News Media Are Still Skittish About Using the G-Word

Rodger RtreitmatterDaniel Hernandez is a hero.

While at the Jan. 8 meet-and-greet outside a Tucson supermarket, Hernandez heard gunshots. He then ran to the wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and propping her up against his chest to keep her from choking on her own blood. Once she was able to breathe again, Hernandez applied pressure to slow the blood loss from her head until paramedics arrived.

His quick action is widely credited with saving the congresswoman’s life.

Hernandez was soon being lauded not only for his bravery and his clear-headedness but also for his humility. “People have been referring to me as a hero,” he told CNN. “I don’t think that’s something that I am. “I thinkDaniel_Hernandez the people who are heroes are the people like Gabby who are public servants and who have dedicated their lives to public service. So it just makes me happy that I was able to help her in any way that I could.”

Since the shooting, the titans of American journalism have reported plenty of details about Hernandez, including—
He is 20 years old.

He is a student at the University of Arizona.

He is an intern in Giffords’s Tucson office.

He is majoring in political science.

He is of Mexican heritage.

He had only worked for Giffords for five days when the incident occurred.

His specific task at the “Congress on Your Corner” event was to sign in visitors.

His only medical training was through a certified nursing assistant course in high school.

He was born in Tucson.

He has two younger siblings.

His father is retired and his mother has a side business baking cakes.

In high school, he participated in academic decathlons, Junior Honor Society and student council.

One detail that the major news organizations haven’t told their readers and listeners, however, is that Daniel Hernandez is gay.

That fact was left to LGBT media outlets to report—the Washington Blade ran a front-page photo of Hernandez under the headline “Gay intern credited with saving Giffords.”

My question: Now that LGBT characters proliferate on TV shows, Congress has voted to allow lesbians and gay men to serve openly in the military, and same-sex couples are marrying in several states, can’t the nation’s most influential news outlets start reporting when a gay man saves a person’s life?

Hernandez is comfortable disclosing his sexuality. When a reporter for the Texas gay paper, the Dallas Voice, asked him if he is gay, he confirmed that detail about his life without hesitation.

Nor did it take Woodward and Bernstein’s investigative skills to figure out that this young man might be part of the LGBT community. A quick scan of his Facebook page shows that he’s a member of the City of Tucson Commission on GLBT Issues.

And yet, a long list of major news organizations that have devoted plenty of ink or air time to reporting on Hernandez—including the New York Times, USA Today, and CNN—have kept the G-word out of their stories.

With the recent rash of suicides showing that many LGBT teenagers think it’s better to end their lives than to bear the stigma that comes with their sexuality, I say it’s time for news organizations to report that heroes come in all forms—including out and proud 20-year-old gay ones.

By Rodger Streitmatter

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