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50 Most Influential LGBTs in Media
Donald Trump is in the White House, and Americans badly need a check on power. Maybe the media is more important than ever...
At the same time, LGBT people in media seem more influential than ever. That's why picking the top 50 most influential LGBT members of the media is so challenging. We've only done it one time before, in 2014.
First, we asked a lot of LGBT journalists who they'd pick. As we've done in the past, we left the meaning of "influential" open to interpretation. The responses seem to show that journalists value social media influence, same as everyone else does.
A few caveats about who is eligible for the list: Only those media figures who are publicly out are included. We're glad to say that includes more people this time around. And as much as we appreciate our colleagues in the LGBT news world, this list consists of reporters and editors who produce for mainstream outlets on largely non-LGBT beats.
1. Rachel Maddow — Host, MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show
Rachel Maddow defines MSNBC. And in July her show became the most watched in all of cable news because even when the Donald Trump drama piles up and buries the rest of cable news, progressive Americans rely on Maddow for some perspective.
2. Anderson Cooper — Host, CNN's Anderson Cooper 360
CNN's Anderson Cooper became the first out gay man ever to host a presidential debate because Americans trust him. Always objective, Cooper asks hard questions no matter whether he interviews Kellyanne Conway or is holding back tears at the Pulse tragedy.
3. Lydia Polgreen — Editor in Chief, HuffPost
Although it might not bear her last name, as the new editor in chief of HuffPost, Polgreen is a force for evolution at the first digital media enterprise to win a Pulitzer Prize. The once-pioneering news source is a stable and massive voice in liberal media, with Polgreen aggressively in the driver's seat.
4. Roxane Gay — Author, and Contributing Op-ed Writer, The New York Times
A contributing editor at Bluestem Press and the founder of Tiny Hardcore Press, Gay is a renowned professor and commentator and New York Times contributor with several fiction and nonfiction books to her name. Her latest memoir, Hunger, delves into the intersection of trauma and her varied identities.
5. Charles Blow — Columnist, The New York Times
The election of Donald Trump has only emboldened Charles Blow as a voice of "The Resistance." Whether it's because of his regular CNN appearances or his burgeoning social media influence, or just because he's so in sync with what's happening in progressive America, more people are listening now than ever before.
6. Robin Roberts — Anchor, ABC's Good Morning America
A beloved figure in American media, the Good Morning America anchor began her career in local sports journalism before becoming an ESPN sportscaster for 15 years. Having beat cancer twice, Roberts is also the host of the podcast Everybody's Got Something, in which she interviews celebrities and personalities in celebration of "resiliency."
7. Shepard Smith — Anchor, Fox News Channel’s Shepard Smith Reporting
Late last year, just before the election and as Fox News seemed in questionable stability, HuffPost wrote a profile asking, "Is Shep Smith the Future of Fox News?" His signature fast-paced report attracts lots of viewers -- but maybe our favorite things are the enough-is-enough moments when Smith sounds off on the news and goes viral.
8. Harvey Levin — Founder & Executive Producer, TMZ
You may have a hard time looking at Levin the same after he met with and vaguely defended Donald Trump back in March. Still, he lords over the gossip behemoth known as TMZ, breaking some of the biggest celebrity stories in the world, like Prince's untimely passing last year.
9. Don Lemon — Anchor, CNN Tonight With Don Lemon
While he didn't take the hand-off from Larry King directly, Don Lemon has emerged as the natural pick to convene our national conversation. Lemon speaks what's truly on his mind and insists his guests do the same.
10. Janet Mock — Columnist, Allure; Host of "Never Before With Janet Mock" Podcast
In a time when trans visibility is increasingly precious, the author, editor, and columnist is everywhere-- including The Washington Post, Glamour, Late Night With Seth Meyers, and The New York Times. As a voice for transgender rights, Mock has emerged as the go-to interview for mainstream media, and as someone who can withstand its missteps.
11. Saeed Jones — Executive Editor of Culture, BuzzFeed
As the executive editor of culture at BuzzFeed, Saeed Jones is a prominent voice in media. But Jones, a poet, is also not afraid to take the media to task. His Twitter account is a fearless megaphone that calls out bias at every level.
12. Dan Savage — Editorial Director, The Stranger
The bad news facing LGBT people is plentiful these days, and that means more of the mainstream media turning to Dan Savage, the cofounder of the It Gets Better Project. Always outspoken, and widely known for his sex column and speaking tour, Savage manages to be equal parts blunt and inspiring when those qualities are needed most.
13. Phillip Picardi — Digital Editorial Director, Teen Vogue & Allure
In an increasingly printless media landscape, Picardi's work as an editor has engaged a politically awakened youth. Teen Vogue's coverage has proved it can spark national controversy (which has meant raising its monthly viewership exponentially) and our TL on Twitter has never been the same.
14. Chris Geidner — Legal Editor, BuzzFeed
The rise of BuzzFeed as an important news source is because of the likes of reliably fast and accurate reporters like Chris Geidner. This legal expert knows his stuff, and Americans rely on his insight any time we're decoding a major ruling.
15. Ari Shapiro — Host, NPR’s All Things Considered
This velvet-voiced journalist somehow balances a successful singing career (both with the band Pink Martini and as a solo artist) with his role as cohost on National Public Radio's flagship news program, All Things Considered. The esteemed show has only had about a dozen hosts in its 40-year history, and Shapiro is one of them, reporting on the biggest stories of the day to a daily audience of 12 million.
16. Ira Madison III — Writer, The Daily Beast
If you've been on Twitter, you've seen Ira Madison III. In just a few characters, @Ira offers witty and cutting commentary on the day's trending cultural and political topics. He expands on his insights as a writer at The Daily Beast.
17. Dominic Holden — Civil Rights & Department of Justice Reporter, BuzzFeed
Holden's influence is a little under the radar, but civil rights activists are paying attention to his work. With his extensive coverage of the Trump administration and Washington, Holden has built a reputation for responsible and wise reporting.
18. Nate Silver — Editor in Chief, ESPN's FiveThirtyEight
The craziness of this latest election created havoc at all levels of political predicting, and Silver was no less affected by the Trump math. But don't say he didn't warn us: Silver faced heavy criticism for giving Trump a fighting chance in his models.
19. Frank Bruni — Columnist, The New York Times
Whether he's criticizing the president or our culture, Frank Bruni always adds a relatable perspective to big problems. And for a minute, he had everyone dreaming of a New York mayor named Hillary Clinton.
20. Masha Gessen — Author, Freelance Journalist
At a time when Vladimir Putin is conspiring and his biggest fan is the president of the United States, Masha Gessen's wisdom and foresight make headlines on theit own. Even before escaping Russia with her family, Gessen was a reliable check on the spread of authoritarianism.
21. Kara Swisher — Founder, Re/Code
A former Wall Street Journal tech reporter who helped found the popular site Re/Code, she was the subject of a New York magazine profile in 2015 aptly titled "Kara Swisher Is Silicon Valley's Most Feared and Well-Liked Journalist. How Does That Work?" Often called on by TV news as a tech expert, Swisher has also played herself on the HBO comedy Silicon Valley.
22. Andrew Sullivan — Contributing Editor, New York Magazine
The news is too politically savage for Andrew Sullivan to stay entirely on the sidelines. Sullivan might have shuttered The Daily Dish, and he's scant on social media, but he can't stop writing, and we're still reading, now at New York Magazine.
23. Choire Sicha — Style Section Editor, The New York Times
The freshly hired head of The New York Times' Style section couldn't have gotten the job if not so clearly influential. The cofounder of The Awl and Vox executive is a cultural powerhouse seeking not just to report but explain the news.
24. Jess Cagle — Editorial Director, People, Entertainment Weekly
When the country marvels at our culture, it's often Jess Cagle in charge of what we see. While no one can pick pop culture, Cagle reflects it as accurately as possible.
25. Matt Bellassai — Author
The BuzzFeed alum and media personality has blossomed as a comedy writer with multiple successful web series and a new podcast, Unhappy Hour, mixing wine and whining. Bellassai's millions of fans can expect more -- he's signed with CAA and has a book coming out in October.
26. Jonathan Capehart — Opinion Writer, The Washington Post
Capehart, who's also a podcaster and MSNBC contributor, offers intelligent, insightful commentary on a variety of political and social issues. His view is always worth considering, and when confronting opposition, he disagrees without being disagreeable.
27. Adam Moss — Editor-in-Chief, New York magazine
Longtime editor Adam Moss heads one of those magazines that Donald Trump loves to disparage. Meanwhile, the Moss team of journalists helped bring down Fox News personalities, and he was named Editor of the Year by AdWeek for election coverage.
28. Javier Morgado — Executive Producer, CNN’s New Day
As executive producer, Javier Morgado oversees CNN's entire morning lineup. In so doing, he's responsible for one of TV's most talked-about shows, New Day, and anchor teams, Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
29. Mo Rocca — Morning Correspondent, CBS Sunday Morning
The beloved satirist (and Daily Show alum) turned journalist is regular correspondent on CBS. He's profiled entertainment titans Amy Schumer and Chris Rock while keeping viewers hungry for more with his Cooking Channel gig as the host and creator of My Grandmother's Ravioli.
30. Glenn Greenwald — Co-Founding Editor, The Intercept
This Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist is also a fierce critic of the media. He moves the conversation forward while adding a hard dose of skepticism.
31. Richard Lawson — Columnist, Vanity Fair
When it comes to commentary on Hollywood, the effect of Richard Lawson outreaches Vanity Fair. His thoughts on film and television are spread by his more than 50,000 thoroughly entertained followers on Twitter.
32. Steve Kornacki — Host & Political Correspondent, MSNBC
During last year's presidential campaign, statistics wizard Kornacki kept us updated on all the polls and trends, and he was an unflappable, informative presence no matter what was happening. He's supposed to have a book on 1990s politics out this year.
33. Josh Barro — Senior Editor, Business Insider; Host, Left, Right & Center
Barro comments on politics and economics at Business Insider, and he's raising his profile as host of Left, Right & Center, the civilized political talk show that's a Friday staple on Los Angeles public radio station KCRW. The show recently expanded from a half-hour to an hour, and thanks to the internet, it reaches far beyond Southern California.
34. André Leon Talley — Contributing Editor, Vogue
When he was Vogue's editor-at-large, the 6-foot-6 Talley became a giant in the fashion industry. He's advised none other than former first lady (and style icon) Michelle Obama on which designers to endorse. And while he's criticized for praising the style and personality of Melania Trump, Talley told The New York Times that he's made the choice "not to be part of Trumpland."
35. Ina Fried — Chief Technology Correspondent, Axios
When launching a new brand looking to be influential among the world's most important people, it's no surprise to bring on tech journalism star Ina Fried. Axios' newest addition is also one of the few transgender voices anywhere in media.
36. Jose Antonio Vargas — Freelance Journalist
Whether it's with major profile pieces or via his MTV documentary, this Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist won't let issues of race go undiscussed. Now as the founder and CEO of Define American, a nonprofit media advocacy organization exploring citizenship, Vargas continues to add nuance to the increasingly heated conversation on immigration in America.
37. Jared Eng — Founder, Just Jared
Recoloring Perez Hilton's gossip column charm into millennial pink, Eng's take on celebrity photos and entertainment news attracts millions per month and distinguished him as a top blogger of a digital generation.
38. Pete Williams — Justice Correspondent, NBC
Back in 1991, Williams, then a spokesman for the Department of Defense, was outed in an Advocate story (the publication no longer engages in outing). Being out, however, has not hurt his career, as he's a well-regarded voice at NBC, where he covers the Supreme Court along with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.
39. B. Scott — Founder, LoveBScott.com
One of the highest-profile gender-nonconforming media figures, B. Scott is on top of the world's celebrity news as founder and curator of LoveBScott.com. With its founder's keen knowledge of the ways of the internet, it's no surprise the website counts millions of viewers and social media followers.
40. Michael Ausiello — Editor in Chief, TVLine.com
One of the country's foremost chroniclers of pop culture, Ausiello made a name for himself while writing for TV Guide beginning in 2000. He's since gone on to found TVLine.com, a go-to resource for breaking television news. (Some 1.2 million people think it's a good idea to follow Ausiello on Twitter to keep up.)
41. Thomas Roberts — Anchor, MSNBC
Always willing to amplify the voices of those who deserve it, Thomas Roberts is a reliable spokesman for equality no matter his role at MSNBC.
42. Adam Nagourney — Los Angeles Bureau Chief, The New York Times
The former chief political reporter for The New York Times, this veteran now runs the newspaper's Los Angeles bureau. He's had a lot to cover lately, with L.A. recently landing its third Summer Olympics and Southern California being the home of Resistance politicians like Maxine Waters, Adam Schiff, and Ted Lieu.
43. Michael Barbaro — Reporter, The New York Times; Host, The Daily
Michael Barbaro, as the host of The Daily, is the voice of your morning commute. The weekday podcast distills the flurry of the prior day's political headlines into a digestible format. And Barbaro, whether casually referencing his husband's French fluency or getting tearful at the plight of a coal miner, gives authentic soul to the "fake news" media.
44. LZ Granderson — Senior Writer, ESPN
Granderson is equally astute at politics and sports, and he's perhaps the most prominent openly gay sports journalist in the U.S. His fresh perspective on both topics is welcome, as is his refusal to be boxed in.
45. Ben Brantley — Chief Theater Critic, The New York Times
As he cut his teeth writing for The Village Voice, Vanity Fair, and TheNew Yorker beginning in the '70s, it's no exaggeration that, since stepping into his role as chief critic for The New York Times in 1996, Brantley has helped shape theater nationally for a generation.
46. Perez Hilton — Founder, PerezHilton.com
He's been celebrity blogging since 2005 and is still raking in the page views and dollars. Hilton, a.k.a. Mario Lavandeira, may not be as ubiquitous as he once was, but his empire is thriving. PerezHilton.com and its army of sister sites are still regularly juicy.
47. Jim Nelson — Editor in Chief, GQ
Jim Nelson's influence on our culture extends beyond the sartorial and the political (with Nelson as an outspoken Trump critic). Not many editors can say they've been portrayed on Gilmore Girls or any show.
48. Elvis Duran — Host, Elvis Duran and The Morning Show
Since 1996, Duran has been bringing hit music and pop-culture news to the masses on his hit radio program, Elvis Duran and the Morning Show. Duran, who came out on-air in 2010, was honored by GLAAD in 2016 and will join the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017.
49. Kyle Griffin — Producer, MSNBC’s The Last Word
If you want to keep up on what's happening in progressive politics, make life easier and follow Kyle Griffin on Twitter. More than 200,000 other people already have.
50. Gio Benitez — Correspondent, ABC News
The charismatic newscaster caught the eye of a huge following with his reporting for Good Morning America, World News Tonight, 20/20, and Nightline. Although he has no shortage of fans stalking his Instagram, they remain loyal for his investigative reporting that has garnered two television news Emmy Awards.