Steve Roberts: 'What's Missing Often in TV Newsrooms: There Are Plenty of Gays, There Are Very Few People of Faith'

June 30th, 2013 7:32 PM

Readers are advised to prepare themselves for a rare dose of sanity and reality on television.

On CNN's Reliable Sources Sunday, journalism professor Steve Roberts actually said, "What's missing often in TV newsrooms: there are plenty of gays, there are very few people of faith and very  few evangelical Christians who in their own beliefs would be against gay marriage. And this has always bothered me" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: I want to be clear about this. A little more than 20 years ago, many, or if not most gay journalists were in the closet, they were afraid to come out publicly. When one did, Jeffrey Smoltz (ph) of "The New York Times," it was an event. And he started covering AIDS.

Even four, five years ago, many television journalists who we now know are openly gay, felt it might damage their careers. So I'm glad that these people got a chance to talk about something so important to them,but if you put them on back-to-back-to-back, are you tilting the coverage, that's my question?

STEVE ROBERTS, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Yes. And this is another thing that this coverage reveals. What's missing often in TV newsrooms: there are plenty of gays, there are very few people of faith and very  few evangelical Christians who in their own beliefs would be against gay marriage. And this has always bothered me.

KURTZ: Just to clarify, you're not saying all people of faith are against same-sex marriage.

ROBERTS: No, no, not at all. But I'm saying that the, if you did a survey of any newsroom in Washington, the number of people of deep faith who oppose gay marriage would be minuscule. And, therefore, you wouldn't necessarily go into a newsroom and find the same kind of people that you would in terms of gays.

TERENCE SMITH, FORMER PBS REPORTER: But we're not supposed to measure journalists by their -- either their sexual orientation, their religion or their background. They're supposed to report the news, the developments and so forth. And there were two sides to this story and one was presented.

KURTZ: But what we always say -- what we in this business always say is, yes, most journalists lean left, particularly on social issues, not necessarily as much on political issues. But we can keep our opinions out of it. This seems to me to be a story in which we did not many of us, I do not want a blanket indictment here, did not keep our opinions out of it and sometimes it was subtle -- selection of headlines and images and the way in which the story was framed.

But even on FOX News, there wasn't a lot of people, as I mentioned at the top, denouncing these rulings, but they were saying that this could lead to, for example, federal government nationalizing the issue of marriage, taking it away from the states.

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATIONS: You know, I think it is new to have journalists who are openly gay and then to talk about how they felt about it. And I think, again, it's new and we are biased towards what's new.

But I agree with you, what's interesting about FOX is I think it's a reflection of the political calculation that the American people are more in favor of this and that someone who comes out against it in 2014 or 2016 is going to not be able to use this as a wedge issue. And I think the muted nature of some of the coverage was a recognition the public opinion has changed.

The other thing I wanted to say is years ago my students were telling me this was a civil rights issue, and I think it has been reframed as a civil rights issue. And, therefore, it is to be congratulated.

KURTZ: The speed with which the country has changed since Andrew Sullivan, who then at the New Republic in 1989 wrote a cover story in favor of same-sex marriage, nobody thought it was politically possible but that, of course, has changed the climate for all of us, and I think we all need to reflect that, and I'm glad there are many gay journalists who have come to prominence or feel free now to talk about their views.

But if you live in one of the states that doesn't allow gay marriage and if you passionately believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and this is offensive, you didn't see a lot of people sharing your views in the national media, I would say this week.

ROBERTS: That's part of -- I agree with Terry that we shouldn't follow our background or opinions in reporting, but it gives us a sensibility. It gives us a set of interest. That's why we want diversity in the newsroom, because we -- that's why we want women in the newsroom. That's why we want blacks in the newsroom. Not just a question of political correctness, because we can cover the world better if we have more diverse people.

And we don't have a lot of people of faith who would take the normal view -- would take the view that same-sex marriage is wrong. There's not a lot of people in newsrooms in Washington who follow that.

What an absolutely extraordinary discussion.

Imagine four left-of-center journalists agreeing that the media's coverage of last week's Supreme Court decisions concerning same-sex marriage was far too slanted towards those that support it and offered little from those that don't.


As for Roberts' comments about not enough people of faith in newsrooms, all I can say is WOW!

Makes you wonder if since this was Kurtz's last Reliable Sources before heading to Fox News if he was intentionally making a turn to the right in order to be more fair and balanced.

Stay tuned.