.
That’s what a group of Medill students thought when we were given the opportunity to amplify our voices as LGBT journalists earlier this year. David Freedman, a Medill alumnus, made a generous donation to the journalism school and requested the money be used to encourage LGBT inclusion within the program. It was up to a few of us — mostly the leaders of NLGJA on campus — to decide how to use the funds.
After months of brainstorming, we devised a student journalism project that would feature stories of LGBT interest with an emphasis on the presidential election. Student reporters would apply for grants to pursue reporting projects across the country; copy editors and Web designers would prepare stories for publication on an original website.