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Congratulations to Herndon Graddick
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 04/15/12
Last updated on: 04/16/12
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Herndon Graddick. Image courtesy of GLAAD.

On April 14, 2012, the Board of Directors of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) announced that they have selected Herndon Graddick as the organization's new President. Herndon, who currently serves as GLAAD's Vice President of Programs and Communications, succeeds Jarret Barrios, who resigned under pressure in June 2011. Since Barrios's resignation Mike Thompson has been serving as Acting President.

Sheri Fults, National Co-Chair of the Board of Directors, said: "Herndon is already a well-respected leader within the LGBT movement, and we believe will be a visionary and strategic leader for GLAAD's culture-changing work."

Graddick said: "Right now GLAAD and our partners in the LGBT movement are making a significant difference at a time when a difference needs to be made. I look forward to working with our dedicated staff to create a culture where there is a welcoming and respected space for LGBT Americans. GLAAD's work with the media to inspire Americans to speak out against anti-LGBT actions and support equality is needed today more than ever."

As Vice President of Programs and Communications at GLAAD, a position he assumed in 2010, Graddick has led numerous highly visible campaigns including "Stand Up For Ellen," which prompted the American Family Association group One Million Moms to end their call for J.C. Penney to fire Ellen DeGeneres as its new spokesperson because she is gay. Herndon also oversaw GLAAD's work on its Commentator Accountability Project--an initiative launched in March to highlight the extreme rhetoric of anti-gay activists who currently appear in national news venues. He has also been involved in transgender, African-American, and Latino media initiatives.

Prior to his work at GLAAD, Graddick served as the Executive Producer of the Global Observatory, a media and communications effort that aimed to bring public awareness to the climate change crisis. He also served as a television news producer at E! Networks, Current TV, and CNN. He is a graduate of the University of California.

GLAAD was founded in 1985 by activists and writers Arnie Kantrowitz, Darrell Yates Rist, and Vito Russo as a watchdog group dedicated to promoting accurate media representations of the queer community.

Perhaps now best known for its annual Media Award galas, GLAAD works closely with media professionals to educate them about the diversity of the glbtq community and to provide them accurate information. It also trains community activists to work effectively with the media. Perhaps most importantly, it monitors incidents of defamation in the media and works to redress biased representations.

In recent years, however, GLAAD has come under fire from grassroots activists who have argued that the organization has lost its way, that in effect it has been coopted by the media groups that it was formed to monitor and lobby.

Barrios's resignation came in the wake of revelations that he had sent letters to the Federal Communications Commission supporting the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, apparently at the behest of AT&T, which is a major corporate sponsor of GLAAD.

Critics who have charged that GLAAD has become too closely identified with the very entities it is tasked with monitoring have pointed out that too often the organization has worked harder to save the careers of celebrities who have defamed the glbtq community than it has to defend the community.

For example, when comedian and actor Tracy Morgan ranted against gay people in his concert performances in 2011, even saying that he would murder his own son if he were gay, many critics felt that GLAAD was more interested in salvaging Morgan's career than in defending the glbtq communities. At the same time that many grassroots gay people were calling for Morgan to be fired from his lucrative acting job on NBC's 30 Rock, GLAAD arranged an "apology tour" media blitz for the besieged comedian, who retained his job.

Herndon Graddick's challenge will be to return GLAAD to the organization's original vision and purpose. An increased militancy is needed to counter the perception that instead of being a watchdog GLAAD has become corporate media's lapdog.

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