Why Aren’t There More Gay Faces on Philly TV News?

Maybe our citywide obsession with local TV personalities’ personal lives is keeping some anchors in the closet.

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.

  • Not4NothinBut

    What does a gay face look like?

  • Not4NothinBut

    What does a gay face look like?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=555716491 Susan Logsdon

    Seriously — WHY would you care? I’m sure I know who you are speaking of (the weatherman) but isn’t that HIS business to make his personal life public or not? WHO CARES!? He’s a human – end of story.

    I sure hope I live long enough to see a day when this is such a non-issue that who-is and who-isn’t and who-we-think-might-be is on the same interest level as breathing.

    (btw – are you really stating in your last sentence that this said weatherman should go the way of the others and deal with the impending train wreck)? Seriously?

    If so, you’re an idiot and it sounds to me like ‘said weatherman’ wouldn’t host your event so you are all but doing everything you can to out him. And THAT sir makes you a selfish, bitter and very small man. Boo Hoo – move on.

  • http://twitter.com/jawshkruger Josh Kruger

    Here’s the thing: Philadelphia has had a particularly close relationship with its newscasters and news personalities because they’ve literally died tragically before all of Philadelphia (Jim O’Brien), they’ve gotten older before our eyes (Marc Howard, Glenn Schwartz, Jim Gardner), and they’ve become more institutional Philadelphia family members because of the way Philadelphia has historically interwoven its media and neighborhoods. Captain Noah and Chief Halftown and Sally Starr greeted us as children in the mornings, we all participated or watched the Mummers Parade, we all cried or heard about the death of Jim O’Brien in the most bizarre tragedy in Philly’s media history, we all gleefully listened to the raucous life of John Bolaris, and we loved them for it. And, they were always willing to give of themselves in exchange for the second largest media market in the country next to NYC. We’ve been through a lot with these people, we’ve seen Renee Chenault become Renee Chenault Fattah and marry into Philadelphia de facto royalty, we’ve seen Stu Bykfosky get angrier and angrier with every week, we’ve seen Philebrity evolve from an interesting arts and culture and politics blog into something that disingenuously shits on Philadelphia by acting like it loves Philadelphia. And, throughout all of this, we’ve been able to generally respect the private lives (literally private, not necessarily the sexualities) of these folks in exchange for their tolerance of our hoagie mouth, of our dipthongs, and of our generally bad taste.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=682299931 Christopher Sawyer

      Don’t forget Jessica Savitch

  • http://twitter.com/Ettuhealy Ettuhealy

    I think it’s because Philadelphia is only about 5% gay. Since the sample size of Philly TV News personalities is so low, it is quite possible very few (if any) are gay.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=682299931 Christopher Sawyer

      I happen to know who Callahan is referring to in this article, and let me just say–if he’s “out”, nobody in this town is gonna give a shit. It will be as Earth-shattering as when Ricky Martin came out. Promise.