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being gay and in grad school

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by naiman, May 11, 2008.

  1. naiman

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    I'm hoping someone who has been through this can share their experience...

    so, I'm finishing up my junior year and I'm planning to apply to start grad school in fall of 2009. The academic side of my application is pretty good, I think - but now I'm worried about being gay and the fact that it's not a big aspect of who I am and it's not particularly salient. How does one goes about being gay in psych grad school? Did you disclose it on the application or during the interview?

    I doubt it'll be much of a problem with anyone in the program just because this is psychology and I'm only looking into programs in the big cities. But at the same time I always get the impression that gays are really underrepresented in psychology - especially in non-health or personality/social psychology. I'm not planning on working with sexual minority populations but I do want to do research on very young children and it seems like I would encounter some prejudice from parents. Does anyone have any tips on how to keep that from happening?

    Most important of all, how did you develop gay friendships/romantic relationships in grad school? Did you have to mostly look outside the department?

    Thanks!
     
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  3. erg923

    erg923 Regional Clinical Officer, Cenpatico National
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    I really doubt that people (faculty, supervisors) are even going to inquire about your sexual preference. If you plan on clinical, some patient may have issues if you disclose this, but that probably it. But I seriously doubt (and it would be illegal) that you would face any discrimination from programs or for job opportunities. I can think of few instances where you would even need to disclose this information. And I think its always wisest to seek romantic relationships (heterosexual or homosexual) outside of your department and/or grad school environment.
     
  4. JockNerd

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    Currently going through this, glad to talk about it! :)

    I mentioned it in one or two applications, I think, for schools that specifically asked about community programs I'd been involved in. Otherwise I really didn't have the space to mention it. :) It came up during a few interviews and I talked about it. I never encountered any resistance.

    We're not especially underrepresented. I can rattle off a dozen or two. And Social? Come on-- Bem! :)

    I'd guarantee that your sexual orientation will be an issue at some point if you're working with kids, though, if it's known to the parents. But I don't know why it would be.

    Graduate students have not time for such things.

    Seriously though, yeah, never date in the program, gay or straight... big trouble... there will be grad students are 50 other programs at the university who will be available. I play on gay sports intramural teams and attend some of the student group meetings and such.
     
  5. psychanon

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    I actually don't think that gay people are particularly underrepresented in psychology. I know a lot of out gay people in my program and other programs, both students and faculty. In general, I think you'd find a lot of support from within the psychology community. As for clients, you may well encounter some prejudice, but that is probably true in any field. You certainly do not need to tell everyone, as most people are careful about self-disclosure anyway.
     
  6. Jon4PsyD

    Jon4PsyD Go Red Sox
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    Interesting post: Being Gay was an issue for me in college, as I was having a very difficult time understanding why my mother could accept the fact that I was legally-blind (something I could not control), yet was unable to accept the fact that I was Gay (again, something I could not control). It was very hard losing my relationship with her (we are now very close again by the way, thankfully!)

    So: If you're going through those personal issues where those close to you are not accepting of you, I would think Grad school could be extremely difficult. If you're worried about faculty I would not be. My advisor asks me when I am going to intoduce her to my partner every time I see her! They are very accepting of it and it is no different than how they would view a student in a heterosexual relationship. I did not disclose it in an application bur did once already in the program and when it came to meeting favulty during more personal conversations. Classmates are cool about it too. I am in a major northeast city so that may be why. But yes, we're in the helping profession and I would hope most of our future colleagues would be nothing but accepting.

    Working with kids is what I do now. I will tell you a quick story though: My first job was at an After-School program years back and while working there it was me and another 9male) assistant teacher, and the head teacher. One parent contacted the program director and wanted information on the both of us because she was not comfortable with her daughter being in a classroom with a male teacher (Tough future for that parent). It was not because she suspected either of us may have been Gay, but simply because we were male. If you're working with young kids you're going to get that, a LOT, not because of your sexuality but because of your gender. And my sexual orientation is not something I choose to disclose with parents, many staff, or (obviously) the kids.

    Hope that helps and good luck to you. We may be underrepresented but all males are in some areas of Psychology (maybe moreso with me as I am in Counseling Psych).

    Jon
     
  7. Jon4PsyD

    Jon4PsyD Go Red Sox
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    Oh and yes! Seek romantic relationships OUTSIDE of your department. My partner of six years HATES Psychology (although I got him to like his Intro class) and for me it works out better that way, plus sometimes opposites attract. Honestly, I even enjoy going out with friends outside of my program every now and then because the topic of conversations usually won't revolve around academics at all--which can be a nice break. And don't listen to JockNNerd, there's plenty of time for it in Grad school! Wellness and Self-Care:)

    Jon
     
  8. Therapist4Chnge

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    I think academia, particularly psych is pretty open (in this area at least), so I wouldn't worry.

    Being male and working in two areas where men are less common (young children and EDs) I've run into the question @ being male and working in the area, but ultimately I think it has worked out well for me. If nothing else, it opens up a conversation to explore some of the dynamics and get a feel for people.
     
  9. RayneeDeigh

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    Unfortunately I'm not gay (if you knew the men I dated you'd understand why this was unfortunate). But I do have an anecdote for encouragement. At an APA conference I met an old gay dude who told me that he works in a federal correctional facility with male inmates. You would THINK he'd get a hard time about that since he was flamingly gay, but he said only one inmate in his entire career had ever said anything negative to him about his sexuality.

    So I'm pretty sure that if a gay guy can cut it in a male prison, he'll be fine to practice anywhere else.

    I also don't think homosexuality is underrepresented at all in psych. I'm sure that relative to fields like business, accounting, engineering, yadda yadda yadda, the numbers look quite huge. (Though I swear to god those business-major frat boys do some pretty homo erotic stuff when nobody's looking)

    And I'm gonna add my vote to the side that says you'll be too busy in grad school to worry about dating. The only thing I tuck into bed these days is my cat.
     
  10. Ollie123

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    Academia is generally very open-minded, and psychology tends to be even more open-minded than many other departments. I'm not sure homosexuality is really THAT underrepresented in psych. I've actually gotten the opposite impression, that it tends to have a higher representation of homosexuals (at least males) relative to the base rate.

    You may, and probably will, encounter some prejudice. Maybe from clients, maybe faculty, maybe both. Its the unfortunate reality of the situation. If you've managed so far, you'll probably be fine. Its not likely to be any worse in the grad school context than in any other.

    As far as mentioning it...I think its fine to mention IF IT COMES UP. I emphasize that last part just because I met one guy on interviews who made it a point to bring up his sexuality in darn near every conversation. I don't think anyone there had a problem with his being gay, but I'm SURE it ended up counting against him because of 1) Concerns about inappropriate self-disclosure with clients, 2) He spent an inordinate amount of time talking about his being gay instead of things that would actually get him into grad school and 3) It just got annoying after awhile - just like it would if ANYONE were to bring up the same topic constantly.

    I always feel like I'm telling gay folks not to be themselves or to hide important parts of their life when I post that anecdote (and I've mentioned it here before). I hope it doesn't come across that way. I'm by no means saying you would do the above, I just would hate to see someone come across like that when they were just trying to make sure it was socially acceptable at that university. If it comes up, I don't recommend hiding it since it could mean missing a warning flag, and lying during interviews is just generally a bad idea. However, don't force conversations onto your personal life when they should be on your professional life.
     
  11. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist
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    A couple of points.

    1. Everyone's sexuality is a big part of who they are.

    2. Your sexuality is not relevant to your ability to perform as a graduate student or a psychologist. (although it may give you unique insight in some cases)

    3. You go about being gay in grad school just like you go about being gay period. It's not something that you have to modulate differently for school.

    4. It's not relevant, so why disclose it at all? Seriously, it makes you no better nor no worse of a graduate school candidate. If you feel the need then go right ahead and disclose, especially if you feel that it may cause friction for some reason. You wouldn't want to be in a program where your sexuality was an issue.

    5. Romantic Relationships in the dept. Don't sh!t where you eat. Gay, Straight, or Bi... I don't care but when you mix romance and work, you are asking for problems.


    That's my myopic heterosexual take on things. I realize that it is more complex than I alluded to in points 1-4, so flame me there if you want. However I am 100% right on number 5. Starting romantic relationships in your department is a BAD idea.

    Mark
     
  12. PSYDR

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    not a hinderance at all. i would mention it, as this may put you in a underrepresented group (aka, help you ).



    as for dating in your program, let me give you this advice: DO NOT DATE IN YOUR PROGRAM.

    this goes for all sexual orientations. you are asking for a huge problem, and if it doesn't work out, you will have to see that person for a looooooooong time. if it does work out, then you both have competing job aspirations. how many social psych professors does one georaphical location need? and how many of those locations have openings in a 12 month period? how would that play out in your relationship?
     
  13. Thrak

    Thrak RU experienced?
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    That I'm not sure about. I don't think sexual orientation is a protected class under federal or many state constitutions (in the US, anyway). If you're in the big cities, you should be ok though.
     
  14. JockNerd

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    You're definitely right about this. And even where we do have legal protections, those protections aren't always enforced (just as they aren't always enforced for women, ethnic minorities, people with physical or mental disabilities, and many others). So, I wouldn't count on laws of policies to protect you. I could tell a lot of horror stories about that not happening (none of which happened to me personally, fortunately).

    I can imagine a lot of situations where it would be relevant. This is the thing non-sexual minorities might have trouble seeing, since your sexuality is typically just correctly assumed. But I agree with the other points.
     
  15. cmuhooligan

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    I didn't disclose it in my applications or interviews, but I think it could be appropriate in the right context (I do plan on discussing it in my internship essays).

    As for dating, you can try the gay bar route (especially if you're in a large city), personally, I found it to be tiresome and disappointing. I actually found my sig. other on Match.com (oh the horror!) :)
     
  16. naiman

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    Thanks for all the replies. There seems to be some level of agreement that one shouldn't be dating within one's department. Not sure I agree - seems like many of psychology's power couples were grad students/post docs in the same department at more or less the same time period. If it can work for straights, why not for gays?
     
  17. JockNerd

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    Because for every power couple there were probably 50 or so messy, ugly, wretched breakups that caused trouble or at least awkwardness. Lots of other grad programs to find dates from!
     
  18. Therapist4Chnge

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    I'd have to agree.

    I've seen some drama with people who were 'in love', and then it fell apart, which left everyone else to deal with the fact that they had to see each other ALL OF THE TIME. It works best (read: worst) when they are in the same area of research/study, and end up in the same classes....supervision....etc. Oh, and it is great when you walk into class for the first day, and see that your TA is an Ex', that's awesome.

    Do yourselves a favor, and date OUTSIDE of the program.

    You might as well marry your books/classes/research, because when you skip spending time with them, you can always make it up without having to buy them flowers. Saves on stress AND money! :D
     
  19. psybee

    psybee Psychology Grad Student!
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    i'm straight, but i met my fellow (5 years!) on nerve.com. it can work, it you have a high tolerance for ambiguity, akwardness, and an absurd sense of humor.

    also, if he's wearing a hat in his picture, he's not a fashion plate -- he's balding. (not that there's anything wrong with that, but just saying).

    if i were moving to a new area for school and thought i'd have some time, i'd pick up a few shifts at the local coffee shop -- get to know all about the area (hear all the gossip) and you'd meet tons of people who are part of your community but outside your program.
     
  20. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty
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    Coffee shops are good places in general to study (at least the quiet ones). If you go a bit farther from the campus, you can find lesser used ones and avoid seeing the same people you see in class. I used a smaller one that was popular with another grad program....and a knitting group. :D

    There are also student organizations that over-arch depts/programs that are a good way to meet people outside of your program.
     
  21. Thrak

    Thrak RU experienced?
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    I'm straight, but I'll also throw in my 2 cents into the "don't date inside your department" pile.

    I met my wife when we were undergrads in college. We shared a minor (Peace and Justice Studies), but not a major. That was ok. She chose law, and I chose psychology. We're both interested in the other's work, but it's nice to come home and talk to someone a) about something other than psychology, or b) about psychology to someone with an outsider's perspective.

    You also sidestep the competition factor.

    I'd also advise against looking for a serious relationship, as relationships are a hell of a lot of work especially in the early goings, and that's a lot to handle with grad school. I can tell you if it's anything like law school, free time is practically non-existent. I've seen quite a few breakups (both dating and marriages) in my wife's program over the past three years.
     
  22. cmuhooligan

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    Although I do agree with Thrak that it is very difficult to manage graduate school and dating, I wouldn't say not to do it. I dated throughout my program (now entering my 4th year) and I have been able to manage both my social life and professional life. I'm sure this does vary from program to program, but I typically work 8-6 Monday-Friday and 9-5 on the weekends. That leaves my weekend evenings and at least one night during the week free for social events (be it romantic or platonic)...
     
  23. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist
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    I wanted to expand on this more, but yes, you are correct... I was just running late for class, so please excuse the clumsy way I put it. :) I usually try to avoid making assumptions about sexuality, but the vast majority of people are inclined to generalize that most people are straight. This happens to be an area of great personal interest (human sexuality) and as such I try (and sometimes succeed) to be a little more cognitively flexible about the whole subject.

    Mark
     
  24. Ollie123

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    Pretty much what others have said. I think most people said "Don't date in the department" applies regardless of sexuality.

    I think this is some confirmation bias going on here - you notice the folks who ARE married in the same department (same last name, publish together, etc.). You aren't going to know if two people now at different universities dated in grad school and it went horribly.

    I think relatively few universities and companies try to outright ban inter-office dating, but if you do and it turns ugly, you'll probably get a whole lot of "Told you so"s and plenty of others irritated at any awkward department-drama that results.
     
  25. BamaPsych

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    Hi naiman,

    I am in your exact shoes; I'm a junior apping to grad schools this coming fall, and I'm gay. I haven't had these worries at all though. I think you should feel completely unafraid about your pursuit of a grad degree in psychology. Most programs have antidiscrimination policies, and there is an entire division of the APA for gay, lesbian, and bisexual issues. If there is any field you should feel welcome in, you are already in it =).

    Second, some schools actually have research areas in GLB issues, if you are interested in that. This is just another reason to be unafraid.

    One way that I differ from you is that I come from a small southern university and I am going to be applying to a lot of rural universities for my graduate studies. This isn't on purpose, it just happens that most of the schools that match my interests are in rural areas. Since you are considering applying to bigger city schools, I'd bet you have even less of a concern than you would if you were applying to rural areas.

    On the last note, gay individuals are underepresented in psychology programs because, well, we are a minority. If gay people make up X amount of the national population, it only makes sense that they make up X amount of graduate programs.

    Don't be afraid =)
     
  26. cmuhooligan

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    Just a quick note, this wouldn't mean that GLB folks are under-represented. If there was a lower percentage of GLB folks in psychology programs than there is in the overall population, then this would denote an under-representation. I'm not aware of any #'s on this topic, in fact, the percentage of GLB folks in the general population is open to debate.
     
  27. JockNerd

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    If we mean self-identified lgb persons, then I'd say we're likely quite plentiful, at least among males. I actually know only one self-identified lesbians in psychology....
     
  28. cmuhooligan

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    We have 3 self-identified lesbian faculty members in the department, makes for an over-representation! :)
     
  29. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist
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    Then how come they are over-represented in professional dance? It is estimated that gay men represent nearly 50% of all professional male dancers[SIZE=-1] (Bailey & Oberschneider,1997)[/SIZE]. If I were to bet, I would think that there is a disproportionately higher number of LGBT persons in psychology when compared to the general population, but I lack data to support my assertion.

    Mark

    [SIZE=-1]Bailey, J.M. & Oberschneider, M. (1997) [/SIZE]Sexual Orientation and Professional Dance, Archives of Sexual Behavior 26(4), 433-444
     
  30. BamaPsych

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    Mark,

    I can't pretend to know what you're asking out of my post. I mean, it makes sense that certain professions attract certain people...I didn't claim that the exact percentage is exact for every profession. More or less it just provides a lower boundary. I didn't know that I needed to calrify that this might vary from profession to profession - I figured most people on here would be able to realize that certain careers would attract more or less gay people than others. (Construction vs. Dancing, for example). All I'm saying is if you believe in probability, sampling, and representativesness, then the same percent out of the general pop. should transfer into a profession. Of course there will be confounding variables when you break the population into sub populations (i.e. by profession). I think analyzing this data would be out of range of our data though...
     
  31. JockNerd

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    When you cite..

    READ THE STUDY!

    The 50% estimate is dancer's own estimates of the prevalence of homosexuality among dancers, and those estimates varied between 25% and 98%. Their own estimates mean nothing. The researchers systematically tried to recruit gay dancers, too.

    Here's their recruitment methodology:
    "Participants included present and past professional dancers. Participants were recruited unsystematically, via personal contacts, a solicitation in a Chicago dance magazine and "snowball sampling." We attempted to interview approximately equal numbers of gay men, heterosexual men, heterosexual women, and lesbians, but it was not possible to interview a comparable number of lesbian dancers, due to their apparent rarity."

    J. M. Bailey is the king of crappy research on lgb issues, especially with regard to his sampling and sweeping generalizations from poor samples.
     
  32. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist
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    I did read the study, which states that they estimate that gay males were roughly 50%. I never said the estimate was accurate. :p

    Good catch though. I saw this study last night and came to the same conclusion that you just stated, the research was pretty crappy. I was just adding some fuel to the fire.

    Mark
     
  33. Ollie123

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    Yeah, I've noticed this as well and it isn't even an area I've done lots of readings in.

    Why is he at Northwestern? They're not exactly a bad program, do they just keep him around because he's "controversial"? Did he not start doing that kind of work until after tenure?
     
  34. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist
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    I think that stereotyping any group is dangerous. Although generalization and categorization allow us to make sense of our world, these skills also force us to make errors too.

    I was just trying to provoke some thinking on the subject and used that poorly written article to incite some response. In reality, you find LGBT persons in all fields and from all walks of life. While it certainly is possible that some of these individuals may chose similar professions, it is certainly far from proscribed behavior.

    Mark
     
  35. BamaPsych

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    Makes sense
     
  36. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist
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    I've been known to do that from time to time... even a stopped clock is right twice a day!

    Mark
     
  37. JockNerd

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    The question of prevalence of homosexuality within an occupation is confounded with two things; self-identification and outness. Are there more gay men in professional dance than in the general population? I'm sure there are, but I'm also sure that virtually 100% of MSMs in dance call themselves gay and are out. There are lots of MSM who are bankers, investors, lawyers, accountants, construction workers, military officers, etc., but they might not call themselves gay and are probably much less likely to be out.
     
  38. Ollie123

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    For those of us who aren't up on the literature in this field...what does MSM mean?

    I assume you weren't referring to the industrial solvent, which is what I know that abbreviation as;)

    Good point though, it seems like a pretty hard thing to measure since people don't really identify on a continuum, but I think (correct me if I'm wrong here) most research supports the continuum model.
     
  39. JockNerd

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    Men who have Sex with Men.

    It comes from the problem of using self-identification... plenty of MSM don't self-identify as gay.
     
  40. Therapist4Chnge

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    This opens up a can of worms when trying to research in the area. I was doing a lit review in a related area and the research was horribly inconsistent on their terminology and categorization. I wanted to flog some of the researchers who didn't classify people correctly. I actually think most people fall throughout the Kinsey Scale and are not as polarized as the typical catagories require.

    Speaking of men who sleep with other men, "On the Down Low" talks about this very topic, though I have yet to get a chance to read it, so YMMV on it.

    On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of 'Straight' Black Men Who Sleep with Men (Hardcover)
    by J.L. King
     
  41. JockNerd

    5+ Year Member

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    Yup yup yup... MSM is very useful for disease vector literature, because it taps the important thing; engaging in the physiologically more risky forms of sex, regardless of attraction levels or self-identification. For identity/sexuality development literature, it's not useful. There are more useful ways of assessing the constructs of interest in better literature, though. But self-identification is next to useless too.

    You're right that you can find pretty awful sampling on the topic. It forms the basis for a lot of research (notably Bailey's line of inquiry, among others...).
     
  42. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty
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    What frustrated me was that most used a self-report, but failed to account for things like people who were in the process of coming out (vs. those who have been 'out' for years), those who S-R as homosexual...but only have heterosexual relations...and vice versa, etc.
     
  43. 73BARMYPgsp

    73BARMYPgsp Post Doc
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    It is also used in the blogosphere and alternative media sources to describe "Main Stream Media." (ABC/NBC/CBS/CNN/NYT/LAT/Reuters/AP):)
     
  44. 73BARMYPgsp

    73BARMYPgsp Post Doc
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    Poor Mark. This statement represents one of the most profound, needed concepts in our world today. Unfortunately, "generalizations" are now a dirty word (unless of course, they make the right groups look either good or bad as approved by the popular culture)

    I'm with you, but I think we have lost that battle for now. :(
     

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