Half full or half empty? How do you view life? And how do you look at your gay community?
It seems to me we spend an awful lot of time bitching about each other when we gather in small groups. And I must confess that I sometimes get sick of opening up newspapers and reading about yet another thing gone wrong in the world, in Vancouver, in the gay community.
It’s strange, sometimes, viewing the world through the eyes of a journalist.
Our careers are devoted to telling people about what is new this issue, rather than what has been around for a while. Often what’s new has problems, while what’s already there has proven itself over time-and we pay particular attention to problems. Our job is to critique, as well as to inform.
It’s a challenge to keep perspective. If 99 percent of something is going right, what do you suppose journalists give priority to reporting? That’s right, the other one percent. A friend once told me that journalism is a bad-karma generator in society. We look for what divides us, not what unites us. We seek out the wrongs perpetrated by people, and not so much the things they do right. If the story is “big” enough, we can cost people their jobs, their reputations, their happiness.
So, what’s the point?
That’s a fair question, and one that journalists need to reconsider on occasion. We belong to communities, as well as report on them. We need to remain fully human ourselves even as we report on others. That’s easier said than done, frankly.
I personally believe that each individual in the world does the best they can with the information they have available at the time. Give someone better information, and you’ll see better behaviour, I believe. Personally, I also tend to view the cup as half full, rather than half empty. And my friends know me as a teddy bear.
Yet, some of those who have been the focus of my journalism in Xtra West would probably reach for a much nastier animal. And fair enough: I’m here to do my job, not to make friends.
Journalists do what we do because we believe it makes for a better democracy. How so? Well, it keeps people in government and institutions sharp. If our elected and self-appointed leadership knows they’ll get bad press if they fuck up, they’re less likely to do so. This paper’s investigations into several not-for-profits, for example, have resulted in better-run organizations over the years. And our news reports and commentary have helped change legislation at the local, provincial and federal levels of government.
But there’s another dimension to this, especially for a newspaper serving its community as Xtra West aspires to do. We take the time, and the space, to bring attention to those who are doing great and good things in our community. Sure, our emphasis must be on breaking news and investigative pieces; but we also try to pause and applaud those in our community who make things happen. So, our DiverseCity section pays particular attention to up-and-coming local artists of all kinds, and we have our queer-hero profile in the News section.
We have so many people and groups contributing to make this one of North America’s best places to be gay. From sports participants to politicians, from youth activists to original artists, from drag kings to DJs-those who volunteer and participate add layers to the evolving gay fabric of Vancouver, BC and Canada.
Once a year, our community has a premiere opportunity to applaud their contributions. It’s a chance for us all to quit the bitching and say thanks.
Year after year those who turn out for the Community Achievement Awards-put on by Xtra West and sponsored by VanCity, CEP 2000, the Gay and Lesbian Business Association and Balthazar-tell us that it’s the best “feel-good” event of the gay calendar.
If you haven’t been to one, do yourself a huge favour: check it out this year. I hope to see you there. Celebrating our best and viewing the glass as half-full and getting fuller.
The awards are this Sun, Apr 18 at Balthazar Lounge, 1215 Bidwell St. Socializing begins at 3 pm, with the ceremony starting at 4 pm and hosted by Bill Richardson. There’ll be finger food and cabaret performances by Martina Griffiths, Devin, Rob Gray and Rainy City Gay Men’s Chorus. Tix are just $15 at Little Sister’s.
Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra.