LGBT media watchdog group had strong presence in North Texas during 1990s, but local wing was shut down due to ‘egos,’ restructuring
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation took a major step toward re-establishing its Dallas chapter this week by creating a Dallas Leadership Council.
"We’ve very excited to add Dallas to our list of Leadership Council cities, joining New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, South Florida, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta," said Ben Fractenberg, southern media field strategist for GLAAD. "GLAAD’s Dallas Leadership Council will help build the strength and capacity of our work in Texas. Our local leaders on the ground in Dallas help ensure we are responding to and supporting the communications and media needs of the local LGBT community."
GLAAD had a strong presence in North Texas during the early to mid-1990s. Back then, volunteers held workshops with local media from editors to photographers. They aimed at filling the knowledge gap about the LGBT community and connecting journalists with expert sources on the subject.
They also would act as spokespeople if a local issue came up. That’s where William Waybourn, president of the national GLAAD chapter from 1995 to 1997, says the Dallas chapter went astray.
"I closed the GLAAD chapter there because Dallas had a couple of egos that really did not serve the purpose of the organization," he said. "It became more about promoting themselves than bettering the community."
Waybourn also says that GLAAD was making a shift at the time away from a local focus to a national focus in cities across the board.
"My goal as head of the organization was to bring some national structure to them," he said. "Prior to that, the chapters were autonomous. They could do what they wanted to do, and it didn’t always match with the goals of the organization."
Waybourn says the president today is trying to bring back more of the local focus because the needs of the community are changing.
"The media used to focus a lot on misinformation about the gay and lesbian community. Today, outlets are savvier about covering LGBT news. Now, you really need a local watchdog," he said.
GLAAD has tried to revive its Dallas presence several times in the last decade, but it never really took off.
Thomas DuBois, one of the co-chairs of the Dallas Leadership Council, feels this time will be different.
"I think in years past it may not have been the right time, or the right group of people. I think we’ll do fine this time," he said.
DuBois says the Leadership Council is already at work planning two major events for the fall and winter.
But for now, it is just focusing on getting the word out about GLAAD in Dallas.
"I think Dallas would be perfect for GLAAD because the GLBT community is so organized here. We can really play a major role in this national organization," he said.
GLAAD Dallas will hold a mixer at The Dallas Eagle on June 13 at 6 p.m. where interested persons can get more information on the organization.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 23, 2008.
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