WAYNESVILLE, Mo. – When Janell Jackson contacted a local newspaper for information on an upcoming Pride Luncheon at Ft. Leonard Wood, a U.S. Army base in southern Missouri, the response she received was instead the anti-gay opinions of the publisher.
The event in question is the June 30th luncheon where Command Sgt. Major. Teresa Duncan will speak about coming out after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Jackson, 24, had posted a query regarding the date of the event on the personal Facebook page of Darrell Maurina – a journalist and owner of Pulaski County Daily News, which focuses heavily on base activities.
She was no stranger to Maurina, having shadowed him as an 18-year-old student when he worked for the Daily Guide. But the response she received was quite unexpected:
“This is an event I do **NOT** want to promote or encourage, and one which I do not plan to attend unless some other media organizations also attend,” replied Maurina.
“I’ve already asked U.S. Army Fort Leonard Wood public affairs personnel to alert me if any other media plan to attend the event; I’ll cover it if I have to do so, but it’s not something to which I want to give attention if nobody else is doing so.”
Jackson, an out lesbian and the daughter of a retired U.S. Army service member, says she was taken aback.
“His reaction seemed very emotionally charged,” Jackson said. “It didn’t seem like him at all because he always came from a more fact-based reaction. He didn’t even address what I asked. It was kind of a shock that he made something big out of something that wasn’t even brought up.”
Jackson defended her community in the thread, which was followed by Maurina proclaiming in a new Facebook post: “Promoting ‘Gay Pride’ in Pulaski County: This isn’t San Francisco #PulaskiCountyMo #FortLeonardWood.”
“I don’t think the San Francisco comment was even appropriate,” said Jackson. “We’re everywhere. We’re not limited to any city where we’re out and proud. It wasn’t a fair comment. People are out everywhere and it was a very closed-minded response.”
Maurina’s Facebook page, which is public, has since erupted in a few viral threads where he colorfully defended his position. Still, the newspaperman maintains he meant no harm.
“This is another example highlighting our struggle for equal and fair treatment is far from over,” said A.J. Bockelman, Executive Director of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization. “We have seen historic movement in the last year since Windsor and yet a simple inquiry about a Pride Luncheon on Ft. Leonard Wood can evoke such a strong rebuke from a journalist. Paranoia, stigma and blatant discrimination are still present in rural Missouri.”
Pressed why it isn’t his job to cover events or topics that he doesn’t agree with, and Maurina counters, “it’s the new reality.”
“The modern view of media objectivity is a relatively new development,” Maurina explained.