NLGJA’s ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ journalists: Progress, challenges and a vision for the future


The DEI movement continues to face many challenges, including deep-seated fears, prejudices and unwarranted barriers. The LGBTQ+ community has experienced significant progress but remains diligent and proactive. Increasing positive coverage in news and media and more LGBTQ+ journalists in many newsrooms have been central to that effort.

Since its founding in 1990, NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists has been a driving force to ensure fair and accurate reporting of the LGBTQ+ community. It advocates for more LGBTQ+ journalists in news and media and creates educational opportunities to support the next generation of LGBTQ+ journalists. Today, it is the world’s largest organization for LGBTQ+ journalists and media professionals and has chapters throughout the United States.

According to Ken Miguel, president of the association, Roy Aarons, the founder, was the executive editor of The Oakland Tribune when he became the first editor to come out publicly. However, it wasn’t until the U.S. Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling that more editors, journalists and other media professionals also came out.

“The association has a Rapid Response Task Force to address quickly any coverage concerns reported by the public or our members. We’ve been hugely successful in reaching out to newsrooms. More conservative media with agenda-focused coverage isn’t as receptive, but we’ve had conversations with them about why words matter and why it’s important to be fair and accurate,” Miguel said.

The association regularly updates its Stylebook on LGBTQ+ Terminology to guide newsrooms and media in using the proper language and terminology when covering the LGBTQ+ community.

“We recently surveyed the association’s membership to identify our diversity. Improving our diversity numbers has been key to providing better representation so professionals from other news and media industry groups feel more comfortable with us. The survey also revealed that we over-indexed for representation of every minority group compared to the entire news and media industry,” Miguel said.

Left to right, Yvette Miley, NBCUniversal News Group executive vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion and head of NBCUAcademy, and Ken Miguel, NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists national board president, at the NLGJA 2024 Headlines & Headliners fundraising event. (Photo credit: Emma Bergman)

Miguel added the association’s growth can be attributed in part to greater visibility of on-air reporters, anchors and podcasters who openly identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. Another encouraging metric of member engagement is the 63% open rate of the association’s weekly newsletter, compared to an industry standard in the 30% to 40% range.

The significant growth in college chapters and student members also reflects the NLGJA’s success. The association annually selects 10 college students or recent graduates to participate in its CONNECT program. They receive a complimentary registration for the association’s national convention (September 2024) and all their travel and lodging expenses.

“Our CONNECT students work in the convention newsroom, covering events and reporting stories about LGBTQ+ issues. They can take all the content they created and use it as examples of their work during job searches. It’s a highly successful program. Those students tend to remain members, and many have advanced to leadership positions in newsrooms,” Miguel added.

NLGJA recognizes those leaders with several annual awards. Recently, Yvette Miley, NBCUniversal News Group executive vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion and head of NBCUAcademy, received the 2024 NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists Leadership Award.

A brighter day for Dawn

Dawn Ennis, a television news producer at Fox61/CW20 in Hartford, Connecticut, and a part-time journalism and media professor at the University of Hartford, received her 2022 GLAAD Media Award in the Outstanding Online Journalism Article category.

Since 1983, Dawn Ennis, a two-time Emmy winner, has forged a highly respected career as a journalist, editor, producer, executive producer and various other professional roles at The Daily Beast, NBC News, ABC News, many major television affiliates and publications. She also happens to be trans. As she is wont to say, “Being transgender is the fifth most interesting thing about me.”

The most difficult period of her career was in 2013 when she became the first declared transgender journalist on a U.S. network TV news program. One year later, despite her impeccable career, her employer, ABC News, fired her, although legally, they stated that she and ABC “parted ways.”

“They couldn’t say I was being fired because I’m trans but because of performance issues. Apparently, after 30 years as an award-winning journalist, I was suddenly unprofessional. I think that kind of malfeasance couldn’t happen today,” Ennis said.

Today, Ennis is a television news producer at Fox61/CW20 in Hartford, Connecticut, a TEGNA-owned station, and a part-time professor at the University of Hartford’s School of Communication and University Interdisciplinary Studies Department.

Madeline Ducharme, Slate Magazine's "What Next" producer, spoke at the 2023 NLGJA National Convention. (Photo credit: Becca Haydu)

“Tegna is a very LGBTQ+-friendly company. My boss came into the newsroom and never disclosed she was transgender. I, on the other hand, am infamous, because when your face appears on the front page of The New York Post, you don’t have much of a private life. I was willing to disclose right up front that I’m trans,” Ennis said.

Because of the earlier obstacles in her career, Ennis thinks the professional environment for all LGBTQ+ journalists is better than a decade ago. Trans journalists, especially non-binary and black trans journalists, still have difficulty finding employment in many parts of the country.

“When we have more people like my boss at Tegna who are out and trans, managing people and making decisions, I’ll feel better about the state of journalism today for trans journalists. It would be a sign of success, but we’re not there yet. If you are telling stories about our community and don't have more voices like me in your newsroom, you are not doing it justice,” Ennis commented.

Left to right, Zach Wichter, USA TODAY reporter and CONNECT mentor; Aaron Xuandi Wang, CONNECT '23 student; and Ileana Garnand, CONNECT '23 student, in a discussion group at the 2023 NLGJA National Convention. (Photo credit: Becca Haydu)

As a journalism, advertising, public relations, podcasting and media literacy professor, Ennis doesn’t hesitate to disclose who she is to her students. Although she is not teaching LGBTQ+ issues classes, the topic is discussed because it’s part of the media landscape.

“I’ve had students who came out to me, and I respect that. They see me as an ally. I’m very much accepted by my superiors, colleagues and students. I also teach a career prep class. My job is to help them with their career based on their experience and identity,” Ennis said.

Ennis received her master’s degree in communications from the University of Hartford on May 12, 2024. She received the 2022 GLAAD Media Award in the Outstanding Online Journalism Article category.

LGBTQ+ media and advertising are driving societal changes and ROI

Although mainstream media is still learning how to improve coverage of LGBTQ+ issues and hire more LGBTQ+ news and media professionals, LGBTQ+ media is experiencing rapid growth in readership and interest from major brand advertisers. Q.Digital ranks first in Comscore with the biggest audience and sells its entire ad inventory during the peak seasons.

Q.Digital’s network of five publications is online-only and includes LGBTQNation (news, opinion and politics), Queerty (culture and entertainment), GayCities (travel and adventure), INTO (perspective and voices), and Outsports (sports). Q.Digital is also an ad distribution partner with Pink News and Autostraddle, the leading site for lesbian and bisexual women.

Bil Browning, executive editor of Q.Digital and a former NLGJA board member

Bil Browning is the executive editor of Q.Digital and a former NLGJA board member. While the digital network’s focus is on serving the LGBTQ+ community, he also finds it satisfying that people outside the community read its content.

“There are people who want to understand and have questions driven by the religious right or Fox News, for example, and they are questioning what they hear. I think that is incredibly important for the queer community because these people are obtaining the news directly from the source,” Browning said.

Justin Garrett, chief revenue officer at Q.Digital and a 20-year veteran of LGBTQ+ digital advertising, said the backlash to Anheuser Busch, Target and other major brands has subsided for now. Ad sales for 2024 have been very solid, and more brands continue to advertise with Q.Digital.

“During the height of the backlash last year, the Alliance for Inclusive Multicultural Marketing (AIMM), part of the Association of National Advertisers, one of our partners, conducted a study with Edelman Trust and found that for every customer these brands gained by caving to the pressure of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, they lost two,” Garrett said.

Justin Garrett, chief revenue officer at Q.Digital

He added, “Research from Gallup and others indicate the LGBTQ+ community spends more on discretionary purchases, such as travel, technology, retail and automotive. I think that is one reason for continued investment in advertising because these brands understand that LGBTQ+ marketing just makes good business sense.”

Garrett and the entire Q.Digital ad team have become experts at guiding a brand story through the LGBTQ+ lens. It will create custom videos that feature authentic LGBTQ+ consumers, influencers and celebrities and achieve excellent engagement with the Q.Digital audience for advertisers.

“We’re currently working with three brands that don’t have LGBTQ+ creative, but they want to be active during Pride Month, so we’re building their display creative and video assets,” Garrett said.

With his many years in LGBTQ+ media, Browning has witnessed progress for LGBTQ+ journalists, but major media still struggles with whether these journalists can report on LGBTQ+ issues and still be objective journalists.

“This challenge has compelled many LGBTQ+ journalists to tell themselves that the only way they can be involved in making these changes is to declare themselves and then do the job,” Browning said.

Bob Sillick has held many senior positions and served a myriad of clients during his 47 years in marketing and advertising. He has been a freelance/contract content researcher, writer, editor and manager since 2010.  He can be reached at


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