'National Coming Out Day' project wins national award from LGBTQ journalists association
A team of USA TODAY Network journalists from five states won the Excellence in Multimedia Award from NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists for work on a 2020 video project that invited LGBTQ people to share their stories for National Coming Out Day.
Asbury Park Press features reporter Alex Biese, who helmed the project, was named as the recipient of the national award.
"This is such a remarkable honor," Biese said. "In a year when a global pandemic had all of us feeling more separated than ever before, it was my hope that the National Coming Out Day project could bring us all closer together."
A dozen reporters, editors, photographers, videographers, digital producers, a social media team and an illustrator joined forces to document the coming out stories of members of the LGBTQ community. The story published Oct. 8, a few days before National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11.
The project's subjects represented various genders, sexual orientations and cultural backgrounds. Their ages ranged from 13 to 62, and they resided in New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The project makes it clear that there is not one way, or one time, to come out.
"By sharing the stories of 18 subjects from five states, I wanted this work to signal-boost the voices of the LGBTQ+ community across our region," Biese said. "These are stories of struggle, perseverance, fear, hope, joy and love, and it was both an honor and great responsibility to help document them."
The day after the project posted, Biese hosted a Facebook Live event to discuss the videos and National Coming Out Day. He was joined by two project subjects, Alex Francisco and Sean Strub, as well as Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of Garden State Equality in Asbury Park.
Find the award-winning project here:National Coming Out Day 2020: LGBTQ community members share stories of struggle, triumph
For more than 15 years, Biese has covered a plethora of entertainment, culture and news topics for the Asbury Park Press. He has "thoughtfully elevated the voices of the LGBTQ community" to ensure they are reflected in our team's New Jersey coverage, said Tammy Paolino, a USA TODAY Network Atlantic Region features editor who oversaw the project.
“Alex brought a dedication, thoughtfulness and sensitivity to the project — as well as a deep understanding of what matters to the LGBTQ community," Paolino said.
Paolino said Biese's role was "central" to the effort and "the excellence of journalism" that the NLGJA recognized with this national award.
Biese was instrumental in piecing the National Coming Out Day project together, and videos were "the perfect medium to get out of the way of the stories and let people speak for themselves," Paolino said.
"I am incredibly grateful to all of the individuals who shared their perspectives with us, our readers and our viewers," Biese said. "Thank you to the USA TODAY NETWORK Mid-Atlantic Region team members that were crucial in making this vision a reality, and thank you to the NLGJA for recognizing the power and importance of this work."
The journalists who worked on the project included:
Photography and videography: Peter Ackerman, William Bretzger, Peter Carr, Kate Collins, Miguel Fernandez, Micaela Hood, Brian Johnston, Paul Kuehnel, Joe Lamberti, Tina MacIntyre-Yee, Christopher Millette, Kaisha Young
Visual editing: Magdeline Bassett, Sean Oates
Reporting: Alex Biese, Nancy Cutler, Ryan Cormier, Jasmine Vaughn-Hall
Editing: Bill Canacci, Liz Johnson, Tammy Paolino
Digital production and development: Ana Hurler, Benjamin Leibowitz
Social media, engagement and promotion: Courtney Marabella, Candace Mitchell, Elyse Toribio
Illustration: Take Uda
Facebook Live event: Alex Biese, Miguel Fernandez, Courtney Marabella, Tammy Paolino
The awards from the NLGJA, formerly know as National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, now called the The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, were established in 1993 to foster, recognize and reward excellence in journalism on issues related to the LGBTQ community, according to its website.
NLGJA honored another Gannett publication, the Indianapolis Star, in this year's awards. Sports reporter Dana Hunsinger Benbow won the Excellence in Sports Writing Award for a profile story about San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant Katie Sowers. Sowers attended Goshen College, located 160 miles north of Indianapolis, before she made history as the first woman and openly gay person to coach in the Super Bowl.
Sammy Gibbons is a culture reporter for the USA TODAY Network's Atlantic Region How We Live team. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @sammykgibbons. For unlimited access to the most important news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.