Well, my good friend Adam lost that bet in a hurry. Adam and I were arguing, friendly-like, on Facebook the other day about whether the New York Times would ever cover the outing of GOP 100%-anti-gay Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) that went wild about a week ago online.
I said I could see the Times covering it as almost a human interest story – not necessarily outing Schock as gay, but rather reporting on all the scuttlebutt about whether Schock is gay.
Adam said no way, the Times would never do that.
John was right. Mostly.
It all began with the 7 gayest Instagram posts
It all began with a tongue-in-cheek post I put up two weeks ago titled, “The 7 gayest Aaron Schock Instagram posts of 2013.” The post got a ton of traffic, and helped to jump-start a long-simmering conversation about whether Aaron Schock simply comes across as awfully gay, or whether he actually is.
The next day, journalist Itay Hod writes a rather scathing blind-item on his Facebook page about a hypothetical congressman from Illinois and whether it’s truly inappropriate for the media to out him. Hod links to my Instagram piece at the bottom of his Facebook post.
After that, things pretty much go nuts for about a week, including the creation of a “Gay Aaron Schock” satire Twitter account:
Schock makes no comment, but does “fix” his Instagram account by locking it down and un-following gay Olympic diver Tom Daley, while a Twitter acquaintance of Schock, a gay “trainer” in DC, with a too-good-to-be-true name, and practically no Google footprint, makes private, then deletes, his Twitter account after his Twitter relationship with Schock becomes public.
Fast forward to today.
NYT kinda sorta outs Aaron Schock as gay
The NYT has written a story about Itay outing Schock. But the story doesn’t mention Schock by name. And before people jump on the Times, Itay’s Facebook post didn’t mention Schock either. It mentioned a “hypothetical… certain GOP congressman, let’s just say from Illinois.” And while it linked to my Instagram story, the fact that Itay didn’t name Schock likely means the Times felt they didn’t have to, and likely couldn’t.
But here’s the rub. The NYT story links to Itay’s Facebook post. Itay’s Facebook post links to my story about Aaron Schock, and the title of the story, with Aaron Schock’s name, and a photo of Schock, is at the bottom of Itay’s Facebook post. In addition, the NYT linked to Mike Signorile’s story titled, “Why I Hate ‘Outing’ and How It Lets Aaron Schock Off the Hook.” So you’d have to be pretty dumb to not figure out who the hypothetical GOP congressman is in today’s NYT story.
That is, unless you read the NYT print edition, then you’d have no idea, because there are no hyperlinks in print. Then again, the divide between print and online – political people used to want to be in print, being online was only second-best – may now be nonexistent, in terms of impact.
Media reportedly had witness to Schock being gay, refused to run story
And, one more odd thing. The Times, while refusing to mention Schock by name, including more details of Itay’s allegations against the hypothetical GOP Illinois congressman. Itay says the journalist who found hypo-congressman in the shower with another man was actually the roommate of the congressman’s shower-buddy. That journalist went to his boss to report that he had a story, and the boss shut him down:
Mr. Hod says, his friend told him something he hadn’t yet heard: that he’d actually witnessed his “roommate coming out of the shower” with the congressman.
Mr. Hod said he was initially incredulous. “I said, ‘How do you know it was him?’ ” Mr. Hod recounted during a phone interview from Los Angeles this week.
“And he said, ‘Trust me, I’ve done stories on him.’ I said, ‘You didn’t tell anyone?’ ” and he said: ‘I did. I told one of my superiors.’ ” Mr. Hod’s friend was apparently told: “You can’t out anyone. It’s a personal journey.”
Yes, Mary, it is news
So, the NYT just kinda sorta outed Aaron Schock. Or, rather, they outed the story of his outing, which, as I argued to my friend Adam, is news, at least when the public uproar gets this big. I got over one million views on my Schock stories in just a handful of days. And those were just my stories. That didn’t include Itay’s Facebook post, Mike Signorile’s stories, or all the other reporting, including the typical apologists who felt that Schock was being “bullied,” but who still, by writing about Schock being bullied, outed Schock anyway – or at least outed the possibility of Schock being gay – and managed to grab their share of some of the sure-fire Internet traffic surrounding the issue. Not that they weren’t perfectly aware of what they were doing.
I think the Times should have reported the story. Not that Schock is gay. But that the rumors about a very public figure – a sitting member of Congress – being gay, and the brouhaha surrounding those rumors, have reached a very public fever pitch. And whether you approve of those rumors or not, there’s an argument to be made that the hubbub is press-worthy. Especially when the public figure has a zero percent voting record on gay rights issues but may himself be gay.
Aaron Schock’s potential hypocrisy isn’t simply titillating. It’s news.