by Norm Kent
(Norm Kent is the publisher of Wilton Manors-based South Florida Gay News. This editorial was published in the June 26, 2019, issue of the newspaper, opposite a page that was blank except for the headline, “An SFGN Interview with Mayor Pete.”)
Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy for the Oval Office has exceeded national expectations. While garnering a massive amount of media attention, he has continued to rise in the polls and draw interest as he develops a viable candidacy.
Given the fact that he is a gay man, so too has our paper devoted a significant amount of editorial space to his presidential run. Twice, in fact, he has been on our front page.
It stands to reason that SFGN would want to do an interview with him leading into his first visit to South Florida. After all, we are not only the only LGBT newspaper in this region, we happen to be as large a gay weekly as there is in this country that Mr. Buttigieg wants to govern.
Now, I understand he has time constraints. I recognize he is busy. I accept the fact that his schedule is set in advance, and he perhaps had no time for a sit down interview this week.
“OK,” I said, “how about a phone in, while he is on his way here, from a plane, or train, or automobile.”
No time, his campaign said.
“OK,” I said, “how about if we text Mayor Pete some questions.”
Nope, “next time,” they said.
Now, here’s the thing.
They found time for the straight media. They found time for WTVJ. They even sent a press release to the South Florida Gay News inviting us to publish their interview with Channel 6.
You can’t make this up.
The Mayor Pete campaign is still young and growing in stature. Experienced leaders are joining their team, and they will get better. But the truth is, without beating it into the ground, they are remarkably foolish and painfully incompetent.
The gay candidate, energizing the gay American community, ought to be actively reaching out and empowering the free American gay press, not turning it away. The strategy Mayor Pete’s team is employing is one of utter and sheer stupidity.
The National American Gay Media Association consists of about a dozen papers and publishers from the major metropolitan venues in America. We represent the voices and visions of LGBT Americans from coast to coast, with papers in Boston and New York, Atlanta and South Florida, Dallas and Detroit, San Fran and LA.
|Mayor Pete Buttigieg
You get it. Pete does not. He has yet to reach out to us as a group. Astounding.
He should have probably had full-page ads in the Philadelphia Gay News, the Georgia Voice, Washington Blade, or even here. He has not. Consequently, I invite you to the adjacent page, where you will find a whole lot of white space. No, wait, let me not say that. Just say that I am running instead our complete interview with Mayor Pete. If you find his comments underwhelming, so do we. The Rhodes Scholar just could not fit us into his curriculum.
Nevertheless, Mayor Pete’s campaign found time to make it to Fort Lauderdale this past Monday to suck the gay community dry with a well-attended fundraiser at Revolution on East Broward Boulevard.
At least the place was once a gay bar, Backstreet, about 30 years ago. His campaign fit right in. The LGBT community was out in force.
Despite the journalistic slight, I felt obligated to cover this newsworthy event. Even nationally known drag queens at LIPS don’t draw this kind of a crowd on a weekday night.
I showed up.
I weaved my way toward the registration table, encountered the campaign co-coordinator, and said a few hellos. That’s when I discovered that I was not “on the list.”
“Whoops,” “they” said, “Our mistake; this event is closed to the press.”
But wait, “they” were the ones who invited me.
I mean, this was no easy ticket. You had to decrypt a web site and get a magic code telling you where to go. Talking to an AT&T representative in Indonesia was easier.
“Our mistake,” they said, “but all is well, you can come in. You just have to pay.”
How nice of them.
No, that was not going to happen. I was going to cover a news event, not write a check out for a candidate. I would go broke in a month paying to go to every Democratic candidate’s fundraiser. They are up to about 387 people fighting for the nomination, right?
Credible and credentialed newspapers cannot, must not, and do not pay for the privilege of covering political rallies or candidates. But they must have an absolute right to do so.
If it was a fundraiser, and not a press event, they were negligent in asking me to come. You don’t turn me away at the door when I arrive.
Moronic, unless you are looking for a story like this. But as I said, the campaign is young and learning, very polite, but maybe equally inept.
My intention in covering this fundraiser was to do a story on the wealth of support our community showed this candidate with our pocketbooks. It seems huge.
If Mayor Pete is milking his gay connection in LGBT communities, then he has an obligation to be more responsive to its free press. He failed here.
Still, I want to be fair with SFGN’s readers. You can read my story about the Mayor Pete rally on the blank page adjacent to this editorial. They earned the coverage I gave them. Every word of it.
If SFGN’s interview is not thorough enough, you can read about Mayor Pete in all the mainstream publications. He certainly has found time for them.
One day, down the road, Mayor Pete, mired in a debate about sewers in a South Bend city commission meeting, will wistfully recall how he came to South Florida on a summer day in 2019. He may remember how he spoke passionately about the principles and programs he wants to champion as America’s next president; how responsive the crowd was. He may.
But when Mayor Pete gazes down upon his iPhone to scroll it up, he won’t be able to read about that day on www.sfgn.com. He did not have time for us.