The gossip mill has been churning full force lately with reports of cozy drinks between the Flyers’ Scotty Hartnell and local TV weather glamourpuss Sheena Parveen. But here’s what never gets churned: reports of cozy drinks among the city’s gay TV newsers.
In a city that made national headlines for its gay tourism campaign, local TV news remains one of the last closets. To wit: I was going to approach a hunky local weatherman about possibly hosting a public gay event I was organizing, only to have a mutual friend—one who has socialized with said weatherman and his boyfriend—retort, “Have you completely lost your mind?”
Uh, no. Ellen DeGeneres is on every afternoon; Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow, Thomas Roberts and Don Lemon (a former WCAU reporter) deliver the news across network and cable. In local markets, Eden Lane is a transgendered TV reporter in Denver; Matt Horn is out and on the air in Salina, Kansas, for God’s sake. At least three members of Fox News belong to the national gay journalists’ association (as do Deborah Woodell of the Daily News, AP’s Philly-based assistant East editor Jeff McMillan, and yours truly). While CBS 3’s Jim Donovan did host an LGBT gala last year, it was hardly well publicized. “If other cities have on-air people identified that way, then what is this situation in ours?” asks QUEERtimes.net publisher Thom Cardwell. “What’s wrong with this picture?”
Nothing, counters one gay former TV reporter who says he was never pressured by station brass to hide his orientation. The problem, he argues, isn’t shame, but rather the paranoia all on-air people now share about feeding our odd, insatiable interest in their personal lives. “That’s unique to Philadelphia,” he says. “Philly is just way more invested in its TV people than other cities. It’s just the culture here.”
But while the well-publicized travails of Alycia Lane, John Bolaris and the like have ended in train wrecks, at least those folks had the courage to live their lives out loud. Perhaps something for a weatherman to think about on a rainy day.
This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.