Last year when Anderson Cooper decided to come out as gay, I offered the opinion (reprinted below) that his announcement was not the “news.” Does the social media really have to light up cyberspace with comments every time this happens? I reread my article after British Olympic diver Tom Daley, now 19, came out in a You Tube video this past week. Perhaps this was not as big here in the USA as the Cooper story, but it did turn out as big news around the world. In the run up to the London Olympic games, Great Britain pinned a big piece of its Olympic hopes on the handsome teenager who was collecting medals in competitions around the world. He become a local celebrity and was seen frequently on television and You Tube promos.
You have to admire Daley for wanting to do this on his own terms, before it became a big splash, so to speak. A few weeks ago I placed a fictional piece here about a teen coming out on You Tube. Teens and young men and women seem to do this a lot, but none as high-profile as Daley. Below you can watch this high diver doing something many teens probably would not like to do, but feel that they have to do to get a weight off their young shoulders.
What is and is not the news
Just because someone tells us something, it does not make it news. For something to be news for us, it has to be, well, new to us. If we all know something, or most of us anyway, then the story is not the news. When Elton John or George Michael came out and said he is gay, we could collectively reply, “So, what?” It is not as if we didn’t know by then anyway. Years of watching them dance around the issue had already lead us to the right conclusion. They may have come out of the closet but the door was already open and we could all see in. It was not news.
Neal Patrick Harris and T.R. Knight (Grey’s Anatomy) took away the story by announcing they were gay. It is not much of a story if the celebrity has already told everyone, whether it was in a simple press release or some flamboyant manner. Ellen DeGeneres famously ended speculation by telling it on her sitcom, but the story was already making the rounds. Ricky Martin told the world, when the world already knew. That is partly because so-called reporters, paparazzi actually, followed him around trying to get a picture with a boyfriend. From veteran actor Richard Chamberlain to new star Chris Colfer and many in between, there is no story to the revelation they are gay. It may sell some supermarket tabloids for a while, but is it really news?
In the week just past, there was another high-profile, non-story to be reported. The fact is, Anderson Cooper is gay. The fact is, it was a well-known “secret” anyway. He told us he was open with his family, friends and colleagues, but he successfully avoided answering the “gay question” until now. Did he tell us because the story was about to be broken anyway? No, the editor of The Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan, a longtime friend of Anderson, was given permission by Cooper to print an email he had received from his friend. The reason behind it is where the actual story lies.
In response to recent news events of bullying, gay teen suicide, hate preached from pulpits and politicians attempting to deny rights to gay people, many celebrities have come forward not to make news of themselves, but to show strength in numbers. Sullivan feels the “visibility of gay people is one of the core means for our equality,” and he asked for Cooper’s comments on the matter. In a long email response which you can find here, Cooper reported his feelings on this issue.
If you knew little of Anderson Cooper’s private life before now, it was by design. As a reporter in dangerous places, he had to be concerned that his private life could put himself and his colleagues in peril. He also had the desire that most of us have, to keep some aspects of our lives strictly to ourselves and our loved ones. As a reporter, he should not be judged by who he loves or who loves him, but by whether he “shows fairness and honesty in his work.” In a long career, Cooper has gained a strong reputation as a fair reporter and interviewer on CNN and CBS’ 60 Minutes. The many sad stories of gay youth and gay couples probably brought a stronger personal response by Cooper than even a friend of two decades could have anticipated.
Cooper admits he is not “an activist”, just a reporter trying to do his job. He is also a human being, and thoughts that he may have been hiding (in plain sight, I might add) was a reason to stand up and be counted. He has no “gay agenda” to push. He could not be a reporter if he did have. He is a gay human being who cares about what is going on all around us.
Immediately after the Daily Beast ran the Anderson Cooper email, bloggers and vloggers and tweeters and social media junkies from all around the internet had something to say about this “breaking story.” Some praised Cooper for his stand, some blasted him for waiting so long. I am sure many on the so-called Christian right had terrible things to say that I will not hear, since I try to avoid the hate mongers. I suppose the alleged story will go on a little while longer until the commentators have had their fill. Remember this, however, the news this past week is not that Anderson Cooper came out, since so many knew anyway. The real story is another human being was called to weigh in, and he did, big time.