By: Mark Fitzgerald
For gay journalists, diversity means being able to care for a loved one sp.
JIM HOPKINS LEARNED what gay rights in the newsroom really mean during a particularly awful period in his life.
He had just moved 1,500 miles to start a new job as business editor of the Idaho Statesman in Boise and was putting in 12 to 14 hours a day.
At dinner time every one of those days, something lay heavy on his heart.
“The man in my house with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life was dying,” Hopkins said. “And I wanted to be able to change my hours so I could go home earlier to feed him. Because he couldn’t feed himself.”
But Hopkins dreaded asking his editors for the schedule change.
“I didn’t feel I could tell my employer. I would lose my job. I didn’t know how they would react,” Hopkins said.
“He was dying of AIDS and as a result my sexuality was revealed,” Hopkins said.
“I would have been perfectly content not to address this issue at all. I’m a very private person. I’m not interested in going into the newsroom and talking about my sexual exploits,” he said.
“But circumstances forced my hand. He was going to die in a few weeks and I felt I had to prepare my editors for the time I would be taking off,” Hopkins said.
When he finally did raise the issue, editors at the Gannett Co.-owned Statesman were “very supportive,” he recalled.
“But the critical thing was, I didn’t know that. There were no guarantees,” Hopkins added.
That’s why gay rights in the newsroom should not be distorted into a question about sexuality, Hopkins told a session about the tensions between gay and racial minority journalists at the recent Unity ’94 conference.
“The issue wasn’t that I was a white guy wanting to talk about sex,” said Hopkins, who is now special projects editor for the paper.
“I was trying to raise enough money to support two men. This was a bread-and-butter issue for me.”