All sides of gay marriage deserve attention

Media outlets, consumers need to be aware of all sides of an issue

Bast is a senior journalism major and News Editor of The Spectator. Bast can be reached at [email protected] or @Katie_Bast.

Story by Katie Bast, News Editor

In the last several days, Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic has been publishing a series of articles about one of the most contested issues of our generation: gay marriage. The series has sought out and included reactions and opinions from readers, including gay marriage opponents and proponents.

While the articles do a lot to shed light on the greater dysfunction of the gay marriage conversation, they also highlight what is wrong with the way we consume news in general.

Despite being labeled news sources, not every outlet offers both sides of an issue. This is what The Atlantic did last week. The author presented readers’ letters as a way to communicate views other than his own.

The first article featured a letter written by a 23-year-old gay marriage opponent. In it she explains clearly and thoughtfully why she doesn’t support it. Another article used pieces of a letter from someone who believes gay marriage opponents should be punished. Again, the letter is considerate and clearly communicates the writer’s views.

I think this is a much more effective and productive way of having these conversations. Neither letter seeks to change people’s opinions. The authors of the letters to the editor only want to have their voices heard. The gay marriage opponent in particular said in her piece that she feels her side of the argument often goes unheard.

What Friedersdorf did by juxtaposing these letters was offer readers of a single publication the chance to read passionate and reflective pieces from two sides of a contested issue.

Friedersdorf admits he doesn’t completely agree with every point outlined by either writer, but he presents them to his audience nonetheless. This is an example of responsible reporting on his part.

While gay marriage is certainly something that gets its fair share of coverage in the news, both the opponent and proponent who wrote to Friedersdorf wanted to make sure their side of the topic was better understood.

The authors of the letters to the editor deserve praise for offering their thoughts they way they did. If everyone had the presence of mind to calmly explain their side of an issue and was open-minded enough to listen to the other side, issues wouldn’t be so contested. Of course, issues would still have a few different opinions surrounding them, but the hatred for the other side that we so often see might be alleviated.

Media outlets aren’t the only ones to blame for media consumers only knowing one side of an issue. The problem lies with consumers themselves.

While it may be more convenient to visit only one news source, we should know that we likely won’t get the whole story that way.

It’s great that some media outlets offer more than one side of an issue, but readers still need to explore the other side, even if they disagree with it. Considering The Atlantic articles, I know there were parts of both that I disagreed with, but I feel I have a better understanding of the two sides and I’m more willing to listen to the other side than I was before.

With social media like Twitter and Facebook, it’s easier than ever to curate our own personalized news sources. Following a variety of news outlets and publications on Twitter is an easy way to get a quick look at different sides of an issue.

As media consumers, we need to make a habit of making sure we’re getting well-rounded coverage. Especially when it comes to issues that have strong opinions on both sides, which today is most things.

We can’t change how media is presented, but we can change how we consume it.