USA TODAY College– April 12, 2017
Journalism students at the University of Texas-Austin are in the process of forming the first National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) chapter in the state of Texas.
NLGJA is a national organization made up of journalists, media professionals, educators and students who work for fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues. There are currently 13 regional chapters and seven student chapters, not including UT. Student chapters include Arizona State University – the first NLGJA student chapter in the United States, founded in 2010 – Columbia University, Indiana University, Northwestern University, University of Missouri, University of North Carolina– Chapel Hill and University of Oregon.
The idea to form a NLGJA chapter at UT began this semester with journalism junior Forrest Milburn. At the beginning of March, Milburn posted in a UT journalism Facebook group about reporting from several news outlets using incorrect terminology calling individuals “transgendered” or “transgenders” rather than correctly using “transgender” as an adjective. He suggested beginning a NLGJA chapter on campus to educate people on LGBT reporting and said several people commented on the post and messaged him that they were interested.
Milburn said there are currently about 15 members and officers have already been selected. He was chosen as president. UT NLGJA is an official UT organization but is waiting for the national NLGJA chapter vote to approve it. The vote is expected to happen April 21.
“As a gay person, I have a different perspective than a straight person covering certain issues,” Milburn said. “People covering LGBT issues are usually straight. Newsrooms do not look like what we’re covering, and if we don’t reflect our audience then the coverage will not be as good.”
UT NLGJA held its first meeting Tuesday night and has a co-hosted event planned for April 17, which will be a panel of professional reporters discussing the “bathroom bill” in Texas, in regards to what restrooms transgender people can or cannot use.
“UT is the best university to start a [NLGJA] chapter,” Milburn said. “We have a lot of minority journalism organizations.”
This year, journalists at UT also formed a chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and a chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association. The National Association of Black Journalists has been on the UT campus since 2011.
Milburn said he hopes to collaborate with the other journalism organizations on campus to help improve newsroom diversity.
In addition to being the founder and president of UT-NLGJA, Milburn is also the vice president for UT’s Society of Professional Journalists, the associate news editor for UT’s daily student newspaper, The Daily Texan, and a news intern for Austin’s local newspaper, The Austin American-Statesman.