Pioneer Shister Inducted Into LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame

By SteveK Comment

shister_8-22.jpgProving true one of her slogans: “Shisterhood is Powerful.”

TVNewser’s Gail Shister will be inducted into the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame this afternoon at the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) Convention in Washington, D.C. She’ll be just the ninth inductee into the Hall of Fame.

“It means an enormous amount to me,” says Shister. “I’ve been with the organization since the first year, I consider it my baby. I watched it grow, and I’m fiercely protective of it.”

That first year was 1990, a few years after Shister became the first woman sportswriter at the New Orleans States-Item and later at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She was also among the first “out” reporters.

“For somebody like me, who has been out professionally since 1974, it’s difficult to describe what it’s like in an organization of professional journalists who are gay,” she says. “I never thought I’d see that, because for so many years I was the only one. It’s real, strong, robust and growing.”

It’s growing so much, that, as announced this week, the first “out” anchor on cable news in prime time, Rachel Maddow, is set to debut next month. What does Shister think the move means?

“I think this is a reflection of the progression of the culture as a whole,” Shister tells TVNewser. “I think this is inevitable. I give major, major props to Rachel Maddow, because she’s opening the door. You may even see some currant anchors come out of the closet. She may make it safe for others.”

Shister has spent time on the executive board of the NLGJA, serving as vice president and in other roles. She was responsible for bringing some major names to the Convention each year, including Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather in just the second year of the NLGJA Convention in 1992.

So what’s changed in the nearly 20 years since the organization started? “It’s a lot safer now. The sea change in our culture towards homosexuality is that it is a lot more accepted now,” she says. “I’m just grateful the feeling has also migrated to journalism.”

When Shister makes her way into the Hall of Fame today, her pioneering for gay journalists will take center stage. “There has to be a first. There has to be someone willing to take a chance. Take the heat. Whether it be gender, sexuality, race. There has to be the first or it won’t open doors,” she said.

And looking around the convention participants, she is pleased with the amount of young people continuing the mission. “I’m totally old school,” she says. “That’s okay with me, because I have a lot to teach.”