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Covering the first out gay prez candidate: Is it too much?

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Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and the first openly gay man to run for president of the United States, has received widespread media coverage for his historic campaign. But are LGBTQ media outlets giving him preferential treatment just because he’s gay?

Andrew Davis, publisher of Chicago’s Windy City Times, believes Buttigieg’s status as a gay candidate justifies “additional coverage in an LGBT publication,” yet notes the paper’s coverage of Buttigieg has been objective.

The Windy City Times published a May 21 story about the homelessness problem in South Bend: "The mayor has not pushed for anything that we see to help the homeless problem here in the community," said John Shafer, who heads and co-founded the South Bend-based nonprofit Michiana Five for the Homeless. "If nothing else, he's aggravated the problem, and the city just continues to harass the homeless.”

Frank Pizzoli, editor of The Central Voice in Pennsylvania, believes the large amount of coverage of Buttigieg is justified.

“With 24 Democratic Party presidential candidates, our coverage reflects who’s at the top of the list,” Pizzoli said. “Buttigieg is performing well.”

Buttigieg’s support from members of the LGBTQ community has also been discussed in the paper’s reporting. In the most recent issue of the newspaper, Pizzoli ran an articled headlined “Would you vote for Buttigieg because he’s gay?” 

In that article, “Three local, openly gay individuals who are involved in politics and who’ve met Buttigieg through The Victory Fund — two are elected officials and one is a Democratic Party officer on both the state and county level — were asked if they’d vote for him because he’s gay,” Pizzoli said. “With their responses, we also ran what Buttigieg himself said about ‘identity politics,’ in an articled headlined, “Identity politics ‘doesn’t get us very far.’”

Tammye Nash, managing editor of the Dallas Voice, agrees that the large amount of Buttigieg coverage in the LGBTQ press is warranted. “Obviously, Buttigieg’s candidacy is an historic moment for our community, and he is going to get attention in the LGBTQ press, and I do think it is possible — even likely — that he does have a bit of an advantage when it comes to getting attention in the LGBTQ media simply because he is the first openly LGBTQ candidate for president to be even remotely viable. And I think he deserves extra coverage from LGBTQ media because of all the ‘firsts’ he has and will accomplish.”

Nash also doesn’t feel other candidates will be cheated out of coverage due to Buttigieg’s special status. “I think most of the editors and publishers in our community media are professional enough to give fair coverage to other candidates as well — at least, other viable candidates,” she said. “I think there will certainly be lots of outlets at least doing comparison pieces, seeing how the LGBT-friendly candidates stack up against the LGBT candidate on LGBT issues.”

“We are working on interviews and profiles of as many of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates as we can,” added Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff. “We have so far interviewed and profiled Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, and featured them both on the Blade cover. Buttigieg is getting more coverage in the Blade by virtue of being gay but not preferential treatment. We have not endorsed him and have covered some of the South Bend controversies that he's faced.”