Friday, July 13, 2007

Gay activists try their hand at blogging

From Washington Blade National News.

Late to the trend, groups seek unfiltered access to supporters

Friday, July 06, 2007

The nation’s leading gay rights activist groups are beginning to embrace blogging as a means of disseminating their messages in an unfiltered way. So far, their online efforts are garnering mixed reviews.

The Human Rights Campaign launched its blog, HRC Back Story, just last month.

“HRC can weigh in and comment on news that we might not necessarily issue a press release on but is just as important,” blogger Chris Johnson said.

HRC joins several other prominent gay groups in the blogosphere, including Immigration Equality, the Victory Fund, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. offers the organization’s real-time perspective on gay-related news. Instead of waiting for HRC to issue a press release, Johnson can offer a quick summary of the organization’s stance on an issue.

Pam Spaulding, who operates the popular Pam’s House Blend site, says these organizations are slow to realize the power of blogging.

“That they know they need to [start blogs] may have something to do with controlling messaging,” she said. “It’s hard to do that when you have free agents out there shaping opinion and stirring the pot.”

One of those pot-stirrers is Mike Rogers, the gay blogger behind, a site known for outing anti-gay politicians. Rogers said the HRC blog is a good thing.

“HRC Back Story links to things outside and puts information out there in a really positive way,” Rogers said. “Then, of course, they’re moving their message.”

Rogers said that HRC is getting news out as quickly as it can by taking advantage of the medium’s immediate delivery.

“They really want this information out there,” Rogers said.

But not all bloggers have been so kind to HRC. Earlier this year, commentator Andrew Sullivan, activist Michael Petrelis and former Washington Blade editor Chris Crain slammed HRC on its blogs over a range of issues, including failing to secure passage of federal gay rights legislation and inflating membership numbers. HRC’s response to the criticism only exacerbated the situation.

Johnson said HRC’s new blog will enable the organization to have a more immediate voice in such online debates.

“We really kind of looked at the blog as a way for us to weigh in on some of the conversations that people were having about issues that affect the GLBT community,” Johnson said.

HRC Back Story’s design is clean and simple. The blog posts run down the center of the main page and are organized into categories, such as “coming out” and “military.”

Johnson has been at HRC for six months and was hired as its director of public affairs and interactive communications. He was brought on board, he said, to oversee outreach to grassroots sources and to form relationships with gay political bloggers.

Engaging bloggers like Rogers with tailored messaging instead of press releases is one of Johnson’s duties.

When an organization like HRC launches a blog, there are certain things to be mindful of, Johnson said.

“We’re involved with pending legislation and things happening in state houses,” he said. “You encounter a greater amount of risks that comes from constantly putting information out there with a blog.”

Another advantage of having a blog, Johnson said, is the ability to “tell about another side of the organization that people may not immediately know about.”

Spaulding says gay organizations’ blogs are going to play a different role than the citizen activist sites.

“For obvious reasons, they aren’t going to be candid or inflammatory,” she said.

The organizations will be held accountable for everything written on the blogs, while independent voices who aren’t blogging under the banner of a big name have more freedom to state provocative opinions.

“One of the advantages that these blogs have is more access,” Spaulding said. “Also, people are being paid to do them.”

Rogers has joined Spaulding and about 25 other gay political activist bloggers to form, a site that encourages partnerships between organizations and bloggers.

When an organization launches an issue-oriented campaign, the gay politics blog ads community will be sent a notification from Rogers in case they want to blog about the topic at hand.

“Building this network to work closely with organizations helps bring blogs closer to them by helping to promote information,” he said.

Rogers said that a regular reader will then, instead of seeing an ad or a press release, see a blog post in conjunction with an ad.

When blogging backfires

Immigration Equality’s blog, at, like HRC Back Story, divides its posts into categories.

Blogging provides an outlet for instant and unedited news, which can sometimes backfire.

Immigration Equality caused a stir on June 8 when blogger and policy coordinator Adam Francoeur posted that Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign had agreed to meet with the organization “at the end of this month” to discuss her position on the Uniting American Families Act. It turned out that a formal policy meeting had not been set.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s blog, Frontlines, focuses entirely on the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Like the Immigration Equality blog, Frontlines allows user comments, which adds to a sense of community found within the activist blogs.

Other gay organizations, such as the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force ( offer blogs with news and commentary that are updated less frequently than many web users have come to expect.

The Victory Fund’s new blog, at, offers a handful of news updates during the day. Denis Dison, the organization’s vice president of communications, said the blog remains a “growing priority.”

Once the Victory Fund expands the blog, it will “focus on what LGBT leaders are doing, whether in politics, the movement or the media,” Dison said.

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