4.14.11 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
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SteveBlanchardHeadshotThere are predators in our community. I’m not talking about the likes of those in that MSNBC series. I’m talking about the kinds of predators who wait for someone or something to get successful before they attempt to jump on board to benefit from others’ hard work. It’s especially hurtful when the hijacker is someone within your own community.

Readers of Watermark know me as the editor of this newspaper. I’m the guy in charge of the content, the cover and I’m also the one responsible for any errors that appear regardless of who’s byline is at the top of the article. It’s a job I take seriously and it’s a job I absolutely love.

But many others know me as the co-owner of two statewide singing competitions. I’m admittedly tone deaf, but for the last seven years I, along with my partner, have run contests that lead to a national competition in Nevada. What started out as a small, one night event with 15 singers seven years ago has morphed into two large four-day contests with a combined 500-plus singers performing for our panel of judges. It has allowed us to meet people from all walks of life who enjoy a shared passion music.

As with any contest, you have disgruntled contestants who just know they didn’t win because the thing is rigged or biased. That is all well and good. It comes with the territory.

But when someone tries to take advantage of something you’ve spent a lot of time and money to make successful, it can be disappointing and frustrating. I experienced just that the second weekend of April.

As we were preparing for our huge weekend in Tampa, a TV personality with a local independent station out of Lakeland and a DJ with a radio station devoted to LGBT Pride called me at the hotel. The person sounded familiar and she told me about the television station’s commitment to LGBT causes and talented individuals within our community. She wanted to highlight our successful enterprise. I told her we were not a gay contest by any means, but being the trusting person I am, I took her up on her offer and within two hours she and I were chatting about her plan to record clips for her show.

I recognized her from different Pride events. We chatted a bit about Watermark, but I told her this was about the competition, not about the newspaper. Her promises of airing our talented singers on television sounded like an amazing opportunity, so I allowed her and her videographer access to our competition and to our singers. She even interviewed us as the organizers of the event. Unfortunately, the trust I had in her was doomed by Day Two of the weekend.

Eventually I overheard her telling our contestants how she didn’t like our rules protecting our sponsors and that she would do what she wanted. It was the first time I’ve ever had to physically escort someone out of a building.

I consider myself a nice guy and I absolutely hate confrontation. But as a business owner, I had to do it to protect us and to protect our contestants.

Any organization will have people trying to take advantage of it. But what hurt the most was that she used my love of the LGBT community and my involvement with it to try to take advantage of the people who trusted me to ensure a safe, fun and fair weekend.

With so many outside groups battling LGBT causes and blocking equality, it’s important we all stick together. However, we’re not a united front and this is just another example of how we are stifling our own momentum by taking advantage of one another rather than working together.

I have no idea if the videos she recorded will ever make it on to her alleged late night show and part of me hopes they never do. But I have to take the experience gained from the situation and use it for future encounters.

Trust is a hard thing to rebuild and I’ve learned that predators come in all forms even from within your own community.

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