Lesbian Reporters Removed From 'Marriage' Story

Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:04pm EDT
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(CNSNews.com) - The San Francisco Chronicle has removed two journalists from the same-sex-marriage beat after the two women "married" each other.

Two homosexual advocacy groups expressed their "strong concern" over the reassignment of reporter Rachel Gordon and photographer Liz Mangelsdorf.

"The decision to remove these respected journalists from this story simply because they happen to be lesbians who exercised their legal right to marry each other is an insult not just to them, but to the entire LGBT Community," said Molly McKay of Marriage Equality California.

"This sets a dangerous precedent of singling out reporters as inherently 'biased' because of their sexual orientation or marital status," McKay said.

"Does the Chronicle prohibit Catholic reporters from writing about the sex scandal in the Church? Do they prohibit women from writing about sex discrimination? Do they prohibit Republican reporters from writing about President Bush or the Governor?" she asked.

Another group, Equality California, said it is concerned that removing lesbian reporters from the LGBT beat "will have a chilling effect on other LGBT reporters."

"In taking this step, the Chronicle is sending a message to reporters to stay in the closet about who they are and who they love," said Geoffrey Kors of Equality California.

"And if you are out and want to have your relationship recognized by marrying, as Rachel and Liz did, you had best hide it at work.

The groups said they have requested a meeting with San Francisco Chronicle management to discuss their concerns.

'Conflict of interest'

On Monday, March 15, the newspaper's Executive Vice President and Editor Phil Bronstein informed the Chronicle staff that Gordon and Mangelsdorf would be removed from stories involving same-sex marriage.

"The majority of editors involved in the story and in the discussions were in agreement on one aspect: that Chronicle journalists directly and personally involved in a major news story -- one in whose outcome they also have a personal stake -- should not also cover that story," Bronstein wrote in his memo to the staff.

"It is that notion alone -- being personally involved in such a specific way in the story one is covering -- that drove our decision that Rachel and Liz should no longer cover same-sex marriage," he was quoted as saying.

Gordon and Mangelsdorf reportedly told their editors beforehand about their wish to get married in mid-February at San Francisco City Hall, and their editors raised conflict-of-interest concerns at that time.

The couple eventually decided to take advantage of San Francisco's "civil disobedience."

In his memo to the staff, Bronstein said, "The issue here is most definitely not the integrity of the journalists themselves. In this case, we have complete confidence in Rachel and Liz as professionals, beyond question."

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