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If I were the media, this is how I would have written the story. In fact, this is how I wrote the story for The Norman Queer Alliance’s Queer Zine. I submitted the copy today.

(Norman, Oklahoma) — On December 3rd, 2009 Sarah Palin rolled into the Hastings in Norman in her big blue bus to sign copies of her book “Going Rouge”. Complete with a DJ playing a variety of music from rock to country, the event had a rock concert type of atmosphere. With temperatures below freezing and a brisk north by northwest wind of 6 to 15 MPH, it was a an event for those committed to a viewpoint. Estimates of the crowd size vary wildly depending on who you talk to, but most peg the number of supporters present as being more than a thousand and possibly as many as two thousand.

David White, a Palin supporter from Stillwater, Okla. told NewsOK’s Damon Fontenot “…shes done so much for the party, rejuvenating the base, and its been one of the greatest things we have had since Regan”. Many of the other supporters interviewed in various media seemed to echo White’s sentiments. At one point, supporters unveiled a large tarp that had messages written on it that encouraged Palin to run for the presidency in 2012. It was signed by several people. Some supporters held signs saying “We Love Sarah Palin” with red lipstick kiss.

Sarah Palin was expected to speak at the event, and at one point there was a small platform erected for her to speak from, but upon arrival she shook a few hands and went inside without a word. NewsOK stated that the several protesters holding signs may be to blame for Palin’s decision to dispense with the speech. Most estimates as to the number of protesters put the number somewhere between several dozen and as high as seventy-five. The protest received coverage from a number of news outlets across the state including News 9, KOCO-TV, Tulsa World, The Oklahoma Daily, The Oklahoman, News OK, Gossip-Boy and an iReport on CNN. Also present were documentary film makers producing an upcoming documentary called The Reddest State about the status of politics in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoman reported “A group of about 12 protesters lined up on the west side of Hastings and held signs in the air…” in a December 4 piece entitled For Sarah Palin fans, a signing bonus”. In a memo on his Facebook account, protest organizer and Norman Queer Alliance member Keith Kimmel pointed out that there were far more than a dozen protesters shown in NewsOK’s own footage and accused the paper of “…continuing old traditions of marginalizing homosexuals.”. Kimmel stated that he and other attendees are drafting a letter to the Daily Oklahoman to call them on the inaccurate reporting.

Victor Gorin, reporter and ad sales rep for publisher StarNews, Ltd. which publishers the regional queer newspaper MetroStar News was interviewed by KOCO-TV’s Mark Opgrande. Gorin was quoted as saying “Well, the mood is pretty upbeat on both sides…” and added “…overall, I’m glad to see people being involved.” Gorin held a sign “Lesbians United Against Hate” with a picture of Palin. Catlin Frazier was interviewed by News OK and said “Well, its not nearly as cold as the inauguration, so I am happy to stand out here. And represent that even though I live in Oklahoma, and every county here went for McCain/Palin, that there is still liberals in this state, and our voices have been outshouted frequently and I’m here to represent those people.”

The protesters included everyone from a group of guys from Norman High School to college students to older folks. Signs held include “Don’t Palin My Norman”, “Gay is OK”, “Palin – Limbaugh’s Favorite Parrot”, “Shame on Sally KKKern”, “Go Home, Take Sally With You”, “Palin Hates Equality”, “Ignorance is Bliss” and “Gay Pride”. References to Sally Kern were made because the Oklahoma representative from House District 84 was among those in line to get a book signed by Palin. Kern, well known for her publicly made homophobic remarks, is almost universally disliked in the gay community and some media coverage suggested that the protest was as much about protesting Sally Kern as it was Sarah Palin.

The event resulted in no arrests or citations and except for a couple of incidents of name calling, it was a peaceful event that ended without incident. It is, however, likely that more than one attendee succumbed to frostbite.

Update: A version of this post appeared in the January, 2010 edition of Metro Star News as a story. I was credited as the author.

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For those unaware, The Daily Oklahoman was named America’s Worst Daily Newspaper by the Columbia Journalism Review in 1999. I believe I recall hearing that they have won this distinction more than once. Read the article for a laundry list of reasons why this is the case. You’ll read the history of how the paper has fought to be led into the ground by its ownership and the manner in which the Gaylord family smears its name all over the front page regularly for non-newsworthy events like a child smears feces on a wall. In fact, the newspaper is often refereed to locally as The Daily Disappointment.

Well, I have one more reason to add to the pile of why The Daily Oklahoman sucks: they lie their asses off in news coverage. In recent coverage of Sarah Palin’s visit to Norman to sign her book, they said:

A group of about 12 protesters lined up on the west side of Hastings and held signs in the air saying “Winners never quit, quitters never win” and “Gay is OK.”

Now – as those who were there know – there were about seventy-five protesters at the Sarah Palin picket that I recently organized. Did I count them? No, I did not. It could have been sixty-five, or even fifty-five. But hell, you can count more than twelve faces and signs in the Oklahoman’s very own news video coverage which they published! It wasn’t about a dozen. Not even close. Hell, every other photo of this event I have seen shows far more than a dozen people present.

This has to be one of the best examples I can find of coverage that was purposefully skewed by this paper. I forgave KOCO-TV for their story, so why is it different with the Daily Oklahoman? Because TV news is made on the fly and once you run a story, you can’t update it and you can’t go back and redo it to present a better angle. But in the newspaper business, you have all night to get the story right until newsroom deadline anyway. And obviously, they weren’t at deadline when there were clearly more than a dozen folks there as evidenced by their other conflicting coverage. This story wasn’t published until the day after the protest.

I think this is just another example of how the Daily Bigot (as I call it) is continuing old traditions of marginalizing homosexuals. If none of the other media had mentioned that gays were picketing, they wouldn’t have either. But since every other outlet ran with the story, they had to say something. So they just minimized it to the greatest possible extent, by saying that only about a dozen homos came out. If you can’t ignore it, then minimize it. I and other event attendees will be writing a joint letter to the editors of The Daily Oklahoman calling them on their mistake in the near future.

But not to worry, folks. Today, The Daily Disappointment ran a story which began as follows: “New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman was awarded Monday the Gaylord Prize for Excellence in Journalism and Mass Communication.” Oh, boy. I’d really be worried if that was me. I think thats Mr. Friedman’s career dissipation light flashing.

P.S. – Special thanks to Victor Gorin for bringing this matter to my attention.

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So on December 3rd, 2009 – at about 6:30 PM CST – it happened. She arrived, big blue tour bus and all. She would be Sarah Palin. Sally Kern also came, but for once, Sally was not the topic of the day and no one really seemed to notice or care that she was there. She had about 1,000 supporters there to welcome her, and about 75 of us. Us would be the protesters. Some of those present that I know of included Floyd Martin, Caitlin Frazier, John Cloud and Hunter Phillips. If I missed anyone and you are on facebook, friend me, then message me and I will tag you.

Many of the media interviewed us before the bulk of the protesters showed up. So be sure to take a look at photos taken by our folks which provide an in-depth look at the event and closeups of alot of signs.

There have been rumors (started by NewsOK) circulating that Palin planned to speak but canceled the speech because we decided to picket the event. So for those of you who claimed that our protest would be pointless, take this proof and shove it. Not sure if this is true or not, but if it is, its safe to say she heard our message. Here is the news coverage of the event. I will update this as I locate more coverage, if you know of something that’s not on here, please send me a message with a link. Newest coverage will be added to the top of the list.

Oklahoma Gazette: Sarah’s Circus – Mention of protesters towards the end. Print edition had two nice color photos of picketers.
Gossip-Boy: The Dumb One is in the Middle – Homepage Photo Gallery.
The Oklahoma Daily: Scores of Palin fans brave cold at event – OU Student Rachel Singley mentioned and quoted. The print edition had a picture of an unnamed protester next to the Palin photo. The story ran on the front page, above the fold.
CNN: Sara Palin in Norman Oklahoma – CNN iReport.
Tulsa World: Scores of Palin fans brave cold at event – Showed the AP photo of the picketers with a brief mention on page A18. Click Newspaper View to see how it looked on the printed page.
News 9: Photo Gallery – Several pictures of the protesters.
News 9: Palin Book Signing Draws Big Crowd – Interview with MetroStar’s Victor Gorin.
Associated Press: Photo – AP has a photo of our protesters.
News OK: NewsOK Video – Caitlin Frazier interviewed. Great pan shot of the protesters.
News OK: Photo Gallery – One early picture of us starting to mass.
Norman Transcript: Palin makes book tour stop in Norman – Paul Weider, a Norman High School senior mentioned and quoted.
News 9: Palin Welcomed by Hundreds of Fans in Norman – Brief mention of the picketers, coverage starts at about 1:40 in the video.
Channel 5: Protestor Talks About Palin Visit – Interview of me before the picketers got there (it was still light outside).

If you have photos, videos or whatever of the event, please send me links via message. You can e-mail photos to keithontap@gmail.com. Thanks to all of you who came our and made this event a success. While a number of folks would have rather you stayed home, you braved the absolutely frigid temperatures to come out and make a difference. I love you for it. I don’t care what anyone says, our gay community is beautiful and we should be proud of it. And we should show it off at every opportunity we have.

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Dear Editors, Owners, Investors, etc. of Star Media, Ltd. a/k/a MetroStar,

I am writing this open letter to you in response to a web poll that appears on your website. The question asked gives me great cause for concern that you may be about to embark on a course of action that could ultimately destroy the MetroStar newspaper.

As a regular monthly reader of your newspaper (as well as having been occasionally featured in same) who looks forward to each issue hitting the stands, I feel I have a stake in the viability of MetroStar and the outcome of your webpoll, which asks readers if they’d prefer to have a standalone paper covering Oklahoma City only. I presume this poll is in response to a quietly held opinion by a few disenchanted souls that MetroStar is too Tulsa-centric. I have never found any truth to this viewpoint. Rather, it would seem that Tulsa just has more going on most of the time, in large part due to the fact that Tulsa sports a well-organized gay community.

As you are likely aware, the newspaper industry has been going through a rough patch over the last few years. Printed publications focusing on gay life have been hit very hard. Just the last few days has seen over a dozen publications fold as Window Media closed its doors, taking with it top quality publications such as The Washington Blade and sister publications when Avalon Equity Partners was placed into receivership when the Small Business Administration called its loans. Regent Media recently scaled The Advocate back massively, reducing it to an insert to be included with another publication and laid off a substantial portion of its staff. Most feel that Regent is not long for this world, either.

While the industry scales back and consolidates, now is not the time to diversify and launch a paper for each city MetroStar currently serves. From a financial standpoint, its impractical in today’s business climate. I have regular contact with Star staffers (Chaz Ward on occasion, Victor Gorin far more often), who tell me they are stretched pretty thin as it is with regard to reporting duties. No one is faulting them for it or complaining, they are doing the best they can and the result is a quality publication thats free of charge to readers.

But putting out two papers with the same number of staff is twice the work and I fear that the quality of the publication will suffer. The task may even border on the impossible without hiring additional staff. While I am not privy to the financial details of StarNews, Ltd., I get the impression that its a low budget operation that works primarily on a combination of volunteer spirit and ad sales. Adding additional staff may be too much of a strain for the publication to take, this has certainly proved to be the case throughout the industry.

For these reasons, I ask that you please do not undermine and eventually destroy the only newspaper serving this five state area in an attempt to appease the complaints of a handful of ignorant people. There is no newspaper of record to replace the MetroStar should it fold and its unlikely that anyone would step in to resume publication. I feel confident that I speak for many when I say that we as a community value the MetroStar publication and the news it brings us. If it were to be lost, it would be a great loss to the entire community far beyond simply losing a printed document to read.

Thank you for considering my viewpoints as you receive the results of your poll.

Sincerely yours,

Keith Kimmel
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

(Revised and edited 11/19/2009 at 8:30 AM CST)

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