Today’s Opinion: Out of the closet

POSTED: 05/16/11 12:27 PM

So Jan Kees de Jager, the Dutch Finance Minister is gay. We join NRC Handelsblad columnist Youp van ‘t Hek in wondering about the news value of this piece of information. Van ‘t Hek wrote in his column this weekend that he learned this from the tele-text service of public broadcaster NOS. The station had taken the “news” from the rightwing notorious gossip broadsheet De Telegraaf.
Van ‘t Hek grumbled that he did not want to read this kind of stuff on NOS tele-text. But things got worse: two days later the leftwing Volkskrant reported the news in a separate news article: Jan Kees de Jager is gay.
Van ‘t Hek wonders why serious news outlets like the NOS and De Volkskrant are going down the path well traveled by gossip TV-programs and, indeed, by De Telegraaf.
After all, what does it matter? Does De Jager’s sexual orientation affect his ability to look after the country’s financial affairs? Is the message here that you have to be straight to occupy the position of Finance Minister?
We wrote in March on this page that researchers have found that between 2 and 13 percent of a population is gay. Projected on, say, 50,000 citizens in St. Maarten, we’re talking about a happy community of between 1, 000 and 6, 500 gay citizens. Of the fifteen members of parliament, between 0.3 and 1.95 politicians are gay.
Do we care who they are? Are we about to report: so and so is coming out of the closet? Certainly not, for the simple reason that such a statement has no news value. That would only change if a politician became, for instance, the target of blackmail because of his (or her) sexual orientation. But on the Friendly Island we don’t see such things happen.
Like religion, sexual orientation is a private matter that only becomes of public interest under certain conditions, or if the man or woman involved chooses to go public with it. Otherwise, everybody has the freedom to live his or her life according to his or her own wishes.

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