The Eagle Gets to Land

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On its honor, National Geographic Channel did its best to give critics of the Boy Scouts of America a platform while sticking to its policy on disclaimers, thanks to the availability of an online platform.

Nat Geo last week debuted a reality competition show, Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?, produced with the support of the BSA. But on the eve of that broadcast, the network found itself on the receiving end of the very public delivery of several boxes of petitions delivered to its D.C. offices by an Eagle Scout — in this case, gay scout Will Oliver, backed by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

It may sound like a manufactured case study in a PR 101 class (“please discuss possible responses”), but it actually happened.

Oliver and GLAAD wanted the channel to air a disclaimer before the show repudiating the Boy Scout ban on openly gay scouts and leaders.

While it is likely some Nat Geo folks are in sympathy with the thrust of that repudiation, and nobody likes having to say no to an Eagle Scout, the channel has a policy against disclaimers for anything but content, say, a graphic depiction that might be disturbing to kids. (The channel says it has denied similar, less-public requests.)

The solution? The channel offered Oliver the opportunity to air his criticisms in an unedited blog post on the channel’s website, and he accepted. (Click through to the blog post at multichannel.com/March11).

It didn’t entirely appease the loyal opposition, but GLAAD did call it a “nice gesture” and a “step in the right direction.”

Is there a merit badge for smart handling of a tough situation?

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