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 (www.bilerico.com) 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.

IN THE NEWS
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 www.thegayword.com.

While The Word is a gay and lesbian publication, Up Downtown (http://www.updowntown.net/) 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 ted@midwestword.com.

IN THE NEWS
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."

IN THE NEWS
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:

PRINT/ONLINE

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”

BROADCAST

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.

IN THE NEWS
Volume 16
Issue 5

TRANSITIONS AND MILESTONES

What’s happening at your publication? Let us know at editor@presspassq.com.

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.

TRANSITIONS AND MILESTONES
Volume 16
Issue 5

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bloggers, journalists and activists make up Netroots Nation

Day-long LGBT Netroots Connect gathering focuses on issues affecting community
by Chuck Colbert

DETROIT — More than 120 LGBT activists, bloggers, organizations, funders and journalists from across the U.S., Canada and Mexico gathered in Detroit last month for a day-long discussion about the future of the LGBT movement and ways to effect progressive social change within it and beyond.

Organized by Mike Rogers, vice chairman and managing director of Raw Story Media, the LGBT Netroots Connect program, now in its seventh year, has more than doubled its size from the initial 60-people meeting, which was then called the National Blogger and Citizen Journalist Initiative.

Organizer Mike Rogers
(Photo: Chuck Colbert)
Since 2008, Netroots Connect has done “a great job,” said Rogers, its program director, in broadening the scope of the program and its participants. “Our team is no longer just bloggers, but also social media activists and more, from all over the country, engaged in social change.”

What’s really important, he said, is “intersectionality,” the connecting of LGBT concerns with broader progressive issues like economic justice, immigration reform, the labor movement, reproductive rights, affordable health care, religious liberty and the environment.

Enabling people to make personal connections, the face-to-face networking not possible through email exchanges and instant messaging, is also paramount, Rogers said. “My strength is the schmooze.”

LGBT Netroots Connect was held on July 16, just one day before Netroots Nation (July 17-20), the annual political convention for American liberal and progressive activists.

Even before the conference got underway, Michigan-based Between the Lines, an LGBT publication, ran a front-page feature story, “Intersectionality in Focus,” which was a preview to Netroots Nation. The Between the Lines feature included the topics of choice — the environment, housing and immigration.

VP Biden heckled, applauded

The three-day convention drew 2,000-3,000 attendees to the Motor City’s Cobo Center, including Vice President Joe Biden, who addressed the gathering.

“This is one of those moments that people get a change to bend history just a little bit,” Biden said. “And there are fundamental changes taking place.”
Biden’s speech touched on a number of LGBT themes, including marriage equality and non-discrimination policies.

Sure enough, the vice president’s remarks fell on receptive ears. “Because of you, we’ve recognized basic fundamental rights in the LGBT community,” he said.

During Biden’s speech, however, several immigration-reform advocates stood and chanted for a short time, “Stop deporting our families,” before convention security and secret-service personnel escorted them out.
The protestors were from the activist groups United We Dream and GetEqual.

Netroots Connect participants said that Biden impressed them in his handling of the incident.

“I appreciate the vice president’s hearing what was said,” explained Todd Allen, an ordained Southern Baptist minister and Mississippi LGBT activist. “How many times does a politician have protestors hear what they are saying and in effect say, ‘I feel your pain.’”

Sean Howell of San Francisco, founder and CEO of Hornet, a gay men’s social network, said Biden’s empathy touched him.

Howell was referring to the vice president’s acknowledgment that he shared the protestors’ sentiments, going so far as to give a personal story about “how terrible it must be to come home from school and wonder if your parents have been deported,” Howell said.

That Biden said everyone should applaud the protestors resonated poignantly with Howell.

Netroots Nation also drew U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts who delivered the keynote address. Sounding notes of unity and populism, Warren told attendees, “If we join together, we win.”

The convention also drew the Rev. William Barber, the fiery African-American preacher behind North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement, a grassroots response to a conservative Republican takeover of the state’s executive and legislative branches of government. Barber’s Thursday evening opening plenary speech focused on economic justice as a moral issue.

In addition to educational workshops, training sessions and panel presentations on a wide range of progressive causes, this year’s Netroots Nation featured a full platter of LGBT-focused content, including caucuses for queer people of color, LGBTs, transgender and allies, and on equality legislation, as well as sessions about the labor movement, sex-positive talk, transgender military service, fighting religious exemptions and fake (or junk) science.

Altogether, Netroots Nation and LGBT Netroots Connect infused attendees with new energy and enthusiasm heading into the 2014 mid-term elections.

“For me, the best part is connecting with fellow LGBT journalists and activists,” said transgender activist Rebecca Juro, media correspondent for Advocate.com and a Gay Voices contributor at The Huffington Post. At LGBT Netroots Connect, she said, “I participated in a group discussion on being fierce without being frightening, which was definitely a highlight for me.”

For Juro, more effective advocacy for equality comes from uniting and working together, she said.

That take away message resonated with Shannon Cuttle, managing director of Anti-Bullying Initiatives for Garden State Equality, a New Jersey-based LGBT advocacy and civil rights organization.

“Seeing so many activists from all over the country, grassroots and grass tops,” along with “bloggers and journalists together in the same room was inspiring, impactful, and powerful and speaks to the progress our movement is making,” he said.

For Cuttle, in his work, a key takeaway point from Netroots Connect is how “we are all in this together,” he said. “That’s true and has resonated through the whole conference.”

Yet another attendee offered her take on the importance of the daylong gathering.

Activist Sue Fulton
(Photo: Chuck Colbert)
“My concerns that the LGBT activist community is fixated on marriage equality were, happily, dispelled by the Netroots Connect meeting,” said Sue Fulton, a former Army officer and West Point graduate who serves on the board of Sparta, an LGBT military organization. “I got to be part of spirited planning discussions about transgender military service, Southern strategy, immigration reform and countering myths about bisexuals.”

Jason Parsley, associate publisher at South Florida Gay News, shared Fulton’s outlook.

“It was refreshing to participate in a discussion that wasn't dominated by gay marriage and be able to explore other topics facing the community right now like immigration reform, LGBT youth, homelessness and PrEP, among others,” he said. 

“I really enjoyed the interactivity of the daylong event. It kept me interested and engaged throughout the day,” Parsley added. “As a member of the LGBT media, it just re-enforced the idea that there is still a need for vibrant and dynamic LGBT media outlets. There are so many issues the community is facing and will be facing that it's important for the gay media to be present and able to report and tell these stories.”

For Seth Adam, director of communications for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination (GLAAD), “Probably the most incredible part of the LGBT Netroots Connect experience is the people you meet and the relationships you build. Collaboration is so important to moving equality forward, and coming here to meet some of the most brilliant and passionate minds in the movement isn't just inspiring, it's really essential.”

Between The Lines publisher Jan Stevenson (left)
and editor in chief Susan Horowitz
(Photo: Chuck Colbert)
And yet, Susan Horowitz, editor in chief of Between the Lines, voiced concern about a lack of attention to LGBT seniors.

“There is a complete lack of understanding of the whole senior aging LGBT community here,” she said, “with very limited voice, if any. I was thinking about how scary that is because this is a generation that is aging in their late 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, and is the most closeted group and the most likely not to have family network support. This is the intersectionality of the aging demographic that needs to build support systems — like the younger generation already has — that includes seniors that are voiceless. There no simple solution or sexy sound bite that’s’ going to solve it. But we all have to be growing in awareness so that seniors are secure.”

Religious liberty/religious exemptions

The U.S. Supreme Court’s so-called Hobby Lobby decision, a religious exemption in the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and legislative attempts in a number of states by social conservatives that would enable persons to discriminate against LGBTs and same-sex couples based on religious beliefs opposed to homosexuality all served to raise the level of concern among Netroots Connect participants about the harm religious exemptions cause in advancing LGBT equality.

At one session, attendees voiced their concerns and discussed actions that ranged from education and outreach about First Amendment rights to adamant opposition to any exemptions that wall off LGBTs from non-discriminatory laws or policies.

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., the Court ruled 5-4 that the Department of Health and Human Services regulations requiring employers to provide their female employees with no-cost access to contraception violate the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In addition, advocates for LGBT equality maintain the proposed religious exemption included in the current version of ENDA is unprecedented in civil rights legislation and would in effect gut the non-discrimination protections.

And a Mississippi law, which went into effect July 1, allows people to discriminate against LGBTs and others if they feel their religious convictions are at compromised.

Jeff White-Perkins, president of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Lesbian and Gay Community Center, said his “general feeling as a Mississippi activist, of being alone in the work, has been lessened” by Netroots Connect and conference conversations over religious exemptions.

“I truly saw that though Mississippi has a long way to go, we are being seen as somewhat the endgame for most of the issues that stand today from equality to even women's rights,” he said. “That idea has me very excited.”

Already two campaigns are underway in response to the state’s anti-LGBT law.

One is “We don’t discriminate: If you’re buying, we’re selling” (http://ifyourebuying.com), which is a Mississippi business owners campaign, giving out stickers free of charge to any business that wishes to take a public stand against discrimination of any kind and for equality.

The other is the “Y’all means ALL” campaign, which is a “grassroots movement of people living in the South who choose not to live in the past,” according to its mission statement (https://www.facebook.com/yallmeansall), adding, “If “y’all” means anything, it must mean EVERYONE is included.”

On religious freedom, “There has been a real awakening in the community about how religious exemptions affect our lives and the lives of people we care about, the women in our lives, and the ramifications go far beyond what we ever understood until this year,” said John Bare of San Francisco, who serves on the board of directors for GetEqual and chairs its governance committee.

“Now we are understanding that our own bill [ENDA], the one we’ve been fighting for for 40 years, has those religious exemptions,” which “are really quite obnoxious and could do a lot of damage beyond our own community,” he added.

And yet, “There’s a real understanding that we need to come out strong as a community opposed to that,” Bare explained. “We need to start with education about what the First Amendment guarantees all of us in terms of our freedom of religion and in terms of what else we might describe as religious freedom. But our own private notion of our conscience and our religious liberty does not allow for going into the public square to discriminate.”

GetEQUAL, a bold-action LGBTQ advocacy organization, Bare said, is “trying to get the word out about that,” with a new #NoAsterisks campaign (www.NoAsterisks.org), which educates about full civil rights for LGBTs — without exceptions.

TOP STORY
Volume 16
Issue 5

PRESSING QUESTIONS: Desert Outlook of Palm Springs

by Joe Siegel

Geographic coverage area: Palm Springs, Cathedral City and the Coachella Valley, Calif.

Year founded: 2012

Staff size and breakdown [writers, sales reps., etc.]: One editor, one sales rep, one designer, four freelance writers per month

Physical dimensions of publication: 8.5” x 11”

Average page count: 44

Key demographics: 32 percent is 65+, 28 percent is 50-64, 19 percent is 35-45, and 20 percent is 18-34; 51 percent are married; 28 percent have $100,000+ annual income

Print run: 10,000 monthly


*****

Press Pass Q: What part of Desert Outlook is the most popular? 

Marketing manager Steven Henke: We cover an enormous amount on travel, on politics, on home. I think what we get the most feedback on are those stories that have to do with a local personality that has a very specific point of view.

PPQ: What challenges has your publication had to overcome? 

Henke: Typically, LGBT magazines start out in a small way through the community. The publisher of the Desert Sun newspaper thought [the LGBT community] was not an audience that we were covering enough. He wanted to start the magazine. [Desert Outlook] is the only LGBT magazine within the Gannett family of properties. I think the challenge was building relationships with the community, building trust. We're now starting our third season [of the magazine] and by this point, we've certainly done that, [through] the editorial coverage and the monthly events that we plan to launch each issue and partner with different businesses within the community and the number of philanthropic organizations that we sponsor. We're part of the community.

PPQ: How has your publication changed since it was first launched? 

Henke: It's become more diverse. It's taken more risks. I think in some ways, it's gotten deeper on certain political and social issues that matter to the LGBT community, but it's balanced out with additional articles about arts and culture. 

PPQ: What one change would you like to make? 

Editor William Dean: With the new season of issues starting in September, we’re making a number of tweaks to editorial content. With the addition of a couple of features, we aim to broaden our reach to LGBT residents and visitors throughout Southern California. We started it this season by including in each issue events in Los Angeles, San Diego and the Inland Empire in the calendar. Readers will see more of the region represented in future issues, but the core focus and readership will remain the residents of the greater Palm Springs community.
One change I would like to see is the addition of a subscription service. It’s not uncommon for readers, especially visitors to Palm Springs, to ask if they can subscribe and have issues mailed to them. The magazine is currently distributed on racks in nearly 100 LGBT and other businesses.
Fortunately, we launched a website this season that contains much of the content from each issue. But for diehard magazine fans, reading web content is not the same as holding a magazine poolside. 

PPQ: On the Kinsey Scale of 0-6 [exclusively straight to totally gay], how gay is your publication? 

Dean: It depends on how you define a gay publication. If you mean does it reflect the stories of real people who self-identify as LGBT in this community, and present their views on the national and political issues that affect their real lives, and profile an array of LGBT citizens and artists whose experiences are as diverse as any community, it’s very gay. Though we’re evolving, it’s a community publication first, and half of our community self-identifies as LGBT.

Regarding the “Kinsey” reference, we publish a monthly sex and relationships column written by a respected author and sexologist and his staff. Topics range from May-December gay relationships with a historical perspective to knowing other countries’ sexual customs and laws when traveling. It’s titillating and provocative at times, but always informative.  What we’ve tried to avoid is using sexual images or almost-nude models on the cover, completely out of context or without regard for the actual content of the magazine. 

I’d give Desert Outlook a 5 as a news and culture magazine for and about LGBT people — not as a publication that’s gay. 

PPQ: Do you see yourself as an “activist journalist”?

Dean: I see myself as a “journalist.” My job is to introduce to readers the fascinating LGBT people whose stories might not be told otherwise. That includes addressing life-altering issues such as DOMA and Prop 8 (premiere issue cover), Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (September 2013 cover), transgender equality (May 2013 cover), building green (April 2013 cover), and awareness of bisexuality (May 2014). Shining a light on these issues for an LGBT readership isn’t activism. It’s relaying issues through the stories of people affected by them, to help all readers make informed choices and identify their true community. 

PPQ: What's the most surprising feedback you've received from a reader? 

Dean: People generally like the look, feel and tone of the magazine. It wasn’t uncommon after we launched the magazine in April 2012 for some readers to say they read each issue cover to cover, which you hope for as editor but don’t really expect. Others say it’s a needed voice in the community. What was initially surprising for me is when people referred to it as a “real magazine,” as if they expected less.

The comments from Palm Springs visitors usually lament an absence of something like Desert Outlook in their communities. One reader who lives part-time in New York City said that city doesn’t have an equivalent. I once received a call from a reader in Hawaii who had picked up an issue while visiting Palm Springs, carried it home, read it and wanted to know if he could receive the monthly issues by mail. 

PPQ: What is the biggest story Desert Outlook has reported in the last few years? 

Dean: We published interviews with Congressman Barney Frank before his retirement, actress Meredith Baxter and a story on the changing atmosphere for gay athletes. But I’m proudest of the stories we tried to tell for which there wasn’t a lot of published information. For example, we did a cover story in which lesbians and gay men of varying ages talked about why lesbians and gay men don’t socialize together. And we looked at growing acceptance for Latino people who are LGBT, considering we have a large Latino population. There weren’t many resources because the issues hadn’t been presented before, but they were topics worthy of exploring. Our hope is we started a conversation and presented a more accurate way for the LGBT community to see itself.

PPQ: What advice do you have for others working in LGBT media?

Dean: It’s important to be aware of what other LGBT media — and media in general — are doing, but try not to use that as a template for what you do. Some people, even many LGBT people, are married to a narrow idea of who we are based on images and ideas perpetrated by society. Ask yourself how many LGBT people you know actually fit the mold of what’s been presented to us. We’re not only young and urban, one gender, one race, one socioeconomic background. Look at your audience, figure out who they really are, and never lose sight of that when planning content.

PRESSING QUESTIONS
Volume 16
Issue 5