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COMMENTARY: How SDGLN covers politics, and who makes all our editorial decisions

Let me introduce myself to those who don’t know me, and briefly explain how San Diego Gay & Lesbian News works.

I am Editor in Chief of SDGLN. For 19 years prior to joining this online news source, I worked at two Top 40 newspapers in the United States, The San Diego Union-Tribune and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas.

At SDGLN, I make all editorial decisions on what gets published on our website. The buck stops with me.

Johnathan Hale is publisher of SDGLN and he makes all business and marketing decisions. And he is brilliant at his job, which is one of the key reasons why SDGLN, since its debut in October 2009, quickly became the top-read LGBT news source in San Diego.

As with any media, SDGLN has erected a huge wall to separate the editorial and business sides of the company. Not only that, but Hale and I do not even work in the same building.

Hale does not tell me what to publish and I do not tell Hale how to do his job.

We have exclusive job skills that we each do well, we have invaluable experience in the publishing field, and we make a good leadership team for SDGLN.

I bring this up because Kelly Davis, an associate editor at the alternative weekly San Diego CityBeat, is taking cheap shots at SDGLN this week. I reached out to her via email on Monday night, hoping to explain to her how SDGLN operates. Instead of carrying on a constructive dialogue with me, she immediately fired back an email full of (false) assumptions.

Davis apparently is deeply concerned that in our news story this week about the launch of San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio’s mayoral campaign, SDGLN did not disclose the fact that DeMaio has a personal relationship with our publisher.

It is no secret in our community that DeMaio and Hale are dating each other. It is no secret that DeMaio is a Republican and that Hale is an Independent. It is no secret that Hale is DeMaio’s biggest fan, and vice versa. That’s usually what happens when two people are in love.

When I joined SDGLN in February 2010, I made it very clear to Hale that I was concerned as a veteran journalist there may be a public perception among certain members of the LGBT community that SDGLN was simply another way to promote DeMaio’s political career. Hale assured me that he understood the issue, and we immediately set up ground rules on how we covered politics.

We treat all candidates equally. Each can have a voice on our Commentary page, but are limited to two articles per month. Trust me, I count them.

While candidates who are gay or lesbian are more than willing to take up our offer, not all straight candidates are willing to share their views with San Diego’s LGBT readers. It is very telling which candidates are unfriendly to the gay community and/or disinterested in our votes.

Let me assure you that I bend over backwards to be fair to all candidates. To do otherwise would be detrimental to building a loyal readership.

When State Sen. Christine Kehoe announced last Thursday that she was exploring a run for San Diego mayor, we posted the news within 15 minutes and that article also listed her possible opponents. When DeMaio declared his mayoral candidacy on Sunday, I did that same thing, listing the known and possible opponents and even providing hyperlinks to their political websites. This is being about as objective as humanly possible.

Another urban myth about SDGLN is that DeMaio has a financial interest in the company. That was among my first questions during my initial job interview with Hale.

I can put that rumor to bed; DeMaio has ZERO financial interest in SDGLN, which is wholly owned by Hale.

As Editor in Chief, I am fully aware of the whispers and gossip out there. Cheap-shot artists and character assassins don’t go after the facts; they merely hurl allegations and hope they stick. For example, a review of tweets by Kelly Davis of CityBeat shows a clear bias against DeMaio, which calls into question her own objectivity as an editor. Where are her journalism ethics?

And for the record: I’m a longtime registered Democrat and a proud liberal who will occasionally cross party lines and vote for a Republican or Independent who shares my political views.

The odds of that happening in the 21st century? Slim. That said, I will listen to all the political candidates, weigh their positions on the issues, and vote for the one whom I believe will work in my best interests. My vote is not automatic.

Did you know that Hale was a registered Democrat all his life, until recently, when he switched to Independent? Or that he has personally contributed to the campaigns of Todd Gloria, Toni Atkins and Stephen Whitburn, all Democrats?

As for SDGLN staff writers, they can do what they want in their personal lives. Most have built a public persona in our community and are known for their work at SDGLN and for their volunteerism. If they want to endorse a candidate as a private citizen, that is their right as an American. But they cannot use SDGLN to promote any candidate, because it would be unethical to do so.

Our contributors are also entitled to their opinions. Some are outrageous. Some are not. Some are conservative. Most are not. The opinions of our contributors are theirs alone, not of SDGLN; but we feel it is important to share their views with our readers.

Our mission at SDGLN remains the same, to provide in-depth coverage of issues of importance to the LGBT community and our allies. We want to continue an open dialogue with our diverse readership, and we encourage a wide range of voices on issues of concern to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Hale founded SDGLN to put the focus on community and causes. He is actively involved in numerous community organizations. He serves on the board of directors of the Hillcrest Business Association and is currently the chair of special events, which includes Hillcrest CityFest and most recently has taken on the task of bringing a landmark pride flag monument to Hillcrest.

He also encourages and supports staff members in their own involvements to make San Diego a better place for its LGBT citizens.

For example, Benny Cartwright has been a longtime volunteer with San Diego LGBT Pride and the Stonewall Citizens Patrol. He also just joined the Stepping Stone board of directors. I am volunteering on the board of directors of FilmOut San Diego. Assistant Editor Morgan M. Hurley has been a manager in America's Finest City Softball League (AFCSL) for 10 of the past 12 years, served on its board, and currently has other volunteer aspirations in the community.

This leads me back to Kelly Davis. Going forward we are going to make her a happy camper.

From now on, we will add a disclaimer to all stories related to DeMaio. We will continually disclose the personal relationship that DeMaio has with our publisher, but it won’t change anything about SDGLN’s coverage.

I will continue to decide what gets published, providing coverage that is fair and unvarnished. Hale will continue working his magic on the business side and trying to help change our community for the better.

And SDGLN will continue to bring you engaging and enlightening stories that resonate in the LGBT community; in San Diego, in California, across the United States, and indeed, across the globe.