WOOD-TV asks reporters to tone down Pride Month coverage for conservative viewers ⋆
So far, Pride Month is off to a pretty bad start in Michigan. We’re only halfway through it and already all-Muslim City Council of Hamtramck voted unanimously to ban Pride flags from flying on city property, while someone swapped the books in the LGBTQ+ display at Ferndale’s public library with religious materials.
Now, we’ve learned that Grand Rapids TV station WOOD-TV has reportedly sent an internal memo instructing its editorial department to tone down its Pride Month coverage — so as not to upset its conservative viewers.
“We have already done a number of valuable stories about several Pride related events. But, we have also started to hear pushback from viewers who are not happy to see those Pride related stories,” WOOD-TV assistant news director Amy Fox wrote in the memo, first published Monday by the blogger FTVLive and reported on Wednesday by The Desk, which covers the broadcast journalism industry.
Fox added, “We know that West Michigan is a conservative area in many ways. We need to recognize that some stories related to LGBTQ issues are going to be controversial and polarizing in our community. While you personally may not agree with a certain position, people are entitled to their opinions and they are our viewers.”
In a follow-up, The Desk reported that according to sources, news director Stanton Tang said that Fox sent the memo at his behest.
We can only imagine the caps-lock emails WOOD-TV received about “groomers,” transgender athletes, Bud Light beer, or whatever the latest moral panic du jour the right-wing outrage machine is serving up.
In her memo, Fox asked the team to be more discerning about the newsworthiness of further Pride coverage. She also added this head-scratcher: “If we are covering pride events we need to consider how to make the story balanced and get both sides of the issue,” she wrote.
Drag queen Sabin performs during Motor City Pride on June 10, 2023. (Andrew Roth/)
What is the other side here, exactly? That LGBTQ+ people should not exist? During Pride Month? What is the other side of, say, Black History Month?
Unsurprisingly, the memo appears to have sparked an internal revolt. “This memo was met with immediate pushback from our newsroom. The guidance is not being followed,” WOOD-TV executive producer Luke Stier wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “The only two people involved in its creation have been removed from any discussions surrounding @WOODTV Pride coverage as our corporation conducts a thorough investigation.”
“It has been an awfully difficult week for our newsroom,” WOOD-TV producer Kyle McIlmurray also tweeted on Thursday. “The silver lining in this mess is that our staff is united in pushing back on this ridiculous and hurtful memo that was sent out.”
Metro Times reached out to WOOD-TV management for comment. After this story was published, parent company Nexstar’s executive vice present and chief communications officer Gary Weitman released a statement.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are among Nexstar’s core values,” Weitman said. “Our local TV stations are expected to cover and report the news of the day in an expansive and inclusive fashion, consistent with these values. We’re looking into the situation at WOOD-TV, as the communication regarding the station’s coverage of PRIDE month activities in the area is not consistent with Nexstar’s values, the way we cover the news, or the respect we have for our viewers. We will take appropriate action as necessary to address this situation, and apologize for offending members of the LGBTQ community and WOOD-TV’s viewers.”
Of course, sometimes, the customer isn’t always right — see the desperate attempt by Fox News to juice ratings by airing falsehoods about the 2020 election, resulting in that massive $787.5 million defamation lawsuit settlement with Dominion Voting Systems.
authored by Lee DeVito
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