Thursday, April 14, 2011

CNN's Cooper and Fox's Smith make Out's Power 50 List (but are they really out?)

Out's Power 50
For the past five years Out Magazine has released its list of the top 50 most powerful and influential Gays and Lesbians in America. This year's Power 50 includes past honoree CNN newsman Anderson Cooper at #3 and a newbie from Fox "News" in the person of Shepard Smith, who ranks #6.

CNN's Anderson Cooper
Of AC360's silver fox, Out says, "As our most palpably compassionate witness to history, Cooper has had to endure some tough assignments this year. First, in February, he was punched in the head by pro-Mubarak stooges in Cairo; then, in March, he was forced to flee Fukushima in Japan over radiation fears -- gripping TV that pushed his CNN show, AC360, to a near ratings tie with Fox kingpin Bill O’Reilly. All that, and the wily fox still made time for Vanity Fair’s annual Oscar party -- in the company of boyfriend Benjamin Maisani, no less."

Fox's Shepard Smith
Out describes Shepard Smith, saying "The Mississippi native, whose nightly Fox Report With Shepard Smith has won its time slot for more than 100 consecutive months, has been with Fox News since its 1996 inception. His loyalty paid off in 2007 when he signed a three-year contract estimated at $7–8 million per year, renewing it again in 2010 for another three years."

The inclusion of these two particular influential news hounds on the Power 50 list raises some nagging questions in my mind. Does a gay public figure have to come out publicly in order to be out? Is it right to out someone, even when you're honoring them?

This isn't the first time Out has done this. Jodi Foster has been "honored" by them in past years.

I'm all in favor of outing hypocritical closeted gay politicians or business people who actively work against their own community. That's only fair. But is it right to out someone who is just doing their job and living their life privately? To my knowledge, unlike MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who comes in at #4, neither Cooper or Smith has ever come out publicly, even though they may not exactly be closeted. In the news game, it's your job to report the news, not be the news.

I get that. I've taken up the issue with one of our local news anchors here in Roanoke, who has been out for several years, but refuses to to cover our stories, except during Pride season or if there's a violent crime involved. More on that at another time.

Cooper has done lots of pro-equality stories on AC360 and has taken on homophobes many times. Granted, I don't watch Fox, but I haven't heard of Shepard Smith taking a position one way or the other in his reporting. Even though he may not exactly be pushing our cause at Fox, his very presence there is significant.

Apple CEO Tim Cook takes the top spot on the list at #1 for revolutionizing the personal computer market with the iPad. Ellen DeGeneres comes in at #2 and Barney Frank ranks #5.

You can see the full list here.

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