Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TOP STORY: Diversity issues take center stage at LGBT Media Summit

NLGJA convention kicks off with discussion of trans coverage and inclusion
by Chuck Colbert

CHICAGO — More than 300 LGBT news industry professionals and allies attended the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association’s (NLGJA) annual convention and 10th LGBT Media Summit, a four-day gathering held this year August 21-24 at Chicago’s landmark Palmer House Hilton. The theme was “Breaking Barriers.”

During the main convention, attendees heard keynote speakers, panelists, and workshop leaders address a variety of topics, including diversity coverage of the LGBT community, the intersection of activism and religion, coming out in professional sports, and trends in social media.

A one-day summit focusing solely on LGBT media featured two plenary sessions, one on how to better cover transgender persons and issues and another on the future of journalism funding. Breakout sessions focused on HIV/AIDS coverage in LGBT media, the future of lesbian media, out athletes and sports reporting, African Americans in LGBT media, and the future of blogging, social media, and mobile reporting.

Windy City Times publisher and executive editor Tracy Baim, co-chair of the LGBT Media Summit, was pleased with the day’s proceedings.

“All the panelists brought their A game,” she said. “The transgender plenary panel kicked off the day fantastically. Also the funding plenary was really informative. I felt like the way foundations are now funding journalism was interesting for me to hear, how it has changed just in the last two years, what they fund — infrastructure versus projects. I didn’t realize those changes were happening. So throughout the day, I was surprised what I was learning even though I knew the panelists and read a lot about them in organizing the summit.”

Baim said that an overarching goal for the summit was to make it as diverse as possible. “I think a goal for the media summit next year would be even more diversity,” she said, suggesting “a whole track of transgender workshops. This year’s plenary only touched the tip of the iceberg.”

Transgender journalists panel

The opening plenary, “Transgender Journalists and Transgender Coverage in LGBT Media,” was moderated by Fiona Dawson and featured journalists Gretchen Rachel Blickensderfer, Christina Kahrl, Parker Molloy, and Andre Perez.

During the 90-minute discussion, panelists agreed generally that transgender media presentations might well have reached a “tipping point” in 2014 with Laverne Cox’s appearance on the June 9 cover of Time magazine. Cox is perhaps best known for her role in the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.”

Nonetheless, Chicago-based sports journalist Kahrl, who works for as an editor and writer, sounded a cautionary note.
LGBT Media Summit opening plenary panelists
(left to right) Parker Molloy, Gretchen Rachel Blickensderfer,
Andre Perez, Christina Kahrl, and moderator
Fiona Dawson (photo: Hal Baim)

“We are definitely at a critical moment in terms of trans visibility in both the media and in society at large,” she said. “But the question is whether society’s pivoting from this moment is going to be entirely positive. It’s not. Progress is not linear. It’s going to be a situation that we have seen time and time again, backlash, negative responses, negative coverage, [and] not just in mainstream media newsrooms, but also unfortunately in LGBT media newsrooms.”

On the positive side, Chicago-based Perez, facilitator at StoryCorps, pointed to Windy City Times and a “series of different transgender reporters” with “representation on the front page and middle pages and back page and throughout that publication. That’s not something I see in other kinds of media. We are at a moment of explosion of visibility, and I think that has good consequences, but I am not sure I can point to a lot of specific stories that are done right.”

For her part, Blickensderfer, an account manager and writer for Windy City Times, noted, “A lot of trans people are writing their own blogs” or “putting their stories on You Tube," or “self publishing. A lot of these are unedited and terribly honest.”

A transgender essayist and advocate from Chicago, Molloy added, “There is no one transgender narrative, and the media is still struggling to gather that.”

To improve coverage, she said, stories ought to move beyond “trans people talking about trans people and making money off of being trans.” While there is nothing wrong with that, Molloy explained, “You have trans lawyers, doctors, and teachers.”

Added Kahrl, “The notion that trans people have careers that anybody would want is an important message; and something that again both needs to be [communicated] so that people making hiring decisions understand that, yeah, I can hire trans people, trans people have talent. That’s a positive message that people need to hear more about and see more of as opposed to just trans people just talking about themselves and their own issues.”

A focus on transgender coverage at the media summit notwithstanding, a variety of diversity issues rolled over into the main convention when the opening panel tackled hits and misses in covering the LGBT community.

Cathy Renna, who moderated that session, said without a doubt, “The biggest issue for media — mainstream, LGBT media, and social media — is diversity. The issue is really about inclusion. Are we really looking at the way our community reflects the larger culture and our issues? There is no such thing as a gay issue or LGBT issue anymore. They are human rights issues [with] so many intersections, and we are missing so many stories. I think it was perfectly natural that everything we talked about at [the media summit] came up during the main convention discussion about diversity."

Renna is a senior executive vice president at Target Cue, LLC, a consultancy that specializes in providing public relations and marketing communications services to not-for-profit organizations seeking to reach highly-defined audiences.

Reactions and takeaway messages

Renna offered her thoughts on key takeaway messages from the LGBT Media Summit.

Even as “mainstream media continues to do a better, more sophisticated job covering LGBT issues,” she said, “the LGBT media still needs to be on the vanguard. The LGBT media continues to struggle financially because it is in a very competitive environment. As I said before, as coming from someone who is not a journalist, [the community] really needs to advocate and support LGBT media because it continues to be the first place to go to when you really need to know what’s going on and what issues are emerging.”

For Michelangelo Signorile, an important takeaway message is “that we have to keep growing and that we can’t think that we have achieved something and that it’s all done. I think there has been an idea all across the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender world, particularly with marriage equality, that we have arrived when in fact, no, there are a multitude of issues. It’s just that transforming, taking on a culture is a much bigger issue than getting rights.”

A host on Sirius XM Radio and editor-at-large for Huffington Post, Signorile recently completed a book, “It’s Not Over:  Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality,” to be published next spring by Houghton Mifflin.

Asked for his thoughts on the LGBT Media Summit, Signorile said what interested him most “was the changing landscape of the media and how younger people are coming to this changed landscape and really mastering a lot of these skills. ... A lot of those editors on the blogs and social media are younger. So how do we transform ... LGBT media in this era? Also, the issues are changing. How do we cover transgender issues in a way that really brings light to the subject rather than the heat and sensationalism, which we have seen in the past on gay issues, seen it change a bit, but not yet on transgender issues.”

Sarah Toce, founder and publisher of The Seattle Lesbian, said being “all in this together” was an important takeaway message.

“We are all doing this for the same reasons, but obviously we all have our various segments and why we are special at what we do,” she explained. “To come together at a conference like this and be able to share that knowledge is invaluable in getting to know better what LGBT media can do.”

Toce and Baim, along with Trish Bendix, a Los Angeles-based writer and managing editor of, led the panel discussion, “The Future of Lesbian Media,” during the summit.

One mainstream press reporter, Jeremy Fox of The Boston Globe, found the NLGJA gathering important for his work. “One of the great things about the LGBT Media Summit, and the conference more generally, is hearing so many voices that I don't usually get to hear while trying to serve a wider audience that may not have a good understanding of issues in the LGBT community or even know that there is not one monolithic community, but many smaller communities that recognize common struggles and try to support one another,” he said.

“The transgender panel in particular was a rare opportunity to hear thoughtful — and forceful — perspectives on how that community is covered and how transgender journalists navigate their worlds,” said Fox, vice president of NLGJA’s Boston chapter. “It's unusual to hear one trans person exploring those issues in public, so to hear four perspectives and to hear the panelists exchanging ideas and comparing experiences was enlightening. It got me thinking about how I can cover transgender issues for wider audiences in a way that respects those unique personal experiences and doesn't impose a one-size-fits-all narrative about what it means to be trans.”

A main takeaway for Mark King, an HIV/AIDS activist, educator, and blogger, was “simply the thrill of being in the company of other writers,” he said. “This can be an isolating profession, writing our best and then releasing it to the blogosphere, often relying only on trolls and contrarians for feedback. So, to spend time in person with other writers is a joy and a real inspiration to me. And, as somewhat of a niche writer who focuses primarily on gay men, HIV and addiction issues, it was enlightening to learn from the many workshops focusing on other important issues that I feel certain will find a place in my future work.”

King, who moderated a panel discussion on HIV/AIDS reporting, offered a critique of LGBT media’s coverage of the epidemic. “We, as LGBT media, are doing a disservice to our community by attributing the lack of in-depth HIV coverage on factors such as reader ‘fatigue,’” he said. “There are compelling, new stories to tell. HIV criminalization, the inanity of the PrEP ‘debate,’ and the slow but sure melding of HIV positive and negative status are remarkable and untold stories. In the absence of adequate coverage, the vacuum is filled with misinformation and fear, which has plagued us since the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, and frankly, we should know better.”

King received NLGJA’s award for excellence in blogging for “My Fabulous Disease.”

Next year, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association celebrates its 25th anniversary. The convention is scheduled for Sept. 3-6 in San Francisco.

Windy City Times’ coverage of the media summit and main convention, which includes video clips of various panels, plenaries, and awards reception, is available at

Volume 16
Issue 6

SIDEBAR: LGBT media professionals Tracy Baim and Lisa Keen inducted into NLGJA Hall of Fame

by Chuck Colbert

CHICAGO — The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association added two more members of LGBT media to its Hall of Fame roster.

Tracy Baim (left) and Lisa Keen (photo: Hal Baim)
They are Tracy Baim, publisher and executive editor of Chicago’s Windy City Times, and veteran journalist Lisa Keen, founder and chief correspondent of Keen News Service, which specializes in national legal and political news and provides such content to LGBT news organizations from coast to coast.

Another 2014 inductee was Donna Cartwright, a veteran copy editor at the New York Times, also a longtime transgender LGBT and labor activist.

“This year’s selections are deeply rewarding,” said Bob Witeck, chair of the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame Task Force. “All three share lifelong habits reporting our stories through solid journalism while inspiring us with their dedication to truth.”

NLGJA made its formal Hall of Fame inductions on Saturday evening, August 23, during the closing awards reception at the organization’s national convention in Chicago.

Baim and Keen were on hand to receive their respective honors.

An author, filmmaker, and historian, in addition to publisher and editor, Baim began her career at Gay Life newspaper in 1984, a month after graduating from Drake University. She co-founded Windy City Times in 1985 and Outlines newspaper in 1987. Lambda Publications, the parent company of Outlines, bought Windy City Times in 2000 and merged it with Outlines, and the parent company became Windy City Media Group.

NJGLA selected Tracy Baim in part for her lifelong passion for journalism and love of history, as well as her fierce human-rights advocacy. To that end, Baim has championed equality in battling sexism, racism and homophobia. For example, she received NLGJA’s 2014 first-place award for excellence in opinion/editorial for "The content of our character: Trayvon and us."

“NLGJA, while it did not originally embrace LGBT media as part of its mission, has really changed that in the past decade,” said Baim. “They have honored several LGBT media people, including Mark Segal of Philadelphia Gay News last year. So it was a great honor to be inducted into the NLGJA Hall of Fame this year alongside Lisa Keen and Donna Cartwright.

“What is even more wonderful is how many great journalists are in the Hall of Fame, including Jill Johnston, Randy Wicker, Michelangelo Signorile, Deb Price, Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen, Marlon Riggs and more. This makes me feel overwhelmed to be in the company of these giants of mainstream and LGBT media history.”

In brief remarks at the awards reception, Baim also voiced praise for the important role NLGJA has played in the LGBT rights struggle.

“The national LGBT community does not understand that NLGJA is probably one of the most important organizations that has effected change for our movement behind the scenes,” she said. “There are many other organizations that are political and activist, but NLGJA, behind the scenes, has influenced change immensely.”

For more than 35 years, Lisa Keen has been reporting news for LGBT audiences and is frequently considered the dean of gay political reporting in America. During her career, she served for 18 years as editor of one of the nation’s most respected gay publications, The Washington Blade. Keen was one of the first two reporters for a gay newspaper to be credentialed to cover the White House and Congress. She has covered U.S. Supreme Court cases since 1985 and is one of the only reporters to carefully analyze gay voting trends in presidential elections.

In addition, Keen won the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association for her coverage of an anti-gay initiative in Colorado and the subsequent landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Romer v. Evans, as well as a Society of Professional Journalists award for her series of interviews — from diagnosis to death — with one of the first gay men to develop AIDS in the early 1980s. Keen is also co-author of :Strangers to the Law: Gay People on Trial,” published in 2000.

NLGJA selected Lisa Keen in part for her tireless commitment to reporting stories that matter most to LGBT people.

“I really appreciated the acknowledgement,” said Keen. “And it prompted me to think back on my own career and realize what a wild ride it has been — what wonderful opportunities, surreal moments, and even scary experiences I had. I think so many of us are so busy rushing from one breaking news story to the next one, we don't take much time to look back. And it's just a really good feeling to have others in the business stop you and say, 'Hey, you — you did good.'”

In brief remarks at the awards reception, Keen spoke of the role LGBT media has played over the decades. Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, she said, a gay newspaper, like the Washington Blade, “was critical to the community. It was a matter of life and death” during the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“Things have changed,” she said. “Our mainstream daily newspapers cover gay stories even more than our gay community newspapers.”
Still, Keen said, “Gay newspapers are as vital to our community now as back then.”

“I am very proud to have been part of the gay media these past couple of decades or more,” she said in closing. “Wherever we end up in 10 years, I hope I am still at it and enjoying it as much as I do now.”

In 2005, NLGJA established the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame to recognize journalists for their commitment, courage, and dedication to LGBT issues in the media. Since then, NLGJA has honored a total of 25 journalists in the LGBT community.

Volume 16
Issue 6

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Popular LGBT blog launches fundraising appeal

by Chuck Colbert

The editor in chief of Bilerico, one of the nation’s leading LGBT blogs with dozens of contributors, has sounded a warning bell, asking readers and fans for financial support. The hope is that loyal readers will step up to the plate.

“Bilerico doesn't make money. Running a site like this is a full-time job, but it doesn't pay like one,” wrote John M. Becker in an August 13 posting, his first-ever funding appeal for the blog. “The other day I crunched the numbers, factored in the site's average monthly ad revenue and the number of hours I put in, and discovered that I'm making less than if I worked a minimum wage job. Quite frankly, that's unsustainable, especially with the sky-high cost of living here in Washington, D.C.” 

As Bilerico’s founder and publisher, Bil Browning explained further in email correspondence, "Over the past 10 years, we've posted fundraising appeals a handful of times. Our readers have always done their best to help us out. They understand that running a blog is a lot of work for very little pay. Most of the larger LGBT blogs that pay a staff reasonably well are corporately owned with a big bank account behind them. There are only a handful of private blogs that make anything close to a full-time salary."

Over the year that Becker has been at the helm editing Bilerico, he said, the website’s traffic is “soaring,” its content is “up,” with “reader engagement … through the roof.”

There is little doubt that Becker enjoys his work. “I love Bilerico,” he wrote. “I want to keep bringing you the great content you enjoy every day, but I need to be able to pay the bills. Money is extremely tight right now — so tight, in fact, that I'm worried about making rent next month. So unless I'm able to turn this around ASAP, I'm going to have to find a new job and The Bilerico Project will have to close up shop for good.”

Accordingly, Becker finds himself at a “crossroads,” he said.

The Bilerico Project ( will celebrate 10th anniversary on September 25, 2014.

Websites comparable to Bilerico include The New Civil Rights Movement, Towleroad and Joe My God.

The name for Bilerico is a combination of its founder’s first name (Bil) and the first name of Browning’s college friend, Eric Muramatsu.

Altogether, “Bilerico is a type of project — an open-ended experiment in communication and cultural community building,” according to a website posting about its history and mission.

 A native of Indiana, Browning’s blog at first focused on LGBT issues in that state. In 2007, however, the blog took on LGBT political issues nationally, at the same time it embraced the full spectrum of LGBT life. Browning moved from his home state to a new base in Washington, D.C.

In addition to his editorial position at Bilerico, Becker has appeared as a guest commentator on major news and political shows, including ABC’s World News Tonight, Nightline, and Good Morning America; NBC’s Today Show; CNN's Newsroom; Fox’s Alan Colmes Show; MSNBC’s Ed Schultz Show and Live with Al Sharpton; and the Associated Press Television Network. A native of Wisconsin, Becker is also an accomplished classical musician. He holds a master of music degree in vocal performance.

Volume 16
Issue 5

Indiana-based publications up for sale

by Chuck Colbert

The largest LGBT newspaper in the Southern Midwest is for sale by its founding owner and publisher. In fact, both of Ted Fleischaker’s Indianapolis-based publications, The Word and Up Downtown, are on the market.

Fast approaching age 65 next May, Fleischaker said, “It’s time to retire. My partner and I want to move to Maine for a major change.”  

Another reason, he said, is that he is “ready not to meet a daily deadline. Even though we are a monthly paper, there’s a daily deadline or something to do every day, including weekends.”

A “motivated seller,” Fleischaker is asking $200,000 for a package deal for both publications, which are distributed monthly, with a combined print run of 18,500 on average. More than 3,000 readers download the publication at

While The Word is a gay and lesbian publication, Up Downtown ( is not, although it has some gay-related content.

Fleischaker began publishing The Word in 1991. “It took a lot of craziness and guts to start a gay paper in red-state Indiana back then,” he said. “If I had thought about it longer, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”

The paper, Fleischaker continued, “was named by my late mother who always said that no matter what we were talking about, I always had to have the last word, so I named it The Word for her; and she got to read it because I sent her a copy every month before she died in 1993.”

To get started, Fleischaker’s father gave him a $10,000 interest-free loan for five years. But within 90 days, “My dad got his money back. I have never had an issue of the paper that did not make money.”

During a wide-ranging telephone interview, Fleischaker discussed in some detail the two publications’ content and advertisers, as well as his formula for success in running a profitable business, which last year brought in $134,000.

“We are a regional newspaper,” he said. “And I emphasize news. We want to cover news, so we have all the features you find in daily newspapers.”

Accordingly, content runs the gamut from news and editorials to sports and theatre and the arts, Fleischaker said. The Word also has a horoscope, gossip, music, financial investment and medical columns. A lesbian writes a column aimed at the women’s community, and a psychologist pens a Q&A.

“We have all the same features that any small-town newspaper has to serve that community,” he explained, with The Word “serving the gay community.”

The Word does not shy away from making endorsements. And in editorials, Fleischaker said, “We talk about what is going on politically,” critiquing elected officials and others when necessary, “in all our [neighboring] states.”

Because “we are regional,” said Fleischaker, “I try to get [contributors] from each of the areas included in every issue. Nobody can say we are just Indianapolis.”

But all coverage is not local. “My ex, Anthony Ehlers, who’s a Hoosier, and his current partner Nicholas Giger, live in Toronto so they covered World Pride for us,” he said, but they did it with a local flavor. “The Word ran a two-page spread and included a page-one photo of a Fort Wayne contingent in the World Pride parade, so we combined international and local.”

In other coverage, a recent issue featured a front-page story on the advent of same-sex marriage in Indiana.

On the business side, Fleischaker points to The Word’s robust mix of mostly regional but also national advertisers. 

“I sell ads to the two biggest casinos in the state,” he said, along with advertising for car dealers, realtors, restaurants and even a donut shop. 

“It’s a little bit of everything,” said Fleischaker. Recently, a jeweler expressed interest in advertising. The reason: gay marriage. “The owner wants to be on the forefront of wedding rings when it does become and stay legal for us to wed.”

The Word’s big national advertising in pharmaceuticals comes from Rivendell, he said. (Rivendell also owns Press Pass Q.)

As one measure of how the gay community has changed, Fleischaker said, back in the day, “gay bars and bathhouses were 95 percent of the ads. Now it’s 20 percent or less.”

Still, The Word runs X-rated ads, he said, including those for a 900-phone line and Squirt, a gay sex cruising site. One or both local gay bathhouses have run ads, including “Club Indianapolis, which has a full-page ad every month and has never missed an issue in 23-plus years.”

The Word is distributed in seven states, including Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Iowa. That region, Fleischaker said, covers events, news and a lot more in the cities of Dayton, Columbus, Lexington, Louisville, Cincinnati, everywhere in Illinois except Chicago — and Indianapolis.

By comparison, Up Downtown covers happenings, events and new businesses in downtown Indianapolis, with a focus on the artsy neighborhoods of Fountain Square and Massachusetts Avenue.

The Word and Up Downtown are full-color tabloids, with the former publication averaging 64 pages per issue. The latter averages 32. Fleischaker is a full-time staffer. A bunch of freelance contributors provide written content and photographs.

August’s print run for The Word was 8,000 copies, with 8,500 for Up Downtown. 

The Word is highly visible on the streets of Indianapolis, Lexington, and Bloomington. For distribution, “We own 30 outdoor street boxes,” he said.
 Ivan Howard (left) and Ted Fleischaker,
publisher and owner of The Word
and Up Downtown.
Photo: courtesy of Fleischaker

The Word makes three times as much as Up Downtown, said Fleischaker, who is open to selling the publications separately.

But if The Word and Up Downtown are separated, the two owners “will have to work together to have a friendly divorce as many ads are sold as a group buy with a discount to an advertiser buying space in both — even though the content of the two ads can be different, with one catering to the gay and one the straight communities,” he said.

The best example was a downtown Indianapolis dry cleaner who ran a “pretty dry bring-your-clothes-here” ad in Up Downtown, but whose Word ad had a guy in just a thong with the message: “So, you forgot to take your clothes to the cleaners again?” and an ad for their pick-up and delivery service.

Whoever buys The Word, said Fleischaker, gets “an awesomely good website, thanks to my husband, Ivan Howard, who is a genius at Apple, so that means he designed it and he checks to make sure it’s current and that all the links work.”

Once downloaded, each issue, compatible with both iPhone, iPad and Android mobile devices, can be read even without an Internet connection.

What accounts for his success in running a profitable gay monthly? “I always tell folks the reason we survived when at least a half-dozen gay and lesbian newspapers here folded is because I don’t drink, but in truth it’s a bit of that and a lot of paying attention to business and having discipline with office hours,” Fleischaker said. “I grew up in my dad’s furniture store selling sofas from age 14 or so. If you can sell something, you can sell anything. If you learn how to talk to customers, you are going to make it.”

Interested buyers should contact Fleischaker directly at (317) 632-8840 or

Volume 16
Issue 5

LGBT reporting inspires new book on marriage equality

by Chuck Colbert

The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act passed the Illinois House of Representatives on Nov. 5, 2013, and Gov. Pat Quinn signed the measure into law on Nov. 20. That made Illinois the 16th state to get equal marriage rights. The law took full effect on June 1, 2014.

While it took less than two years to bring marriage equality to the Midwest’s most populous state, the road to same-sex marriage there was no easy route. Rather, the bumpy terrain required the LGBT community and its allies to exert considerable financial and political pressure. It also stirred passionate internal battles that put heat on elected officials in the final days of the legislative session.

All of which is detailed in a new book, “The Fight for Marriage Equality in the Land of Lincoln,” from Windy City Times writers Kate Sosin and Tracy Baim. 

As the book’s back cover explains, “Money. Votes. Activism. These three ingredients were key to the passage” of marriage equality in Illinois. “There were protests, benefits, phone banks, door-to-door canvassing, lobbying in the Capitol building and a 5,000-strong March on Springfield for Marriage Equality on Oct. 22, 2013. This was the first time thousands of LGBTs and allies came to the state’s capital, from all parts of Illinois and even neighboring states, to push for equality.”

The 270-page book, which includes dozens of pages of photos and graphics, stems from more than four years of reporting and more than 100 interviews. Consequently, Windy City Times reporting resulted in "on-record verified sources, quotes and facts,” the authors note. “Our goal in producing this book has been to dig out the most complete, interesting and honest story about the journey of the Illinois marriage bill.”

Sosin is a former senior reporter and associate editor of the Chicago-based LGBT publication. She closely covered the battle for same-sex marriage from before the bill’s introduction in 2012 to its passage in 2013.

Baim is publisher and executive editor of Windy City Media Group, which produces Windy City Times, Nightspots and other gay media in Chicago.

Baim, in email correspondence, said it was important for Windy City Times to take its reporting to the next level in book form because “the process to get marriage equality in Illinois was complex and involved a lot of people and groups. While we covered it on a daily and weekly basis for the paper, I felt having it all in one place for a book was important to document for historical purposes. Also, some people could more freely speak once the process was over, saying things to us they couldn’t during the campaign. We ran hundreds of photos during the year, but it was also nice to put the best into one book.”

Baim said she hopes the book contributes to LGBT history writing by “placing the Illinois marriage battle in the context of the national movement, as well as showing how politics in Illinois shaped the fight for equality in the Land of Lincoln.”

Asked what she learned in pulling the book together that was perhaps not so obvious while on the front lines of battle, Baim replied, “I learned which groups and individuals played a more significant role than was previously known, and some others who took a lot of credit really were ineffective in their efforts and focused more on fundraising than actual work. I also learned that it was clear that both inside and outside pressure contributed to the passage of the bill.”

For her part, Sosin explained that she, too, gained a broader perspective on the marriage battle with some distance from reporting on it. “When we covered the bill and did not see it pass, we were thinking everything else is important — all these other issues are taking precedent. Democratic [Party] politics is kicking this bill around,” she said over the telephone. “But the opposite is actually true. This bill has changed the Democratic make of the [state] assembly for years to come. Progressive issues and the way they pass will be impacted by marriage equality because the LGBT community put money and energy into a Madigan majority. And the consequences of that, of course, Madigan had to pass this bill.”

Sosin was referring to Michael J. Madigan, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. In the 2012 November general elections, Democrats won big in state legislative races, giving them a veto-proof supermajority in both the House and Senate. Madigan’s political prowess is largely thought to be responsible for the victory.

Asked about take-away lessons from the Illinois same-sex marriage battle, Sosin replied, “I think we have to ask ourselves how we want to win and what we sacrifice to do that because, I think, in Illinois from the start, it felt like really going back to the longtime activists to be cut out of this [campaign] — at every level. So there is a question of, at what cost? What are you willing to give up to win, and do you want to become part of a party? Because I feel like this campaign became synonymous with the Democratic Party’s priorities, and it didn’t necessarily help the campaign — at least in the spring.”

Sosin was referring to a decision by the bill’s chief sponsor in the House, Greg Harris, an openly gay lawmaker, not to call for a vote on the marriage bill, a move that triggered backlash against him and Illinois Democrats.

Like Baim, Sosin said another lesson for her “from asking lobbyists and activists, the people who worked on this [campaign], was you can’t only do an outsider strategy, and you can’t only do an insider strategy. Both components need to be applying pressure in order to pass legislation. The field strategy largely went uncredited” until it picked up “over the summer.”

Over the course of the marriage battle, the role of LGBT media changed, Sosin realized. “Historically, LGBT journalists played the role of telling the story we most needed to hear,” that “of positive, uplifting stories about real people. That role has almost completely changed. These stories are now told in mainstream, and we need them. But, especially now — when we are talking about big money — LGBT journalists need to dig in and investigate. We need to understand where these dollars go and who the players are. We need to understand the cost of winning. And we need a more complicated angle than happy couples smiling in front of cameras.”

Altogether, Sosin said, “The story of the LGBT groups paying for more than they bargained for is probably something somebody ought to look at nationally."

Volume 16
Issue 5

LGBT media recognized with 2014 journalism awards

by Chuck Colbert

CHICAGO — The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) lauded the winners of its 2014 Excellence in Journalism Awards at the group’s annual convention in Chicago on August 23. A number of the recipients are members from LGBT media.

In addition to special recognition, awards were presented for excellence in blogging, HIV/AIDS coverage, news writing, feature writing, opinion/editorial writing, online journalism, multimedia, photojournalism, student journalism, local television and radio.

The 2014 NLGJA Journalist of the Year is Chris Geidner, senior legal and political reporter for BuzzFeed. “Geidner wrote pieces that soared above policy and law, bringing us ‘Edie and Thea,’ and how their story wove into a decades-long civil rights struggle,” wrote one judge. “He added context from a dual profile of Evan Wolfson and Andrew Sullivan."

Geidner was awarded the Sarah Pettit LGBT Journalist of the Year Award in 2012, he was runner up for the 2013 NLGJA Journalist of the Year, and his 2011 series on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell won for Excellence in News Writing.

The 2014 Sarah Pettit LGBT Journalist of the Year Award went to Lila Shapiro, a reporter for the Huffington Post. This is the second year in a row Shapiro has won this award. A judge praised: “This is a beautifully executed body of work. In the case of the conversion therapy and the gay bar stories, this contestant shows us how social and governmental power brokers work to undermine our community.”

The Sarah Pettit Memorial Award, named for the late Newsweek journalist and founding editor of Out magazine, honors the LGBT Media Journalist of the Year.

The following are awards for excellence in print/online and broadcast categories:


Excellence in Blogging

First: Mark King for “My Fabulous Disease”

Excellence in HIV/AIDS Coverage Award

First: David France for “How to Survive a Plague”

Second: Steve Blanchard for “Chasing the Bug”

Excellence in News Writing Award

First: Timothy Cwiek for coverage of Nizah Morris case

Second: Beth Hawkins for “Same-sex marriage, Minnesota and the Supreme Court: an FAQ for the befuddled”

Excellence in Feature Writing Award

First: Gabriel Arana for “Solider without a War”

Second: Melissa Griffiths for “LGBTQ in the Capital” (series)

Third: Beth Schwartzapfel for “Little Boxes”

Excellence in Opinion/Editorial Writing Award

First: Tracy Baim for “The content of our character: Trayvon and us”

Second: Gail Shister for “Is Your Husband Gay?”

Third: Steve Friess for “My Turn as a Target of ‘God Hates Fags’ Preacher Fred Phelps”

Excellence in Online Journalism Award

First: Dani McClain for “Being ‘Masculine of Center’ While Black”  

Excellence in Multimedia Award

First: Michelle Garcia for “The State of Pride in Sports”

Excellence in Photojournalism Award

First: D. David Robinson and Sunnivie Brydum for “We Are Here, LGBTI in Uganda”

Excellence in Student Journalism Award

First: Samuel Nemir Olivares Bonilla for “Boston Groups Reach Out to LGBT Youth of Color”


Excellence in Local Television Award

First: John-Carlos Estrada for “Bar Kicks Out Gay Couple for Dancing”

Excellence in Radio Award

First: Emma Jacobs for “One Gay, Binational Couple’s Story — and Hopes — As Supreme Court Decision Nears”

NLGJA's Excellence in Journalism Awards were established in 1993 to foster, recognize and reward excellence in journalism on issues related to the LGBT community.

Volume 16
Issue 5


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ADELANTE, based in Los Angeles, entered its 18th year of publication with its June 2014 issue.

DRIVESHAFT, the Columbus, Ohio-based publication of the LAMBDA CAR CLUB INTERNATIONAL, entered its 27th year of publication with its Spring 2014 issue.

GED MAGAZINE, based in Long Beach, Calif., celebrated its first anniversary with its June 15, 2014, issue.

BILL GEMMILL is the new associated publisher of Phoenix, Ariz.-based ECHO MAGAZINE. He succeeds TOM HENCZ.

IN MAGAZINE, based in Toronto, published its 50th issue with its July 2014 issue.

METRO WEEKLY, based in Washington, D.C., celebrated its 20th anniversary with its May 1, 2014, issue.

NEXT, based in New York City, entered its 22nd year of publication with its June 27, 2014, issue.

OUTSMART MAGAZINE, based in Houston, Texas, celebrated its 20th anniversary with its April 2014 issue.

Q NOTES, based in Charlotte, N.C., entered its 29th year of publication with its May 9, 2014, issue.

Q SALT LAKE celebrated its 10th anniversary with its May 2014 issue.

ZEKE STOKES is the new vice president of programs for the GAY AND LESBIAN ALLIANCE AGAINST DEFAMATION (GLAAD). Previously, he was director of outreach at MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA, communications director for SERVICEMEMBERS LEGAL DEFENSE NETWORK and director of external relations at OUTSERVE-SLDN.

UNITE INDIANAPOLIS published its premier issue in June 2014. The new publication now joins a Nashville-based magazine as well as a national business publication under the UNITE banner.

Volume 16
Issue 5