Ally Agenda: An open letter to the mainstream media

By : Jamie Hyman
Comments: 2

JamieHymanHeadshottDear Mainstream Media,

Jan. 6, 2015 sure was a big day, wasn’t it?

LGBT couples across Florida finally won the right to marriage equality. Many of them chose to be a part of history, by participating in various mass, public weddings located throughout the state. Not only were these ceremonies moving, beautiful expressions of enduring, committed love, but they sure were great photo and video opportunities for Florida’s newspapers and television stations.

But you knew that, didn’t you? Because you were there. And so was Watermark.

This letter isn’t about questioning your right to be there—I realize that it is your responsibility to witness and report on historic events such as these. I’m glad you were there. Many of the happy couples are also activists who worked hard for their equality and deserved media recognition for their success.

I do, however, have a few suggestions for some of you on respectful, appropriate ways to conduct yourself when covering same-sex weddings.

To the gentleman from the television station with the giant camera: Yes, I realize you’re trying to get your shot and would like us to move. But guess what? I, a member of the local LGBT media, am also trying to get my shot. There is plenty of room for everyone, and your desperate need to try to part both other media and wedding guests like the Red Sea to ensure your own clear, unfettered shot was just never a battle you were going to win.

Not that you didn’t try.

You noisily interrupted the proceedings a number of times attempting to get friends and family members of loved ones out of your shot. My favorite was the couple standing directly in front of me. They were two women, whose daughter had the fortitude and fortune to procure a spot directly next to her moms—truly a front-row seat to what must have been one of the most meaningful and poignant moments in this family’s lives. The couple prepared to say their vows, and I held my breath as one of them reached out for their daughter, pulling her into the moment for a brief, emotional embrace before their commitment because officially recognized by state.

That was when you decided to send your young assistant up to ask the daughter to move out of the way so you could get a clear shot of the couple’s vows.

That really, really sucked.

How could you have avoided these problems, gentleman from the television station with the giant camera? I have some suggestions, the first two based on timing. You could have done as my photographer and I did and arrived early enough to stake out a spot with a good view. Or, you could have simply paused, allowed the moment between the mothers and daughter to happen, and then taken your shot.

Another idea is to adjust your priorities when making choices for what to film.

Perhaps the mother/daughter exchange might have made some nice footage, rather than the couples-only shot you had in mind? As I mentioned above, your job is to record and report history, and that means how it actually happens. The family really had that moment, that embrace, and you should have allowed it to proceed and filmed it as it unfolded. You should not have interfered.
To the woman from the television station with the cameraman and the camera with the blinding light on top:

I understand that your boss somewhere probably requested some commentary from you during the proceedings, no matter how inappropriate I find it to be to talk during a marriage ceremony, regardless the newsworthy circumstances.

But knowing this, did you really have to wait until the officiant called for a moment of silence, wherein the couples could quietly, privately exchange their vows to each other, to deliver said commentary? Was that really the only possible time you could have delivered your little monologue? They are loving couples making a lifelong commitment to each other. They aren’t animals at the zoo, caged for our education, observation and commentary.

Also, what was up with that line at the end? You described the ceremony and what was happening, and then apropos of nothing, tossed in a remark like, “Don’t worry, viewers—there’s security here should things get out of hand.” What things? The protesters were small in number, peaceful, and corralled to the side. What exactly did you think was going to happen? Consenting adults might love each other to death? This is not at all the crux of my issue with you, but it was such a weird line I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I heard it.

How could you have avoided your problems, woman from the television station with the cameraman and the camera with the blinding light on top? My first suggestion, addressing the weird security remark, is to simply think about what you are saying and the implications of the words.

My second suggestion is to shut your newshole during someone’s wedding vows. For the love of God. It’s hard to believe I actually need to advise a grown adult on this, but here we are.

Mainstream media, I’m glad you were there. Marriage equality is a huge issue that deserves mainstream coverage. I just ask that next time you consider issues of timing, context and the fact that your subjects are real people, making real and meaningful and hard-fought commitments, before you step in and interrupt to ensure you have the perfect shot.


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