by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
The 27th Annual GLAAD Media Awards ceremonies will be held in Los Angeles on April 2 at The Beverly Hilton, and in New York on May 14 at the Waldorf Astoria New York.
Among the nominees are Academy Award nominees Carol and The Danish Girl; Golden Globe nominee Grandma; Film Independent Spirit Award nominees Appropriate Behavior and Tangerine; FOX's hit drama 'Empire' and Netflix's 'Sense8,' 'Master of None,' 'Orange Is the New Black,' and 'Grace and Frankie'; Amazon's 'Transparent'; HBO's 'Bessie' and 'Looking'; Logo's 'Banana' and 'Cucumber'; ABC's '20/20' for its Diane Sawyer interview with Caitlyn Jenner; and musicians Troye Sivan, Adam Lambert, Miley Cyrus, Le1f and Brandi Carlile.
It is important to note that for the first time more than 50 percent of the nominations are Trans-inclusive.
Some of the magazines and newspapers receiving nods include Essence, The Advocate, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Time, Variety and The New York Times.
However, for the first time in five years, GLAAD has eliminated the Outstanding Blog Award and their decision has ruffled the feathers of some of the nation's most influential independent LGBT bloggers.
Bil Browning, one half of the creators behind the influential LGBT blog Bilerico Project (now Bilerico Report on LGBTQ Nation), helped lead the charge five years ago to influence GLAAD to create the Outstanding Blog Award. The award was established after numerous complaints that the media watchdog favored large commercial enterprises over independent activist media.
Today, LGBT bloggers and journalists are in open revolt over GLAAD's decision to eliminate the Outstanding Blog award and Browning says 'it's particularly painful to see the organization sliding back into their pro-corporate stance.'
'As a two time nominee for best blog (Bilerico Project), I've always kept a wary eye on the award because, while they established the category, they never gave the award out on stage,' he said in a February 11 blog post at Bilerico Report.
According to Browning, GLAAD hosts three galas yearly to give out the awards but there was never room on stage for a blogger.
'GLAAD makes money hand over fist with those award ceremonies, but refused to help small bloggers making a minuscule amount of money for their daily efforts attend the event,' he continued. 'The group wouldn't even give the winners a complimentary ticket to pick up the award off stage. It's shameful.'
Browning does not find himself the lone wolf in this fight; several previous nominees and winners have joined together with editors and reporters from LGBT newspapers to protest the decision in an open letter published yesterday afternoon.
'As a signatory, it's my hope that GLAAD reverses their decision, reinstates the award, and honors the winner publicly,' he said. 'If you're an independent blogger who'd like to be added to the open letter, let us know in the comments section and we'll get you added.'
The letter reads:
'An Open Letter to GLAAD Regarding the 2016 Media Awards
We, the undersigned, respectfully but strongly disagree with your decision to remove the category of 'Outstanding Blog' from the GLAAD Awards and with your rationalization behind this decision.
LGBT blogs and independent media play a crucial role in relaying information, providing new and diverse voices, and bringing attention to LGBT issues that have been overlooked and omitted by the mainstream media. Bloggers are the last truly independent voices of lived LGBT experience, and those who undertake this task typically do so without pay or recognition. They don't grace the cover of magazines. They don't get book deals. They don't win Oscars. What they accomplish through their sacrifice of time and energy is the proper dissemination of information which serves to make our community stronger and better educated.
The 'Outstanding Blog' award bestowed by GLAAD was one of the few ways LGBT bloggers have been given their due. The idea that these voices will now have to compete with larger and more powerful news entities such as The New York Times, MSNBC and Buzzfeed is unfair and, frankly, humiliating. The elimination of the 'Outstanding Blog' category implies that unless one is a celebrity or affiliated with a publication with a high profile and finances to match, you are held without regard in the LGBT media landscape, or at least as GLAAD sees it.
It is sadly ironic that GLAAD, an organization which prides itself on lifting up positive LGBT portrayals, has rendered grassroots LGBT voices invisible and unworthy of recognition. While an initial statement from GLAAD explained that bloggers are still welcome to compete with national outlets in other journalism categories, a simple fact speaks for itself: among the 2016 award nominees, there is not a single blog (or community-based LGBT outlet, for that matter) to be found anywhere on the list. The crucial voice of first-person LGBT voices has simply disappeared from the GLAAD Awards. This is a troubling message to send to the general public, to up-and-coming LGBT writers, and to the LGBT community itself.
In the spirit of a community in which every voice is an asset in our march to full equality, we ask that the 'Outstanding Blog' category be fully reinstated immediately. Please conduct a nomination process at once so that this critical error might be rectified before your 2016 awards dinner. Also, announcing the winner of this category from the stage, unlike in year's past, would also be a nice touch.'
Bloggers from HuffPost Queer Voices, The Seattle Lesbian, PamSpalding.net, Unicorn Booty, ThinkProgress.org and more are among the independent blogs that have signed onto the letter.
Alvin McEwan of Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters says the GLAAD Media Awards should help to elevate new leaders, 'not push them away because of lack of notoriety or fame.'
'It's not just solely about visibility, but also acknowledging and cultivating new spokespeople and leaders,' McEwan said. 'And you can't do that by focusing specifically and only on prominent celebrities and national media.'
Mark King says that he was sincerely honored that his blog, My Fabulous Disease, was a 2015 Outstanding Blog nominee. 'Although I couldn't afford to attend the pricey event, I truly appreciated the fact GLAAD shined a spotlight on our work,' he said. 'By eliminating the category, so many writers sharing their experience - as Bisexual, as Transgender, as someone living with HIV - have disappeared from the recognition and visibility offered by the GLAAD awards.'
Browning points out that independent bloggers don't have the resources and cash that large corporations have but many of them, including Bilerico Project, led the charge on LGBT rights reporting in a way larger corporate sites can't.
Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend said, 'It's shameful, considering independent voices helped shape the political gains over the last decade.'
'We've reported from the streets, from the halls of power, and scooped larger media conglomerates,' he said. 'We've raised hell and influenced the scope of national and state policies and politics. And we deserve better.'
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