NLGJA logoThe National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) Board of Directors voted to establish a student chapter at the University of Oregon (UO) in February. The 19th student chapter to be established in the United States, the group is charged with accurately representing the LGBT community through the media and providing mentorship for its members.

NLGJA was established more than 25 years ago when Oakland Tribune Executive Editor Roy Aarons gathered a group of LGBT journalists in his San Francisco home to discuss the problems that LGBT news reporters faced in the media industry. Since then, NLGJA has stood as a platform and voice for all LGBT journalists.

“There are so many things that can impact an LGBTQ student’s life at UO,” said Bethany Howe, president of the NLGJA student chapter and a first-year doctoral student in the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC). “What they all have in common is the need and the right to find a university and a home that accepts them as whatever person they were born and/or choose to be. The NLGJA can be a major part of creating that. We’re full of people who do mass media for a living. If we can’t do it, who can?”

Howe hopes that one day, the school and university will become a place where all students can feel like themselves.

Students involved are excited to build the chapter up and get it started. “I hope that the NLGJA can grow our LGBT community here in Allen Hall, and I want them to know that they have resources available to them to assist them in the growth of their careers,” said Paige Harkless, a member of the chapter.

The UO NLGJA chapter has scheduled a number of events for the spring term, including:

  • May 4: The group will cohost a forum with the SOJC Diversity Committee to open up discussion about what it’s like to be a LGBTQ journalist
  • May 18: Graham Kislingbury, a contemporary of SOJC alum and Hall of Achievement member Randy Shilts, BS ’77, will visit and speak. Shilts wrote the best-selling “And the Band Plays On,” which brought the AIDS crisis out of the closet and into the American mainstream. Kislingbury, who was later an editor of the Albany Democrat, will be explaining the role Shilts’ book played in the history of the LGBTQ community, media and the AIDS crisis.

The new student chapter is dedicated to building membership and increasing visibility. To keep up with events and chapter activities, visit the NLGJA Oregon Student Chapter website.

Story by Nikki Kesaris