Bil Browning, founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Bilerico Project, is an honoree in the annual National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association media awards. Browning won first place for Excellence in Online Journalism.
Established by NLGJA more than a decade ago to ‘foster, recognize and reward excellence in journalism related to the LGBT community,” The 'Excellence in Journalism Awards' are given for news writing, feature writing, opinion writing, network television, radio, online, photojournalism, HIV/AIDS and student journalism. Additionally, the organization recognizes a Journalist of the Year and a Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for Excellence in LGBT media.
Browning won for his reporting on the plight of HIV+ Haitian immigrant Betsie Gallardo which began with a December 23, 2010 blog entitled “A Christmas Miracle for Betsie Gallardo":
Betsie Gallardo was a dying HIV+ Haitian child when missionary Jessica Bussert adopted both Betsie and her sister, Germaine. Betsie grew up in one of Haiti's worst slums where she was regularly sexually abused by a local policeman. Jessica brought the two girls home to America and Betsie responded well to treatment and has grown into a beautiful young woman - a ballet dancer.
Betsie moved to Florida recently and was in a car accident. When the emergency responders arrived, she flashed back to the horrendous abuse she suffered at the hands of that Haitian policeman and resisted arrest. She spit at a cop. The state of Florida sentenced her to five years in prison for battery on a police officer using spit as a deadly weapon - even though it isn't possible to transmit HIV through saliva.
Betsie has now been diagnosed with stage four cancer and is dying. After she didn't contact her family for over a week, her family traveled to Florida to check on her and discovered that doctors had discovered an inoperable bowel blockage. Betsie is unable to take in any food and is slowly starving to death in prison. The state has decided to refuse Betsie IV nutrition saying, "She's going to die sooner or later."
The Broward Correctional Institution warden has allowed her family to visit with her twice in the infirmary but was notified yesterday that there will be no more "special consideration." Since Betsie is too ill to have visitors during normal visiting hours, her family has been barred from seeing her. Their request to be at her bedside as she died was also denied.
As a result of Browning’s blog and the ensuing response by readers of Bilerico and other media outlets that picked up the story, Florida officials released Gallardo to a hospice on January 6, where she was allowed medical treatment and the company of her family before dying on January 31, 2011.
The tragic story of Betsie Gallardo is but one example of the type of social justice reporting Browning and other writers at Bilerico have become known for over the past few years, and the recognition for the important work has not been in short supply.
In 2009, the Advocate named Bilerico the ‘Top Political Blog’ and the Washington Post called Bilerico a ‘must read.’ NUVO readers will remember that the blog as a winner in both the 2010 and 2009 Best of Indy Readers Poll, for best local blog. Nationally, the blog most recently won the NYC Anti-Violence Project's Courage Award and the LA Stonewall Democrats' Bob Craig Media Award.
Congratulations, Bil! Keep up the great work.