Southwest regional media manager leads workshops to enhance communication skills in Dallas, Austin
Coral Lopez of Los Angeles came to Texas this week to help demystify the media for the state’s GLBT leaders.
Lopez, Southwest regional manager for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, met with representatives of groups in Dallas and Austin to encourage more interaction with both the mainstream and gay media. She was scheduled to meet with representatives of the Resource Center of Dallas, Leadership Lambda, Cathedral of Hope, Youth First Texas, Valiente, Equality Texas, ALLGO and any other leaders she could contact during the visit.
“We’re definitely as regional media managers becoming more involved in grassroots work,” Lopez said in an interview Monday. “We’re really gearing up.”
The group underwent a transition when Joan Garry stepped down as executive director in June 2005 after eight years of leading the group, Lopez said.
GLAAD wants GLBT leaders to recognize how powerful the media can be, Lopez said. Many people working in GLBT nonprofit groups don’t trust the media because they are unfamiliar with how it works, she said. “I want to encourage them to work with the media,” Lopez said. “Many people have the idea reporters are out to get them. They really don’t feel like the media is going to work for them.”
In addition to meeting with several community representatives, Lopez was scheduled to conduct media training workshops in Dallas on Wednesday night and in Austin on Thursday night.
The media training workshops were being held in partnership with Equality Texas’ as the statewide group launched a campaign to educate Texans about gay and lesbian parenting.
With efforts already underway in 16 states to restrict or ban adoptions and foster care by gay and lesbian parents, the group’s leaders expect a similar effort in Texas during the 2007 session of the Texas Legislature.
The workshops are targeting gay and lesbian parents, adults who were raised by gay or lesbian parents and child welfare professionals to help them become effective speakers who can debunk the myths and bad science being used religious and political extremists, according a statement by Chuck Smith of Equality Texas.
“One of the most effective ways to counteract misinformation is by sharing real stories with the media,” Smith said.
Lopez said more ethnic minorities and people of faith need to be heard from to help reach out to minority and religious groups. There is a perception among many minority groups that only white people are gay, and many people view gay people as uninterested in religion, she said.
“As more gay people speak out as Christians we let people know church is not a foreign concept to the LGBT community,” Lopez said. “The broader anti-gay agenda makes it sound like gay people never saw a church.”
Lopez said communication through the media is vital to making gay people care about the issues and for gaining support from straight people. To effectively communicate through the media, GLBT leaders must understand how it works, she said.
“It is essential for people to learn more about the media,” Lopez said. “It cannot be an afterthought. It has to be part of the mission statement.”
Lopez said she hopes to help group leaders learn how to establish media contacts and prepare press releases and to do research for the groups. Her role will be similar to that of a publicist, she said. “It’s pro bono,” Lopez said. “Use me.”
The response in other parts of the country to GLAAD’s new initiative connecting local leaders to the media has has been good, Lopez said.
“The community is obviously hungry to learn more about the media,” Lopez said.
Lopez said she also fulfills GLAAD’s traditional role of monitoring the media and contacting reporters and editors when portrayals of GLBT people are biased or inaccurate.
To contact Lopez for more information or to report inaccurate or biased portrays in the media of GLBT people, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CIVIL RIGHTS AWARD WINNERS
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund recently presented Civil Rights Award to, from left, Dr. C. Cordell Adams, Sheila Bryant, Katrina Franklin and Terry Loftis. The awards were presented at the organization’s Civil Rights Dinner on Feb. 21.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, March 10, 2006.