Eric Hegedus, Class of 1984, is a former photo editor of The Daily Collegian and also a gay journalist who is "out" in the newsroom.
Hegedus, president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association (NLGJA), addressed a crowd of about 300 people at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel yesterday, touching on the impact LGBT journalists are having on the field.
The NLGJA, according to its Web site, nlgja.org, is an organization of journalists, media professionals, educators and students that works within the news industry to foster fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues.
In his speech, Hegedus stressed many different ideas, including the importance of diversity in the newsroom and using correct terminology when referring to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The most common error is the use of "sexual preference," Hegedus said. The correct phrase to use would be "sexual orientation."
Hegedus said coming out in the newsroom makes journalism better.
Coming out makes LGBT journalists more comfortable in the workplace and also makes them a resource for their peers, he said.
"One of the most important things a gay journalist can do is stand up and say, 'I'm gay,' " Hegedus said.
Hegedus said gay journalists bring insight to the newsroom.
" ... Gay journalists are bringing coverage and fairness to LGBT issues," Hegedus said, later adding, "It's important that the news reflects our lives."
Hegedus noted another key point: Journalists shouldn't ignore the issue of addressing a source's sexual orientation.
"Are you gay?" Hegedus advised to inquire, adding, "All I want is for journalists to ask the question."
If there was one thing Hegedus said he wanted journalists to walk away with after his speech, it was to be unafraid to ask the tough question.
"The most important thing is to be open about sexual orientation," he said.
Hegedus was the 10th in a diverse group of speakers in the yearlong speaker series, sponsored by the Faculty Staff Club and the Penn State Bookstore.
"We want to get diversity and different issues," said Carol Griffin, coordinator of the Penn State Forum. "It was just a topic that we've never covered at a forum," she added, referring to the issue of being out in the newsroom.
Allison Subasic, director of the LGBTA Student Resource Center, said she hoped people would come away from the speech more educated about the LGBT community and more inclusive of its members.
"It's great to see alumni coming back and giving back to Penn State ... and being successful and out in their fields," Subasic said.
According to Hegedus' biography on NLGJA's Web site, he has shot photo assignments for USA Today, The New York Times and The Associated Press.