Unity in Communications hosts Adam Pawlus, NLGJA’s executive director

Pawlus, who serves in the top staff post of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, addressed the history of LGBTQ news coverage, intersectionality in newsrooms, and how the organization can support student journalists.

Walking into his interview with the NLGJA – the Association of LGBTQ Journalists, Adam Pawlus rehearsed what he’d say in his head. He had read the job description online and knew he was a great fit for the position. And despite mispronouncing NLGJA twice, the five board members in his interview laughed, telling him no one says NLGJA anyway.

Adam Pawlus, executive director of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA), addresses attendees of the Unity in Communications’ event held virtually on March 4. In his staff role, Pawlus oversees the organization’s efforts to ensure fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues.

“I said, ‘I’m home. Hire me, I’m home,’” Pawlus recalled. “I just really fell in love with the organization, the mission and, it’s one of those things, I call it ‘chaos theory.’ Looking backwards things make sense, it’s not predictive. You don’t know where your future is going, but you just got to try.”

On March 4, the School of Communications’ Unity in Communications initiative hosted Pawlus, who serves as the executive director of NLGJA. In his role, he oversees the organization’s mission to assure fair coverage of LGBTQ issues in the media. As part of the Unity event, Pawlus addressed the importance of intersectionality in the newsroom, how to cover LGBTQ communities, and the support NLGJA can provide to student journalists.

Pawlus recalled that when he first started working at NLGJA, many individuals were unfamiliar with the organization and its objectives. Today, the organization has grown in visibility and stature, which is a big step for the organization and for many other organizations similar to NLGJA, such as the National Association of Black Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Alliance for Women in Media.

“What I think is so important about our organizations banding together, really telling people it’s important not only to have the diversity in the newsroom in front of the cameras and behind the camera, but also in the business terms, at the top to really look at it from all different perspectives,” Pawlus said.

When discussing coverage of LGBTQ communities, Pawlus said media outlets have adapted coverage throughout the years, from covering Ellen DeGeneres coming out on live television to the Pulse night club shooting in Orlando that targeted LGBTQ-identified individuals. While there has been progress covering aspects of the LGBTQ communities, Pawlus said, there is still much work to be done in covering others, such as the bisexual and gender non-binary communities.

In addition to pushing for diversity within newsrooms, NLGJA also helps communications professionals with their own coverage. NLGJA consists of working journalists and aims to support journalists within the organization and outside of it, from reaching out to reporters to help them better tell stories about the LGBTQ communities to supporting student journalists in programs and conventions. Pawlus said NLGJA plans to launch scholarships, mentoring programs and a student convention soon.

“We will focus a lot on LGBTQ issues and journalists, but we’re going to really try to keep it as broad and talk about the intersectionality, and the issues that different students have in entering and getting into the newsroom,” Pawlus said.

To learn more about NLGJA, visit the organization’s website.