Monday, April 29, 2013

PRESSING QUESTIONS

Watermark of Orlando, Florida

by David Webb


Staff size and breakdown: 12 full-time staff members, over 20 contributors; publisher, chief financial officer, editor, online editor, sales manager, 3 sales associates, creative director, creative assistant, reporter, administrative assistant

Physical dimensions of publication: 11” x 12”

Average page count: 56

Area of coverage: Sarasota, Tampa Bay and Orlando

Key demographics for readers: 81 percent between 25-54; $95,000 average household income; 68 percent own a home

Median age of readers: 36

Print run: 15,000

On the web: watermarkonline.com

*****

Press Pass Q: When did you launch your publication, and what inspired you to do it?

Publisher Tom Dyer: The first issue came out on August 31, 1994. Orlando had a growing LGBT community with few ways to communicate with each other or to share things of importance. I felt like the lack of a newspaper was holding us back. But what really inspired me was a trip to Atlanta. I was eating lunch in a restaurant in Virginia-Highlands and saw a half-dozen people reading their just-delivered Southern Voice. It was something I wanted for Orlando. Watermark expanded to cover Tampa Bay in 1995.

PPQ: What, if anything, distinguishes your publication from other LGBT newspapers, magazines and online publications, and how much competition is there in your area for LGBT-specific news and advertising?

Dyer: Other than our longevity, I’d say we’re distinguished by a crisp, eye-catching design that is a true hybrid of newspaper and magazine. The competition for advertising dollars mostly comes from local alternative weeklies that now have substantial coverage of the LGBT community. There’s no other LGBT newspaper in the area. There are two or three statewide bar/nightlife magazines.

PPQ: What were your greatest challenges in getting it up and running?

Dyer: We were undercapitalized, so things were very tight for the first two to three years. I worked long hours and took no salary while trying to stay on top of a law practice.
PPQ: Is it successful now, and how do you gauge that?

Dyer: I’d call it a success. Watermark is going into its 19th year. We’re the newspaper of record for the very active and thriving LGBT communities in Tampa Bay and Orlando. Our web site is updated daily and gets lots of traffic. We own an office complex in a great neighborhood in downtown Orlando. We pay competitive salaries with full benefits to a dozen people. We have a respected and experienced staff. I’m happy and proud.

PPQ: Have you experienced significant changes in publication size, and when did you see that occurring?
Dyer: From 2002-2007, almost 30 percent of our advertising was related to the booming real estate market. By 2008, that had completely evaporated, and our page count went down. But we’ve adapted, and real estate advertising is coming back.

PPQ: Are you facing new challenges and what are they?

Dyer: The biggest challenge is managing this interesting, exciting, confusing time when we still have tens of thousands of print readers, but our biggest growth is in online readership. If there’s a local LGBT publication that’s successfully monetized their web site, I’d love to hear from them.

PPQ: How does the publication differ now from its original inception, and what is the most popular feature?

Dyer: When Watermark first came out back in 1994, it was a real coup to get interviews with celebrities like Lily Tomlin, Billie Jean King and Gloria Steinem. Those interviews were often the centerpiece of the publication. Now that LGBT culture has mainstreamed, our biggest focus is on local news, where a lot of exciting things are happening. Orlando just elected on out state legislator – a first for Florida. Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Sarasota all passed domestic partner registries in the last 18 months.

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

Dyer: I continue to be surprised by filters based on perception. People from Tampa Bay think we focus on Orlando news; in Orlando, some think the whole paper is about Tampa Bay. The same goes for men and women, coverage of the transgender community, etc. My hope is that people will find all of the content – and all aspects of our diverse culture – interesting.

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

Dyer: I’m 57 and resist change. I just started reading the New York Times on my iPad, so I now have at least some comprehension of the future. So I’d say try and stay ahead of – or at least not too far behind – the new media curve. It’s exciting, and there’s lots of opportunity. Of course, the advice you give is usually the advice you need. 


Volume 15
Issue 1
PRESSING QUESTIONS

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In The News - April 2013

IN THE NEWS

Boston’s Bay Windows launches direct appeal to readers for financial support

Dallas Voice publisher steps down after three decades

Toronto's Fab ceases publication after nearly 20 years

Just Out Portland closes its doors — again

Oregon's PQ Monthly celebrates its first year

Ohio LGBT paper pays tribute to shuttered alternative weekly


Boston’s Bay Windows launches direct appeal to readers for financial support

by Chuck Colbert


It’s a challenge for any community newspaper these days — how to continue reaching loyal readers at a time when the dynamics of how publications raise revenue are changing.

In that light, Boston-based Bay Windows is trying a new strategy — a direct appeal to readers for financial contributions.

“We are not closing. We are not going out of business,” said co-publisher Sue O’Connell during a recent telephone interview. “But we need to let the community know, in this case the LGBT community, that if you want news about your community, you have to be invested in it.”

For a month now, O’Connell and co-publisher Jeff Coakley have been making their case in the weekly print issue, on the publication’s website, and through social media.

Their appeal cuts to the chase: “We request your financial support. We believe a viable model to bring the revenue needed to improve Bay Windows is a mix of advertising revenue and voluntary financial contributions from you, our readers. Bay Windows turns 31 this year. Will you pledge your support for the upcoming year by contributing funds? Your contribution will help us keep the website and paper free and improve our coverage.”

So far, contributions have ranged from one dollar to $1,000. “Our first contribution was $25, and our second was $1,000,” said O’Connell. “We have a full range of people giving one dollar, five dollars up to $1,000 and everything in between.”

In reaching out to readers for support, Bay Windows is not using the public broadcasting model with a specific dollar amount goal to be reached by a certain date, O’Connell explained.

Rather, the co-publishers plan to push the appeal four times a year. “But every day and every week we will have ads in the paper and on the web,” said O’Connell.

The fundraising appeal provides for a pay-as-you-read option. “At the bottom of every story on the web, there is an invitation to pay what you want,” said O’Connell while emphasizing, “This is not in any way, shape or form meant to replace advertising revenue and sponsorship. It’s just another way for folks to support the content.”

O’Connell said that she and Coakley have been thinking about a direct appeal to readers for several years. “We have been trying to figure out what are the best ways to add revenue streams to the paper,” she said. 

Subscriptions to the paper were not an option, said O’Connell, because that revenue stream has always been a zero-sum game.  “We make no money on them and do it for people who cannot pick up the paper.”

Increased distribution out into the city’s suburbs was also problematic. “It’s too expensive,” she said. (Bay Windows’ current print run is between 20,000 and 22,000.)

O’Connell said that unlike what some major daily outlets have done, she and Coakley did not want to erect a pay wall for the web site. “Our mission was and always should be for readers to be able to get the information for free.”

In all, there were two questions for Bay Windows. “How to reach an audience that is moving out of the city into the suburbs? And how do we grow revenue in a market, which besides the obvious economic challenges, includes a dwindling advertising market, for one reason or another, and the low-income opportunity on the web?" O’Connell explained. “Lots of people read our web site. A lot of people pick up the paper. How do we continue to make money to do that?”

Reader reaction to the appeal so far has been favorable. “We’ve only heard overwhelming support not only from our supporters and friends in the community, but also from readers we never had any contact with before,” said O’Connell.

“The general audience is better educated about the challenges that print publications have and what the value of print publications is,” she said. O’Connell was referring to the recent demise of the Boston Phoenix, a longtime alternative weekly.

How then does a weekly newspaper like Bay Windows make it in a changing market?

“There’s only one challenge,” said O’Connell. “I don’t mean to be simple about it. Readership is still there. The need is still there. I firmly believe that we could print more copies and they would get picked up. We print as many as we can afford to print, not as many as needed.

“Response to print ads is as good as it ever was. I hear that from advertisers who are in print and on the web. So the challenge is how to fight for the revenue in advertising when there are more opportunities for advertisers to send their message. We used to have our daily newspapers, community newspapers and the yellow pages. That’s all that we had to fight against. Now everything has a cost, and [advertising] can be everywhere.”

Dallas Voice publisher steps down after three decades

by Chuck Colbert


Robert Moore, publisher and co-founder of the Dallas Voice, has stepped down after nearly 30 years. Moore has sold the publication’s parent company, Voice Publishing Company, Inc., which also produces Dallas Voice Yellow Pages and online product developer Digital Seltzer

The buyers are Leo Cusimano and Terry Thompson, who currently serve as advertising director and promotions manager, respectively. Cusimano took over as publisher on April 1, with Thompson assuming the role of president.

The primary motivation in Moore’s retirement is travel, he said. “Friends who know me know that I love adventure travel,” Moore explained in the Dallas Voice. “I love to get off the beaten path. The world is a big place. While many people are satisfied to experience a little of it, I hunger to see as much as I can. In order to do that I need more personal time. I’m still young enough and fit enough that many of the things I’ve dreamed about doing I can do, but I cannot do those and at the same time give the attention to Voice Publishing that it deserves.”

Moore, 57,  said he plans to remain involved with Voice Publishing as a consultant.

“I don’t feel like I’m saying goodbye to the Voice as an institution,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m saying goodbye to the people who are running it, and I don’t feel like I’m saying goodbye to the community, because I still intend to be involved somewhat. What I am saying goodbye to is the daily operations.”

Reactions to the news of his retirement prompted praise for Moore’s contributions to LGBT media and the larger Dallas gay community.

“Robert Moore is one of those rare, and too often unsung heroes in our community. His tenure at the Dallas Voice has made him the glue in that community, and he has spent the last three decades (and more) serving our unquenched appetite for news and knowledge,” said Bob Witeck, president and founder of Witeck Communications, a strategic public relations and marketing communications firm based in Washington, D.C. “It is good to know he’s just changing directions, and earning some rewards for the sizeable contributions he’s made.”

“Robert is one of the great LGBT publishers,” said Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, “a professional from the start and a pioneer of local LGBT media. It has been a pleasure working with him to create better media for our community.”  

"Robert has always been a focused, professional voice of reason in the landscape of gay media,” said Tracy Baim, publisher and executive editor of Chicago’s Windy City Times. “Those involved in this niche have tended to be large personalities that often clashed with one another. But Robert always seems to be the calm in the middle of the storm. His voice will be missed in our gay media gatherings," 

Moore launched Dallas Voice in 1984, along with business partners Don Ritz and William Marberry. From the very beginning, the three men had definite views on what the publication would be.

“We did not intend to use this newspaper as our own personal soapbox,” Moore explained in a chapter devoted to the Dallas Voice in Tracy Baim’s new book “Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America.” Moore also said the publishers wanted the newspaper to speak for the community and for the community to speak through it. “We believed it was important that the journalism we did was straightforward, and that it was not advocacy journalism.”

They wanted the publication to be a successful business, too, said Moore.

In the book, the retiring publisher also discussed his philosophy of management.

“I want to treat people fairly,” Moore explained. “I feel like I allow people the freedom to do their work without interference or intense oversight. I’m no micro-manager. I believe my role here is to help this staff be successful. I don’t get involved in the issues of a department unless there is a moral, ethical or legal decision to be made. If you are working hard and are committed and you get your work done, then you are going to be successful here. And people like that.”

Moore voiced confidence in both Cusimano and Thompson and the future of Voice Publishing.

“As long as there is an LGBT community here that wants to be a community, there will still be a role for LGBT media,” Moore said in Dallas Voice. “One of the reasons for me leaving now is because I have such confidence in Leo [Cusimano] and Terry [Thompson]. They know that media in general is changing. They have new ideas.”

For his part, Cusimano told Dallas Voice, “I have a passion for this business, for this company. Publishing is in my veins. I believe it is vitally important that our community have a media source for in-depth, comprehensive LGBT news and lifestyle information — particularly local coverage.”

Cusimano, who has worked at Voice Publishing for more than 20 years, also said that Chad Mantooth, currently advertising account manager, will become associate advertising director.

Thompson, who has been with the company for 10 years, expressed confidence for the future. “I think our greatest asset is our team of co-workers here in the Dallas Voice family. We will miss Robert and his steady hand at the helm,” he told Dallas Voice. “At its heart, Dallas Voice remains what he built it to be, a trusted and strong voice in our community. Every organization grows and changes, and we are no exception. This is a positive and well-planned transition. I look forward to realizing our potential as we guide Dallas Voice into its third decade.”

Toronto's Fab ceases publication after nearly 20 years

by Joe Siegel


Fab magazine, Toronto's biweekly gay lifestyle and nightlife magazine, is ending its publication after nearly 20 years.

Fab publisher Pink Triangle Press (PTP) made the announcement on March 12.

Publisher Brandon Matheson explained the difficult decision was purely financial and is part of a larger restructuring plan for PTP. The company will continue to publish Xtra, the company’s tabloid LGBT weekly.

“The first issue of Toronto’s little gay-party-animal diary came out Pride weekend 1994, and it has been a relentless pop-culture beast ever since,” Fab editor Phil Villeneuve wrote on the magazine’s website. “Aimed knowingly and directly at a gay male audience, Fab has been on the streets of this fine city for 19 years, covering everything from politics, to social issues, to underwear trends, to fascinating new lube flavours.”

Ten staffers will lose their job as a result of the closure. Sixty-four full-time staff will remain at PTP. The company also announced the pending sale of HARDtv and recently sold its shares in OUTtv, two national gay cable TV outlets.

“We are not immune from the changing and challenging media landscape,” Matheson noted. “Advertising revenue has been dropping in recent years for all media, including us. It’s important to stress for readers that some of the content that they’re used to seeing in Fab is not necessarily going to disappear. It’s going to show up in other channels.”

Later this year, PTP will launch a new website called Daily Xtra (dailyxtra.com), which will replace xtra.ca, and expand its breadth of content.

Since Villeneuve took over as editor in 2012, “the glossy magazine has undergone a dramatic redesign and has grown to better reflect the playful and cheeky side of Toronto’s gay scene,” wrote Andrea Houston in Xtra.

Words of condolence came from readers on social media following the announcement.

Fab’s final issue will be published on April 24. Villeneuve promises the final edition will be a tribute to what he dubs “Xtra’s little sloppy and drunk party-girl sister who just wants to talk about underwear and shoes. It’s such a different voice from Xtra, and we need that voice. Fab is about the silly, fun things that we all really need sometimes.”

Fab was first launched in 1994 to compete with Xtra, according to PTP executive director Ken Popert. PTP purchased it in 2008.

“Over the years there were dozens of magazines launched to compete with Xtra, but Fab was the only one that marched to its own drum and danced to its own tune,” Popert said. “It didn’t define itself as ‘not Xtra.’ That was a mistake the others had made. I think it’s had a good run under our management, and we were true to our intention to let it have its own voice, and certainly, the last year it has turned into a remarkable publication. That’s why it hurts like hell to give that up. We have been trying not to do this for about a year.”

PTP is certainly not alone. Toronto dailies have recently enforced pay walls while announcing sweeping layoffs and plans to outsource key editorial departments. “There are an awful lot of forces conspiring against print right now,” Popert said.

On a more encouraging note, Matheson points out that Xtra and Fab are no longer the only Toronto publications where readers will see advertisements featuring gay and lesbian couples.

“Everything has changed,” Matheson said. “We have also seen societal change, which is part of our own success. You can pick up a paper like [commuter newspaper] Metro or [alternative weekly] Now and see some gay-targeted advertising, when 10 to 15 years ago, you didn’t see that.”

Matheson added that PTP will continue to evolve to ensure long-term viability. “We are in the process of turning a very big ship around, going from a purely print mentality to a web-first company.”

Just Out Portland closes its doors — again

by Phil Reese


Despite an ambitious relaunch in early 2012, Just Out Portland’s publishers announced the paper’s second demise through the publication’s Facebook page in late February.
Jonathan Kipp and Eddie Glenn posted the statement on February 26, thanking their contributors, readers and advertisers who had supported the project during its brief nine-month run. 
“We all knew it was a tall order to bring Just Out back after its abrupt closure in 2011, but we all believed it was possible and important,” Kipp and Glenn wrote on their social network page. “When we took over Just Out, we wanted to approach the publication in a new way, to tell the stories of the amazing people in our LGBTQ community, to rise above negativity and pettiness. We believe we did that. In the process, we made good on advertising commitments that went unfulfilled when the old Just Out stopped publishing.”
Kipp did not return requests for comment from Press Pass Q. Editors of other Northwest LGBT publications also gave no comment.
In October, Press Pass Q reported the return of Just Out Portland along with an interview with Kipp — who had previously written for Just Out Portland in the 1990s — where he expressed excitement at the possibilities ahead for the paper (“Oregon’s Just Out Portland returns under ownership of former reporter,” http://www.presspassq.com/detail.cfm?id=131#news). Kipp said he and a staff of five including Glenn, editor in chief Alley Hector, art director Horace Long, and sales manager Roy Melani worked full-time day jobs outside of their work with Just Out, and believed the team treated the resurrection as a labor of love.
“The bottom line is we're investing in the publication instead of the infrastructure,” Kipp said in October. The team wanted to provide better value to advertisers by keeping overhead low — by not investing in office space and information technology — at the publication. “A lot of publications, that's what's sinking them — the overhead. Its not the printing, it’s the big staff and the office space.”
Kipp and Glenn had hoped to save the storied publication when long-time publisher Marty Davis announced in late 2011 that she was no longer able to keep the doors open. By June, Kipp and Glenn had formed their core team and reimagined the longtime tabloid newsprint publication as a monthly color glossy magazine that put a greater focus on “individuals,” according to Kipp. 
Following the December 2011 announcement of the demise of Just Out, however, another Portland area publisher, Melanie Davis, publisher of El Hispanic News, jumped into the Portland LGBT print arena. In February of 2012, she and editor in chief Julie Cortez launched PQ Monthly, which maintained a newsprint publication style (see story below).
As of publication, the Just Out website continued to be live, but has not been updated since early February. The Valentine’s Day issue was the magazine’s final print edition.
The end of publication of Just Out comes in the year that the title would have celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Oregon's PQ Monthly celebrates its first year

by Phil Reese


When Portland's Just Out ceased publication in December 2011, out lesbian publisher and owner of El Hispanic News, Melanie Davis, said that business leaders and community members approached her about using her resources to keep an LGBT publication alive in diverse Portland.

The result was a brand new monthly newspaper for the local LGBT community called PQ Monthly, which celebrated one year in print on February 21.

"It was a very quick and sudden thing. I think she pitched the idea in mid-December, and we had our first issue out by February," Julie Cortez, editor in chief of PQ Monthly and El Hispanic News, told Press Pass Q.

The 32-year-strong local El Hispanic News moved to a monthly publication cycle in 2009 and became involved in LGBT publishing soon after when the paper partnered with Pride Northwest in 2010 to produce the annual Pride Guide. Beyond the guide, however, Davis and her team added an insert component for other local multicultural media outlets as a communications piece, "to better understand the LGBTQ community," according to Davis.

"For two years we had that contract, and it went extremely well," Davis said. "It was well received not only by the LGBTQ community, but the diverse publications as well, and their leaders."

The Pride Guide won major awards two years in a row from the National Association of Hispanic Publications, and Davis knew she was on to something. When the community asked, Davis stepped up with a publication unlike any other in a city that embraces the different and unique.

"Our mission is to ensure that every letter and every color is represented," Davis said, noting the publication takes pains not to "tokenize" or "ghettoize" any component of the community, ensuring a diversity in representation at all times, and even assuring that diversity is reflected in her staff. "We share the stories of our everyday people who are creating the ripple effect of change, from local DJs who are trans identified to those living in our mainstream black community who are queer identified."

For Cortez, the "every color" portion of the mission statement not only refers to the LGBT community's flag, but different cultural groups that intersect with the queer community.

"There isn't one monolithic identity that represents the LGBT community, or one perspective," Cortez says. "Trying to represent the beauty and complexity and growth and change that's been happening in the LGBT community, especially now, as ideas are expanding … about gender, about sexuality, about identity. We've challenged our readers to think beyond what's been considered the norm," Davis said, which she believes fits well in Portland's culture, where many social movements coalesce and learn from one another.

"It's a comfortable place to live," Cortez said about Portland, where she originally moved for college in 1997. "It’s not to formal or too uptight. It’s not too big, but it’s not too small."

People — especially LGBT people — are drawn to Portland, not just for its rivers and mountains, but for its mix of high and hip culture, outstanding arts scene, and the presence of strong social movements.

Because Davis and Cortez — and much of the staff — are balancing two monthly publications, the print dates are staggered, with El Hispanic News going to press on the first Thursday of each month, and PQ Monthly the third. Both publications also deliver new content online, daily.

"It’s a challenge, but its a good mind-bending, mind-expanding challenge," said Cortez about creating both publications every month. "Each month we pick a loose theme for the publication — for example [January] was 'turn the page' — and we try to examine it."

PQ Monthly hosts a press party every month to mark the publication hitting newsstands, where locals are invited to gather, meet, mingle and pick up a copy of the latest issue, and to celebrate one year, February's was expanded and moved to City Hall with an after-party at a local dance club.

Ohio LGBT paper pays tribute to shuttered alternative weekly

by Joe Siegel


Outlook, an LGBT monthly newspaper serving Columbus, Ohio, recently paid tribute to a now defunct alternative weekly paper, The Other Paper. The Other Paper's writers and editors were asked to share their favorite stories, funniest memories, and “thoughts about what Columbus will miss when it's gone.”

The Other Paper ceased publication on January 31 after 23 years. The paper was owned by the Dispatch Printing company.

According to Dan Eaton, a writer for Columbus Business First, “The company already had the similar weekly Columbus Alive in its portfolio when it acquired The Other Paper in the 2011 purchase of American Community Newspapers’ Columbus publications. This is the second print division to go away since the American Community Newspapers purchase by the parent of the [daily] Columbus Dispatch. The company  consolidated the Suburban News chain of suburban weekly newspapers last year with its ThisWeek Community Newspapers division.”

The acquisition also included Columbus Monthly and Columbus CEO magazines and several specialty publications that continue to operate.

In a January 30 column featured on Outlook's website, Editor Bob Vitale said The Other Paper “offered readers a real alternative: solid, hard-hitting news with a different, slightly skewed perspective. It made Columbus feel a little less buttoned-down, a little more cutting edge and a lot less like the place where police were known to ticket jaywalkers.”

Vitale said it was the circumstances of The Other Paper's demise which motivated him to praise the publication.

“One of The Other Paper's staples was calling out the Dispatch on its coverage of issues in which its ownership was heavily involved behind the scenes,” Vitale said. “For a lot of people, the weekly died when it was bought up, and its death now is just a formality.”

“I thought the owners were unlikely to talk much about The Other Paper's history and what Columbus will miss with its demise, so I thought I would give people a forum to talk about it,” Vitale noted. “We're one of two local publications left in Columbus that are not owned by The Dispatch Printing Company.”

Volume 15
Issue 1
IN THE NEWS

Monday, April 8, 2013

TOP STORY: LGBT media journalists convene

4th annual gathering examines wide range of topics including immigration reform, aging, HIV and transgender issues
by Chuck Colbert

A select group of LGBT media professionals gathered recently for a weekend symposium concerning a range of social justice issues of importance to the LGBT community.

Sponsored by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) and funded by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the 4th annual LGBT Media Journalists Convening was held the weekend of Feb. 22-24 at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel.

NLGJA board member Bil Browning, founder and editor in chief of the Bilerico Project blog who organized the meeting, served as host.

“The goal of the on-the-record convening is to improve and expand the reporting capabilities of the LGBT media,” said Browning. “We bring together the top journalists covering LGBT issues and the up-and-coming folks who should have a larger voice in the national discussion specifically to encourage fellowship and professional networking.”

In all, the 2013 gathering brought together, by invitation only, 70 journalists and bloggers from various LGBT newspapers and websites nationwide.

How is the convening important to gay media and LGBT editors, reporters and citizen journalists?

"LGBT newspapers and blogs are not only critical sources of information for our community, they also drive public opinion and action," said Matt Foreman, program director for the Haas Fund, quoted in San Francisco-based Bay Area Reporter.

"The annual convening for LGBT editors and bloggers gives these thought leaders the chance to get in-depth information about leading issues of the day, such as immigration reform, and to get to know one another,” added Foreman, a former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

A private family foundation based in San Francisco, Haas “promotes equal rights and opportunities with an emphasis on immigrants and gays and lesbians,” according to its mission statement.

The focus of this year’s convening was coalition building. 

In addition to LGBT issues in immigration reform, the weekend agenda included four other 70-minute sessions, which covered the topics of LGBT workers and the labor movement, LGBT seniors and aging, international issues in global equality, and transgender issues.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter spoke to attendees during lunch on Saturday. Longtime gay-rights activists Cleve Jones and David Mixner held a question-and-answer session during Friday night’s opening reception and dinner, hosted by Comcast atop its headquarters’ tower in downtown Philadelphia.

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Campaign sponsored a Saturday night meet-up for attendees and hosted a Sunday morning free sightseeing tour of historic Philadelphia, followed by a brunch.

Non-participants were able to follow the proceedings through social media with the hashtag #LGBTmedia13. Attendees tweeted and posted as online followers commented and asked questions.
In fact, “the social media aspect has grown so large that we were the top trending hashtag that day on Twitter,” said Browning.

Perhaps the most detailed first-hand account of the weekend is African-American transgender activist and blogger Monica Robert’s Feb. 26 post on TransGriot (http://transgriot.blogspot.com).

The social justice and coalition building focuses appealed to many attendees.

“The event reinforced the need to make sure our coverage includes multiple perspectives from within the LGBT community, as well as the need to show how our work relates to issues that impact other communities as well,” said Dana Rudolph, who publishes Mombian, a lifestyle blog for lesbian mothers and other LGBT parents.

“I think the event gave us the opportunity to step back from our usual areas of coverage and remember the broader landscape of which we are part,” she said.

Stepping outside the workplace was important for Jen Colletta, editor of Philadelphia Gay News (PGN). “Often, as editors and writers, we get very absorbed into the routine of churning out a newspaper on deadline or posting to our blogs regularly and can lose sight of some of the larger issues impacting the community,” she said. “It's helpful to meet with other media professionals to put the work we do on a daily basis in a wider context. Learning more about the issues themselves, and talking with other media members about the challenges they've had in covering them, can be effective to generate new ideas that help us accurately address the myriad needs of our readers.”

Colletta said the session on transgender issues was a highlight of the weekend for her. “It created a lively, energetic discussion but there was certainly room for divergent opinions and views, which was enlightening.”

For Matthew Bajko, assistant editor at Bay Area Reporter, the convening was all about “source building and hearing about different things coverage-wise that you might not be aware of.”

During the various sessions, he explained, “You can delve a little deeper with each of the panelists. The point is to give you little kernels of info that you can pursue for a story once you get back home and to work.”

Bajko relied on comments from the Q-and-A with Jones and Mixner for one of his “Political Notes” columns.

For Sean Bugg, editor and co-publisher of Washington, D.C.-based Metro Weekly, “The main takeaway is that we need to be more keenly aware of how we decide what topics we cover. While I don't necessarily agree with those who criticized the event for not having an HIV-specific panel, that leads to the question of what you cut. Transgender issues? Aging issues?”

The omission of an HIV-specific session, said Bugg, "raised a significant point about how our attention is driven as journalists, bloggers and writers. Since I'm heading up a newsmagazine that's committed to a broad range of topics, I'm sensitive to the needs of some parts of our LGBT community that aren't being met or are receiving inadequate attention. While I think my staff does a great job of diversifying our coverage, we're not perfect and we're always open to criticism and suggestions.”

Based on his participation, Bugg penned his weekly column: “Picking and Choosing: When ‘LGBT issues’ includes hundreds of topics, how do we as journalists and activists focus our attention? (http://www.metroweekly.com/news/opinion/?ak=8156)

The absence of HIV/AIDS was not lost on another attendee, Mark S. King, an award-winning columnist, author, video blogger and AIDS advocate.

While in Philadelphia, King produced a video titled “HIV and Gay Media: The Vanishing Virus.”

Voicing concern about rising rates of HIV-infection among younger men, particularly African Americans, King asks on camera, “What I want to know is where is HIV on the agenda? What do [attendees] think about HIV’s coverage in the media today?”

In a subsequent blog posting, King pressed further: “What, then, is the responsibility of LGBT media in this climate of rising infection rates and a bored readership? Are they simply reflecting the community's waning interest, or do they have a responsibility to keep HIV in the headlines, to serve as advocates for better public awareness?”

Meanwhile, Washington Blade reporter Michael K. Lavers said immigration issues and activism resonated most for him. “Hearing David Mixner and Cleve Jones discuss their experiences as long-time LGBT rights advocates and the discussion on the state of LGBT rights outside the United States were highlights of the weekend,” he explained. “It is important that we as a community acknowledge and pay tribute to those who paved the way for future generations of LGBT people, and I am pleased that they took the time to speak with us in Philadelphia.”

Lavers reported on Mayor Nutter’s lunchtime remarks, in which Nutter affirmed his support for marriage equality.

PGN founder and publisher Mark Segal said he was grateful the weekend’s agenda included LGBT aging, which he said, “is swept under the carpet way too much.”

Added Metro Weekly’s Bugg, “The discussion around aging was an important reminder for me, perhaps because I've become solidly middle-aged in recent years.”

Highlighting his work on an LGBT senior housing project, Segal penned his weekly column as a preview of the convening.

What did other participants have to say?

“The feedback was really positive and constructive,” said Sarah Blazucki, who facilitated a wrap-up session. “One of the requests that was raised a few times - have more interaction among the participants: less classroom, more interaction. Folks also suggested seeking ways to collaborate with each other to get their stories out, professional development, and addressing topics such as race, gender identity and bisexuality.”

“For LGBT media, it's great to be able to connect with sources and resources you might not have known about before, or not had direct access to,” continued Blazucki, an NLGJA vice president for print and digital media who served on the host committee. “For some of the smaller media outlets, this is invaluable to improving coverage. Also, the ability to share knowledge and learn from your peers is extremely helpful, particularly for the small outlets who might not have financial resources for training or professional development.”

Veteran journalist Rex Wockner offered an assessment. "The people who shape America's LGBT news come together in one place and connect, reconnect, network, hang out, drink, stay up too late and listen to presentations on topics that will be more prominent in LGBT news in coming months and years. ... [The convening] unquestionably helps the nation's LGBT journalists and bloggers get more things more right more often."


Volume 15
Issue 1

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