A story on 365gay.com that I've been following has been eerily similar to the story about Michael Wiltbank's photography project here at BYU. 365gay originally reported that a High School Principal in Newport Beach, CA stopped students from performing an abridged version of "Rent" because the musical depicted several gay characters and themes. Today 365gay reports that the musical is back on. There are several parallels to the removal and reinstatement of Michael's photos, including the claim that the removal was just a "miscommunication" and was the choice of the department, not the administrator. What interests me, though, is the role of the media in the reinstatement of both the BYU show and the High School play.
In the Newport Beach story, 365gay reports, "When Martin went public accusing [Principal] Asrani of censorship the story was featured prominently in both the mainstream and gay media as well as in blogs." In the BYU story, the Deseret News reported that after Wiltbank announced that his portraits had been removed "bloggers around the country began to criticize BYU and its owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some attacked the school and church. The Deseret News requested a statement from the university Tuesday morning. The display went back up Tuesday afternoon."
Notice the role that bloggers played in both instances. Do we realize how much power a community of bloggers has? Since blogging is so new to society, its influence is relatively recent, but it is clearly far reaching. Does BYU feel threatened by this power? Some gay blogs, like Young Stranger, are blocked by BYU's internet filter. My Bishop asked me unofficially to take my blog down months ago (and I did for a time). On the other hand, a few years ago (yes it's already been that long), a few bloggers were influential in having BYU clarify it's honor code statement regarding homosexuality.
I think the power of blogging is clear, but when and where and how can we use it? Are we limited to promoting stories for bigger blogs and news sites to take and spread? Is there something else we can do? Do we just let the big wigs like Dan Savage stumble across our stories, as was the case with Michael Wiltbank? Or should we promote our own stories?
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm kind of excited about the possibilities.