04.15.21 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

It may come as no surprise given my profession, but when I’m not reading and writing about it, I love watching the news. Or at least listening to it.

I’ve been known to tune into the latest political hearing on CSPAN or to blast a special report on MSNBC while driving around town – and each network’s broadcasts have long served as the backdrop for every meal my husband and I eat at home. We’re pretty wild.

While I prefer those two outlets as an adult, my hunger for information impacting the world long precedes my introduction to either. It actually began as a high school student with Channel One News.

If you’re not familiar with it, you probably didn’t grow up in the Midwest. The program reached more than six million students in classrooms throughout the country for 28 years – like mine in Ohio, though Florida seems to have been an exception – encouraging “young people to become informed, global citizens.”

It certainly helped cultivate that aspiration in me, building upon my love for the free press I’d discovered as a student journalist producing our school’s newspaper. Channel One’s talented anchors, including now-famous faces like CNN’s Anderson Cooper, detailed how students were impacted by the world around them until 2018.

The broadcasts also featured appropriate advertising, something critics claimed was problematic for the time students spent in the classroom watching commercials and supporters noted was necessary to cover costs. I personally loved that content nearly as much as each show’s reporting.

That’s because I can credit it in part for the love of reading I have today, tracing it back to one early morning during my sophomore year in 2001. That’s when I saw a commercial that would change my trajectory as a reader forever: a TV spot for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

“This is Hogwarts,” it began, the film’s now-iconic score playing in the background. “A school just like yours – where brooms fly, homework explodes and teachers transform their students into wizards.” Watch:


It had everything. Owls, floating candles, a dog with three heads. Maggie Smith even turned into a cat! It was two decades ago, so that was a big deal since we didn’t know she could do that at the time.

I was sold – and while I tend to agree that the book is always better than the film, I had no idea four of them already existed. I saw the movie in theaters multiple times and immediately wanted more.

I found it when for the first time in my life, I spent my own money on a book a teacher hadn’t assigned me to read. I bought its source material and devoured it in no time.

Whoever JK Rowling was, she had a real gift. I quickly read her sequels years before any would see the silver screen, reading them whenever and wherever I could. It truly was the start of something magical: my love of reading for fun.

I spent the next few years alternating between the latest “Potter” content, confirming the books were better but falling in love with the movies just the same. As Rowling’s profile rose and social media made her more accessible to fans, I also grew to respect her views on diversity and inclusion, which she seemed to defend online and I saw as staples in each of her stories.

But the problem with meeting your heroes is that they aren’t always magical. Not unlike He Who Should Not Be Named, hatred can be deeply rooted and take shape in many forms, something Rowling proved by repeatedly attacking the LGBTQ community last year.

With her international megaphone, the author has unapologetically targeted our transgender siblings – the most vulnerable among us – and continues to do so when given the chance. LGBTQ organizations have tried to reason with her but she’s publicly declined, enforcing my decision to move on from her wizarding world.

I won’t consume new books, films, games or theme park attractions going forward, not because I don’t love “Harry Potter” but because I love the transgender community more. I would implore any fan or member of the LGBTQ community to do the same. I think anyone from Hogwarts would.

In this issue we focus on the harmful ideology Rowling has begun to parrot in recent years. We explain who Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) are and what they believe.

LGBTQ organizations show the world what they believe in our news coverage. Dining Out for Life returns in Tampa Bay while the National Trans Visibility March heads to Orlando. St Pete Pride also shares its vision for safely celebrating this June.

Watermark strives to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. Please stay safe, stay informed and enjoy this latest issue.

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