LGBT media confab returns as part of group’s 22nd annual convention in Boston
by Chuck Colbert
Hundreds of news industry professionals are expected in Boston August 22-25 when the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) convenes its 22nd convention and ninth LGBT Media Summit.
The Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers, the host hotel, is located in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood, in close proximity the heavily gay South End.
The four-day gathering begins with the LGBT Media Summit on Thursday, August 22, followed by two full days of programming with more than 40 workshops designed to address the needs of journalists and those in the communications industry.
"Both the convention and the media summit are meant to provide an incredible educational and networking opportunity for our members nationwide,” said Michael Tune, NLGJA’s executive director. “The panels are designed by journalists and for journalists, including those working in broadcast, online and print. It's this educational core that brings journalists to this event year after year — attendees know they're going to learn, and they know this will be a great place not only to meet new experts in their field, but also reconnect with old friends and colleagues."
In a significant nod to gay media, NLGJA will induct the late Bob Ross into its LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame. Ross founded the San Francisco-based Bay Area Reporter. Another inductee is Mark Segal, founder, owner and publisher of Philadelphia Gay News.
“We are thrilled to be inducting two pioneers of the LGBT press into the NLGJA Hall of Fame” said Jen Christensen, NLGJA’s president. “These two men created two of our most well-respected and enduring LGBT publications in the country and also bravely showed mainstream publications how to give our community the thoughtful respect and coverage it deserved at a time when only stereotypes and shallow reporting were the norm.” (See SIDEBAR below.)
This year’s assembly is the first time the journalists group has convened in New England.
“I've wanted to have the NLGJA convention in Boston for years. I went to college here and the region's history has its high and low points,” said Doug Stewart, convention programming co-chair. “While it's important to experience the city's past, this convention is about the future. I'm pleased that we have a great selection of panels that look forward, like our emphasis on social media. I'm excited about the panels on managing the big story, learning what lessons can be learned from the Marathon bombing and staking out your digital reputation.”
Barbara Dozetos also serves as main convention programming co-chair. "I've been working on NLGJA conventions on and off over 10 years now and I'm really excited that we're finally bringing our friends to New England,” she said. “I'm particularly excited about the programming this year. There is a great mix of long-time favorite speakers and new faces. Boston is the perfect place for us to take a look at where we've been while focusing on the question: What's next?”
When it came to programming the one-day LGBT Media Summit, "The choice of Boston was inspiring,” said Fred Kuhr, summit co-chair.
“There is so much history here in Boston, not just American history, but LGBT history. Even more, there is so much LGBT media history here. Using that history as a springboard, we are taking this opportunity to learn from the past as we look to the future,” said Kuhr, whose gay media experience was based primarily in Boston, as a reporter for Bay Windows, a freelancer for Boston Spirit Magazine, and long-time editor of the now-defunct In Newsweekly. (Kuhr is also editor of Press Pass Q.)
“LGBT media finds itself at a crossroads, given so many publications shutting down, filing for bankruptcy, restructuring, cutting its print schedule or going online only. But in order to plan for a prosperous future, the gay media industry must understand and learn from its past,” said Kuhr.
Mindful of that, the breakfast plenary is “Gay Press, Gay Power: Ensuring LGBT media’s future by examining its past.” Focusing on Tracy Baim’s new book, “Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America,” contributors discuss the lessons they learned from digging into our industry’s rich history.
For history buffs, the breakout session “In The Beginning: Boston’s role in the birth and development of LGBT media” examines the unique place Boston played in the creation of our industry.
Looking to the future, the media summit luncheon plenary, “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast: What do LGBT media need to do to survive?” brings together industry veterans to discuss strategies for thriving in a new media landscape and economic reality.
Other breakout sessions are also focus on the future. Discussions address how to cover global stories without leaving your local office, the changing way gay media covers faith and religion, new copyright challenges in a digital world, and tools for keeping readers up-to-date on rapidly changing HIV-prevention research.
The summit also showcases the documentary film, “Alfredo’s Fire,” about a gay Italian writer who set himself on fire to protest the Vatican’s strictures against homosexuality. Producer/director Andy Abrahams Wilson will be on hand for this special preview.
"After the summit taking a year off due to the UNITY convention last year, we are back on track, giving LGBT media professionals an opportunity to focus on issues unique to our industry," said summit co-chair Kuhr. “It's the one time we have to meet in person and put faces to names in order to learn from each other as our industry embarks upon these very challenging times."
Given the tragic chain of events in Boston this past April, the main convention’s Friday morning plenary is “Of Bombings and Blunders: Lessons Learned from the Boston Marathon Attacks."
Journalists who covered the bombings will discuss the best and worst of journalism on display in the days that followed the marathon attacks — all unfolding in real time on television and the Internet. Journalists on the front lines of reporting will share their experiences in an effort to help reporters get such stories fast and get them right when the clock is ticking.
Other programming highlights include a plenary session conversation about the future of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and same-sex marriage.
A Saturday luncheon plenary features Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, a position she assumed in September 2011. Abramson serves in the highest-ranking position in The Times’ newsroom and oversees the New York Times news report in all its various forms.
Main convention workshops will include digital-focused discussions of social media as well as blogging and online publishing. Other breakout sessions deal with the topics of the LGBTQ community and labor movement and the over-50 LGBT population of baby boomers.
(Editor’s note: Press Pass Q’s Chuck Colbert serves, along with Kuhr, as co-chair of the 2013 NLGJA LGBT Media Summit. Kuhr and Colbert are former co-chairs of NLGJA’s New England Chapter. Colbert also served on the organization's national board of directors and has deep roots with Boston LGBT media.)