By Arnold Wayne Jones

Winning entry detailed bipolar gay man’s ordeal with religious group, ‘ex-gay’ therapy, and his road back home to his supportive family

Press Club of Dallas board member and SMU journalism chair Tony Pederson with John Wright at the 50th Katie Awards. – NAN COLTER

As Dallas Voice news editor John Wright sat in the audience of the Sixth Floor Museum, listening as the winners of the Katie Awards were read, his heart sank a little. When he heard "best column" awarded to someone other than himself, he considered leaving right then.

"I didn’t know about the large market/medium market newspaper distinction, so when they announced that ‘best column’ went to the Dallas Morning News, I figured I must have lost," he says.

He’s glad he stuck around. A few minutes later, Wright found himself on the podium, accepting a Katie Award — his first — from the Press Club of Dallas.

"I’m very happy. It’s gratifying. It’s not the first time I’ve won something, but it is the biggest in terms of prestige and just physical stature," he says, referring to the more-than-a-foot-tall statuette. "And it made the five-dollar sports jacket I bought for the ceremony from the Salvation Army a good investment."

Wright received the award for a column he wrote in last year’s Dec. 14 edition of Dallas Voice called "Purity sieges lead gay man into bipolar hell." In it, Wright examined how a local man had been exploited by anti-gay protesters.

In September 2007, Wright reported on Christian protesters along Cedar Springs. About a month later, Pat Robertson’s "700 Club" ran a piece on the protest "in which they interviewed this kid who said he was no longer gay. The natural thing was for me to track the guy down," Wright says.

He discovered that the report amounted to a sham. The young man’s parents told Wright their son suffered from bipolar affective disorder and had stopped taking his medication at the time of the report. They said their son was and always had been gay, and they were supportive of him.

The young man himself was unavailable for an interview for a week, so Wright turned this exposé into a personal story as part of his occasional The Wright Stuff series.

"Some stories just lend themselves to being addressed in a column better than in a news story," Wright says.

The Poynter Institute, which judged the entries, noted in its comments accompanying the award that "Wright blends traditional reporting with his point-of-view to reveal the story behind the story. He enlightened his audience while shedding light on the truth. He revealed himself to the audience without making the column about himself. Great blend of opinion and original fact-finding."

Wright majored in journalism at the University of Florida and has been a practicing journalist since 1998. Wright began working at Dallas Voice in March 2007; he was named news editor in June.

Other notable winners at this year’s awards include Dallas Voice content partner, which tied for best Web site and gay Dallas Morning News staffer Brooks Egerton for best investigative series or story in large-market newspapers.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 21, 2008.

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