Kansas City just had a great AIDS Walk. The weather was perfect, the volunteers and steering committee had their “machine” in place with flawless execution, the Bar Natasha singers, Ron Megee, and others kept the crowd entertained. The speakers included the honorary chair, Mayor Kay Barnes. Gay Pride donated the use of tents and tables for organizations to exhibit and provide information to the walkers. And there were scores of walkers, more than 3,000, raising money, hopefully even more than last year.
What was wrong about the event? Nothing—except there was no press coverage. No television crews, no story in the metropolitan section of the Kansas City Star, not much anywhere. Yet the Star featured a story about the Earth Day festivities and walk in Shawnee Mission Park the same day as AIDS Walk. Next to that story and photo was another story about youth and all the activities they participated in over the weekend.
AIDS Walk was not included in the story about youth even though there are hundreds of teens who raise money from their schools for the event and walk. The Mosaic Project of tiles created by area schools alone had 16 schools and more than 500 tiles created to raise money. One volunteer at the registration booth remarked to me how impressed he was that one high school raised nearly $4,000. Another’s bag was so heavy with coins that it all added up to hundreds of dollars.
Was this not newsworthy? AIDS Walk was over by noon on Saturday, in plenty of time for television station evening broadcasts or the Kansas City Star’s Sunday edition.
Last year after the Gay Pride weekend we received an anonymous phone message at the Camp office from someone who was upset he lived far out in the suburbs, didn’t come in to Kansas City’s mid-town, and for that reason he missed the Gay Pride weekend since he didn’t know about it. His message was critical of the Gay Pride organization for not getting publicity in the Kansas City Star–his main source of information. In the Star’s defense, they did run a brief paragraph about Gay Pride in their Preview section for the upcoming weekend and credited Camp as their source, but if you blinked you missed it. It’s hard to believe the individual who called our office could not have found out about Gay Pride weekend through a Google search on the internet, or a few advance phone calls, or even volunteering to work with Gay Pride. But the point was made.
It’s not rocket science for a newsroom to cover AIDS Walk or Gay Pride. AIDS Walk is in its 18th year and has been held every April as long as I can remember. Gay Pride is held in June every year, the month that most cities celebrate Gay Pride. It’s not like either of these events were surprises to anyone.
We realize the mass media has lots to cover. There are countless festivals, fundraising walks. and other activities that local media cannot cover. But we’re starting to wonder whether the media is taking the LGBT demographic for granted. If there are nearly half a million people in the Kansas City metro area and nearly two million in the greater Kansas City metro of Kansas and Missouri, the LGBT community could represent perhaps 10% of those numbers. Even at a conservative 5% estimate, this represents a universe of 100,000 potential readers or viewers. What would happen if those readers cancelled their paid subscriptions or stopped watching a particular television station due to their lack of coverage?
It’s noticeable, too, that although Fred Phelps and his twisted following have been protesting LGBT events for years, no one covered it until the Phelps band of merry pranksters and children started their heinous practice of protesting at the funerals of military. Suddenly it was newsworthy.
Here’s the message we have to give to the major media in town. Don’t wait for some sensational story to consider something newsworthy. Just walk around the grounds of Theis Park at AIDS Walk and meet the walkers and fundraisers or the grounds of Liberty Memorial this coming June during Gay Pride to know there are many stories. Cover us.