After more than two decades, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association has hosted countless journalists and communicators from across the country for its annual conventions and LGBT Media Summits. But this year’s participants are especially motivated by the convention’s return to its first home, San Francisco, to celebrate the association’s 25th anniversary.
NLGJA was founded in 1990 by Leroy “Roy” Aarons, a renowned journalist, author and LGBT activist. The organization’s mission is to promote fair and accurate representation of LGBT issues in all forms of media.
Randy Alfred, a retired journalist in the San Francisco bay area, helped start the NLGJA and attended the first convention in 1992. He described the annual event as a place to connect and bond with fellow media professionals that cover LGBT issues.
“For me, this organization and working for it has been a pleasure and privilege,” said Alfred, who is being inducted into NLGJA’s Hall of Fame. “It’s been a really important, life-changing thing to find all of these people who share my professional goals and commitment and who get also the queer nature of my consciousness, whether or not they use that word, and that extra bit of sharing makes it very much like family.”
There has recently been an increase in NLGJA convention attendance, particularly during this year’s event, according to Adam Pawlus, the association’s Executive Director. About 350 people attended this year’s conference.
“We’ve had a bump in the membership and more excitement about the year,” Pawlus said. “And there has been extra buzz about the anniversary.”
Sharif Durhams, the treasurer of NLGJA, said he thinks the recent marriage equality decision might have an effect on the increase in involvement and membership at this year’s convention.
“I do think that has powered a lot of our programming this year, and in the panels, that is driving a lot of the questions and discussion, so that has been a strong factor,” Durhams said.
Pawlus said that returning to San Francisco has reignited the spark in NLGJA members and was the perfect location for the 25th anniversary of this organization’s founding.
“I think because it’s the 25th anniversary, we’ve had an opportunity to look at our successes and how NLGJA has impacted the world of journalism and the LGBT community,” Pawlus said. “We started here and now we’re coming home, and I think people are really excited about San Francisco.”