Today is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in 1969, which gave birth to the Gay Rights Movement. In 1994, I produced a report on the 25th anniversary for "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour." It would be the only time in my career when I would experience censorship.
Manhattan was filled with homosexuals remembering and celebrating an historic moment. They put on a Gay Olympics, concerts and rallies around New York City and a celebration of love in Central Park.
I was working for Time Inc. New Media, which had a contract with the NewsHour to produce reports for the program. The video report I submitted looked at all the events of the weekend and was a comprehensive story on the state of gay rights in America at that time.
In one scene a winning athlete got a congratulatory kiss from his partner. Another sequence showed gay couples in the park doing what loving couples do all around the world - hugging, holding hands, resting their heads on their loved one's shoulder, brushing back their hair and kissing. It was a montage of expressions of affection.
The Executive Producer of the NewHour called me to his office across town to tell me to remove the kissing scenes, as they might offend the sensibilities of the older PBS news audience. I explained that both scenes were "normal" and central to the narrative. He disagreed. So, I compromised and said I would remove the congratulatory kiss, as not being completely germane to the athletic event, but that I would leave in the tender kiss at the love rally, as being completely appropriate. He agreed.
So, I re-cut and resubmitted the finished video report to the NewsHour.
But, when it aired, the NewsHour editors had, without my knowledge or consent, removed the kissing scene in the park. That meant that they had to extend the video to cover the narration that was under that part of the report. So, they slow-motioned all the park scenes to fill the gap in the video. What the audience saw was slowed-down video of all the tender moments, which made them look unnatural and unseemly, like they slow-mo criminals in their orange prison suits for the "perp walk."
Needless to say, I was outraged. I worked as a news producer for 20 years at ABC News and was one of the founding Senior Producers of Cable News Network. No one at either of those news organizations ever asked me to edit my report to satisfy the sensibilities of their audience. I found it disturbing that the so-called liberal powers-that-be at the NewsHour at the time would censor their own reports to satisfy the perceived prejudices of their audience.
To this day, it still bothers me.
Anyway, Frank Rich has a fine op-ed piece in today's New York Times remembering an event that most straight people never heard of to begin with. It's long past time to embrace human rights for all, all over the world. A kiss to everyone from me. Let your freak flags fly.