Monday, March 31, 2014

TRANSITIONS AND MILESTONES

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

RON DORFMAN, a longtime journalist and activist whose work occassionally appeared in the Chicago-based WINDY CITY TIMES, died Feb. 10, 2014, after a battle with heart disease. He and his partner, KEN ILIO, were among the first same-sex couples legally married in Illinois when they wed on Dec. 13, 2013. Dorfman was 73.

HERE MEDIA, owner of THE ADVOCATE and HIV PLUS, garnered several Maggie Award nominations. ADVOCATE.COM was nominated for Best Web Publication for overall content; a series of op-eds by managing editor MICHELLE GARCIA is nominated in the Best Regularly Featured Web, eNewsletter or Digital Edition Column category; Best Use of Social Media for its annual Day In LGBT America event; @GAYSAYER, an LGBT comedy Twitter feed maintained by JAMI SMITH, received a nomination for Best Social Media Community, and HIV PLUS for Best Print Publication in the Special Interest/Consumer category. The Maggies are awarded by the California-based Western Publishing Association.

LETTERS FROM CAMP REHOBOTH, based in Rehoboth Beach, Del., entered its 24th year of publication with its February 7, 2014, issue.

OUTSMART, based in Houston, Tex., entered its 21st year of publication with its February 2014 issue.

SOUTH FLORIDA GAY NEWS, based in Wilton Manors, Fla., celebrated its fourth anniversary in its Jan. 29, 2014, issue.

TAGG, based in Washington, D.C., entered its third year of publication with its January/February 2014 issue.

UNITY: JOURNALISTS FOR DIVERSITY announced the appointment of ELOIZA ALTORO as interim executive director. Altoro will manage and oversee the day-to-day operations of the organization as it conducts a search for a permanent executive director. Altoro is taking over responsibilities from interim executive director Walt Swanson, who is stepping down after a year and a half.

WINDY CITY TIMES, based in Chicago, is hosting a summit May 2-5, 2014, on LGBTQ youth in the Chicago region in order to assess the current issues impacting homeless youth and new solutions to these complex issues. The title of the summit is "Owning Our Lives: Dream It. Speak It. Do It!!" The website for registration, donations and full information is http://chicagosummit.lgbthomelessness.com.

TRANSITIONS AND MILESTONES
Volume 15
Issue 12

PRESSING QUESTIONS: Baltimore OutLoud turns 10

by Joe Siegel

Geographic coverage area: Baltimore and surrounding counties, Frederick, Md., the Eastern Panhandle, Martinsville W.Va., Southern Pennsylvania and Delaware’s Eastern Shore

Year founded: 2004

Staff size and breakdown [writers, sales reps., etc.]: Two active owners, two sales reps, 25 writers, two graphic designers and two photographers

Physical dimensions of publication: 9.875” w X 9.6” h

Average page count: 28-32

Print run: 5,000 every 2 weeks


*****

PPQ: What challenge has your publication had to overcome over the past few years?

Mary Taylor, director of marketing and production: Our biggest challenge was the fire. It was a Tuesday or Wednesday night we were going to press, it was two weeks before Pride. A windstorm blew the roof off the building that we were in. Then the roofers came and something ignited on Monday morning, which burned our offices down. The issue we were putting out in that time period was the Pride issue. A lot of the files were lost. That was the worst thing to overcome.

PPQ: What challenges are you facing right now?

Taylor: We need to get our web site updated and modernized. We need to use it to be able to bring in revenue. We know the new generation is more tech-savvy.

PPQ: How has Baltimore OUTloud changed in the past decade?

Taylor: More writers, and more advertisers helping to make the paper grow because of new sources of advertising. We have upgraded the quality of the paper we use print on. We've learned lessons on what works and what doesn't work, what the community wants to read, what they're not interested in. It's still a learning process. The interests of the readers change as the readers age. It is a continual growth process.

PPQ: What has been your biggest story in the last 10 years?

Taylor: Marriage equality. That was a long, hard, bitter nail-breaking fight. There were a lot of people who believed in it and once the community got involved and it went to referendum and we saw how the people voted (in November 2012), Maryland became one of the first states to approve marriage equality by a popular vote.

PPQ: Do you see yourselves as “activist journalists” and if so, why?

Taylor: The fact that we are an independent newspaper, owned and operated independently, we can freely tell the truth and not have to worry who we offend. We can tell the truth, period.

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

Taylor: Having people from out of state commenting about how they enjoy and look forward to reading each issue of the paper.

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

Taylor: When we started the paper 10 years ago, we were told that we would not last even three months. We are as strong and united as we were in the beginning. Unfortunately, one of the editors has passed away. Nothing that has happened hasn't happened for a reason. We've learned from everything and our paper is growing.

PRESSING QUESTIONS
Volume 15
Issue 12

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

5th LGBT Media Journalists Convening held in D.C.

by Chuck Colbert

A select group of LGBT media professionals gathered recently for a weekend symposium concerning a range of LGBT community issues and media-related concerns.

Sponsored by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) and funded by the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the 5th annual LGBT Media Journalists Convening was held Feb. 28 to March 2 at the Capitol Hilton in downtown Washington, D.C. A private family foundation based in San Francisco, the Haas fund “promotes equal rights and opportunities with an emphasis on immigrants and gays and lesbians,” according to its mission statement.

Bil Browning (Photo by Michael Key/Washington Blade.
Used with permission.)
NLGJA board member Bil Browning, founder and publisher of the Bilerico Project blog, organized the meeting. Also representing Bilerico was its editor in chief John Becker, who wrote about the gathering.

"I'm honored to host the only gathering that brings together LGBT media's traditional journalists and bloggers as one complete package,” said Browning. “I'm proud of how it's grown every year and how our following on social media has skyrocketed. Not only do participants in the room get to question presenters, but also so do our followers. Everything is on the record so we reach as many people as possible, both inside and out of LGBT media."

Altogether, the 2014 gathering brought together, by invitation only, 74 journalists and bloggers from various LGBT newspapers and websites nationwide.

Highlights of the weekend gathering included an opening reception featuring Andrea Mitchell, NBC News' chief foreign affairs correspondent. 

NBC News' Andrea Mitchell (Photo by Michael Key/
Washington Blade. Used with permission.)
Held at the headquarters of the AFL-CIO, the reception also included remarks by the legislative director of the Communications Workers of America, Shane Larson, who spoke about the alliance between the labor and LGBT movements.

Another highlight was an early Saturday morning tour of the White house, organized by Ellie Schafer, the highest-ranking lesbian at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Back at the Washington Hilton afterwards, attendees participated in a full day of panels and discussion.   

The first panel, "Mythbusters: Understanding & Deconstructing the Attack Lines of the Anti-LGBT Industry,” discussed push-back strategies against the anti-LGBT industry, its activists and organizations, particularly how to debunk junk social-science research that attacks same-sex parenting, such as Mark Regnerus’ roundly rebuked, but widely-cited New Family Structures Study.

The second panel, "What We Don't Talk About: Radical Methods For Greater Diversity In Queer Journalism,” raised awareness of the need for more effective and fuller coverage of the bisexual and transgender communities, people of color and HIV issues.

After lunch, discussion and conversation turned to immigration reform and the future of LGBT media.

The final panel, “Airing Our Dirty Laundry: Best Practices in Airing Touchy Subjects," grappled with the sometimes-thorny matters of intra-community homophobia, bi-phobia and trans-phobia, racism and classism, as well as the underfunding for LGBT journalism and best practices when celebrities make anti-LGBT missteps. One option suggested was giving people the benefit of the doubt when they are not as well informed on LGBT issues as hoped for.

Perhaps the most comprehensive media coverage of the convening was that by Los Angeles-based veteran journalist Karen Ocamb, news editor of Frontiers (http://www.frontiersla.com/frontiers-blog/2014/03/04/what-i-learned-at-the-lgbt-media-14-convening).

As she noted, “The all-day Convening on Saturday was less steeped in politics and more about how LGBT media can press the LGBT equality agenda — and how we must confront issues within the community as well— specifically the lack of understanding about and coverage of the intersection of race, transgender and bisexual issues.”

Other attendees offered their impressions and observations.

For veteran blogger and online leader Mike Rogers, “The annual ... convening has grown into one of the most important gathering of journalists each year. Not only has the event grown each year, but its increased diversity and the addition of media trainings has taken the program to new heights. As I speak with journalists and online media folks, I hear repeatedly how productive these weekends are.”

An attendee for all five years, Rogers added, “Each one has left attendees with useful information, phenomenal personal contacts and skills that will benefit their careers and the movement long after the meeting ends. Most important, the gathering helps to build a real community of people who usually know each other via quick phone calls and instant messages. It is efforts like this that bridge the space between people and the web. In a world where so much happens virtually, it is important to support community development. The media trainings are an important addition to the program. By empowering people to speak publicly we give them the tools to create change and ultimately, that is what a movement is about.”

Second time attendee Jason Parsley, associate publisher at South Florida Gay News, said he appreciated “being able to network with LGBT media professionals and outlets from the across the country. More importantly, the topics presented were informative and have inspired several story ideas that I have now assigned to freelancers. One of the topics was bisexuality and how the bi community is portrayed in the media. That presentation inspired me to recruit a columnist from the conference who will address the obstacles and needs of the bi community.”

Also a second-time attendee, Jen Colletta, editor at Philadelphia Gay News, said that she “enjoyed getting to hear the diversity of viewpoints among the guests and panelists. Even though we all work in LGBT media, each person brought his or her own experiences to the table, and it was really helpful to learn from those experiences. I particularly enjoyed discussions around ways to strengthen coverage of sensitive topics, as I think that's something all media outlets, LGBT and mainstream, can improve on.”

For her part, Autumn Sandeen, San Diego LGBT Weekly columnist and blogger at Transadvocate, said that she “got the most out of networking with other journalists, especially the trans journalists I hadn't met in person previously.”

Much to her surprise, however, Sandeen said, “Of the four questions that were posed to Andrea Mitchell, ... two of the questions were about trans specific issues. Mitchell didn't use the terms ‘transgender’ or ‘gender identity’ in either of her responses, and didn't seem familiar at all with transgender people and issues. It goes to show that the only mainstream cable media that has any awareness of transgender people and issues are hosts on Fox who get almost all of their information from conservative Christian non-profits that the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as anti-LGBT hate groups.”

For his part, third-time attendee Michael K. Lavers, a Washington Blade reporter, said that he was grateful to have "the opportunity to meet fellow LGBT media professionals and reunite with colleagues, sources and friends."

For Lavers, the most interesting panel was the one on "airing our dirty laundry" because “it allowed attendees to ask tough questions about them, and hear feedback on how to cover them in a fair and accurate way. I was admittedly a bit disappointed, however, there was not a lot of time allotted to discuss global LGBT rights issues. This was a missed opportunity considering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi had just ended and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni earlier in the week signed his country's controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law."

Lavers also voiced concern about “objectivity” in journalism “even on LGBT-specific issues towards which they very well support.”

For future gatherings, he suggested a panel discussion that makes “more clear” the distinctions between advocacy and reporting.

For writer, editor and blogger Dana Rudolph of Mombian, “the highlight of the weekend was to see many of the people I usually only encounter virtually. The online world is wonderful, but face-to-face conversations can more often lead in unexpected and interesting directions. I was impressed by the intersectionality of many of the topics, which touched on issues of race and class as well as sexual orientation and gender identity. I found the session on how to talk about touchy subjects particularly useful. I think people are sometimes hesitant to write about issues that may be sensitive, but those are often the subjects that most need to be aired. Having the space to discuss this among people with many different perspectives was extremely helpful. The weekend reminded me that regardless of the different outlets we write for or our usual beats, we all share the common purpose of increasing the visibility and understanding of the LGBTQ community. We can all benefit from the exchange of ideas and ways of overcoming challenges in this work.”

IN THE NEWS
Volume 15
Issue 12

Q-Notes of N.C. changes mission to take on social justice

by Chuck Colbert

A North Carolina-based LGBT publication has a new mission statement — one that opens the biweekly’s gay lens to non-LGBT-specific social justice issues.

Adopted late last fall, the revised mission statement reads: “The focus of Q-Notes is to serve the LGBT and straight ally communities of the Charlotte region, North Carolina and beyond, by featuring arts, entertainment, news and views content in print and online that directly enlightens, informs and engages the readers about LGBT life and social justice issues.”

During a recent telephone interview, editor Matt Comer explained the wider lens, saying both the state’s political landscape and the LGBT community have changed since the publication’s founding in 1986.

“In the 1980s and 1990s, the [LGBT] community was very much focused on organizing itself, becoming a community,” he said, “at the same time trying to fight for simple recognition of our existence in the cities and towns across the state.”

By and large, “the community has done that” and more during the last couple of decades, Comer added, pointing to “every major city in the state” having “at least sexual orientation included in policies or ordinances, with many although not all [also adding] gender identity.”

So now as “the community is in the process of expanding its issues and interests, we think it’s incumbent upon the newspaper to reflect those changes and report on those changes,” he said.

Equally important, the mission statement’s change needs to be put in the context of North Carolina’s current “political and cultural environment,” Comer said, namely the GOP taking back the legislature in 2010 and voters’ electing the first Republican governor in several decades.

“There has been a significant progressive response to that,” he said, with LGBTs aligning with other minorities, including African Americans and Latinos.

Previously, “We had our own [various] community issues but were dealing with a “fairly friendly Democratic governor,” along with similarly sympathetic judicial and legislative branches of government. “When that changed, [LGBT, African American and Latino] communities could no longer be siloed,” he said.

What are some non-gay specific issues that intersect with LGBT issues?

In a Nov. 8 Editor’s Note, Comer discussed a number of those social justice concerns:

“Issues like employment discrimination affect not only LGBT people for their sexuality and gender alone; LGBT people of color continue to face disproportionate job discrimination and unemployment. Healthcare reform and access to affordable, safe health care has been made a partisan issue between Republicans and Democrats, but it’s an important issue particularly for transgender people, low-income people and people of color. Controversial issues like immigration, too, have connections with the LGBT community, as LGBT youth are separated from their families and other LGBT immigrants are deported back to their hostile homelands or face a local community with little resources for them.

“As a community, we are learning that to work for equality means to work for all. LGBT organizations — and, yes, even LGBT media — can begin to broaden their work to include a wide range of issues and a diversity of people. It’s the only way our community becomes stronger.”

To gauge reader interests further, the publication posted an online survey, asking what kinds of issues — health care, poverty, homelessness, education, mental health, crime and criminal justice — merited coverage.

The survey also asked about gay-specific concerns, namely marriage equality, employment discrimination and national LGBT politics. 

Respondents were asked to rank in order of increasing importance on a scale from 1 to 5.

The survey included questions about arts and entertainment coverage, too.

“The non-LGBT issues ranked just as high, though not as highly as the LGBT issues,” said Comer. “So our readers are just as interested in those issues as well.”

What else did Comer learn about the readership?

“Our readers are overwhelmingly Democratic or progressive,” said Comer. At the same time, “they wanted more entertainment.”

An LGBT news, arts and entertainment publication, Q-Notes is based in Charlotte. The 24-page print issue (8,000 copies) is distributed throughout small-to-medium-sized cities and towns in the state including the greater Charlotte metro area, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

The newspaper bills itself as “the largest and most trusted source of news, politics, opinion, entertainment, art, lifestyle, community events and more for LGBT North Carolinians and South Carolinians.”

Comer said he looks forward to the new ways the newspaper will cover “intersectional oppression,” or how social justice issues intersect with the movement for LGBT equality.

For example, “We ran a feature about employment issues within LGBT people of color in low-income communities,” which included “interviews with advocates working to address that,” he said. The inspiration for the story (http://goqnotes.com/27547/lgbt-people-of-color-transgender-workers-face-obstacles/), Comer said, “stems from a recent Williams Institute study that showed LGBT people of color are far more disadvantaged when it comes to work opportunities.”

IN THE NEWS
Volume 15
Issue 12

Two new publications unite LGBT Tennessee and business professionals

by Chuck Colbert

Not long after moving to Tennessee, it struck a gay newspaperman: No magazine served the gay market in Nashville. “There were two newspapers, and they served a purpose,” Joey Amato told Press Pass Q. “But there was nothing fancy, glossy and upscale.”

And so Amato changed the region’s media landscape in March 2013 by launching UNITE Nashville, a bimonthly lifestyle magazine.

One of the local newspapers folded recently, and another Tennessee-based bar-guide also ceased publication several months ago, leaving UNITE Nashville as the only upscale LGBT magazine in the state.

Amato billed the new Nashville publication as “the first of its kind in Tennessee, catering to the affluent LGBT business community while at the same time incorporating a variety edgy lifestyle content, which appeals to the market.” 

As its name suggests, UNITE is all about bringing together the “affluent and professional community in Tennessee,” with a lens on “business, lifestyle, entertainment, travel, dining and health,” according to the publication’s media kit.

Published every other month, UNITE’s 3,000 to 5,000 copies are distributed in restaurants, coffeehouses, retail establishments, offices and nightlife venues. To mark its one-year anniversary, the magazine’s distribution expanded to Knoxville while Amato, who serves as publisher and editor in chief, is still weighing further expansion to Memphis and Chattanooga.

UNITE Nashville’s content is “fresh, edgy, and ambitious,” combining a hybrid of “entertaining and informative content for the educated reader, and one who is also interested in nightlife, culture, music, art, fashion, travel, health and more,” according to the publication’s media kit.

Initially, each issue was 48 pages of full-color glossy, printed on 8½” x 11” paper, but grew to 64 pages within a year. Superstars including Pink, Carrie Underwood, Rod Stewart and Iron Chef Cat Cora have graced UNITE’s cover.

But launching UNITE Nashville is not the only way Amato has changed the LGBT media landscape. This past December, he launched UNITE Business, a bimonthly publication catering to LGBT business owners and corporate allies.

Again, Amato saw a need and decided to fill it. “There was no publication out there for the business community,” he said. “People have been emailing me once a day just saying how much the love the publication. So after that feedback, I said, ‘Okay, we are onto something.’”

The 2,000 copies of UNITE Business are mailed nationwide directly to LGBT chambers of commerce and business owners, which he said makes costs for shipping higher. “It’s not a huge quantity, but at least an advertiser knows exactly who is reading the publication.”

LGBT chambers of commerce distributing UNITE Business include Wisconsin, Dallas, Miami, Washington, D.C., Long Beach, Las Vegas and Seattle, in addition to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. “Not every LGBT chamber of commerce yet, but we’re getting there.”

Amato timed the official launch of UNITE Business’ premier issue during Community Marketing Inc.’s annual Tourism and Hospitality Conference, held this past December in Fort Lauderdale. The gathering brings together travel industry, hospitality and other professionals.

Amato hopes UNITE Business’ alliance with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association will help raise the publication’s visibility.

Both print versions of UNITE Nashville and UNITE Business are now available throughsubscription on their website at a cost of $24/year.

UNITE Business’ inaugural issue (http://issuu.com/unitemagazine/docs/biz_web) featured pop musician Cyndi Lauper and the British business magnate and investor Sir Richard Branson, perhaps best known as founder of the Virgin group.

The most recent issue (http://issuu.com/unitemagazine/docs/unite_biz_feb-mar) spotlights Bob Witeck — president and founder of Witeck Communications, a strategic public relations and marketing communications firm based in Washington, D. C. — as a pioneer in LGBT marketing.

Altogether, editorial content of UNITE Business varies from company profiles to business advice columns (tax and financial tips) to lifestyle content such as how to when stressed out at work.

The publication also likes to “feature companies and not just corporations,” said Amato.
The February/March issue ran a story on Nashville-based Nissan, which focused on the car company’s rapid progress in workplace diversity and inclusion of LGBTs. The April/May issue will spotlight both United Airlines and Darden Restaurants LGBT initiatives.

And yet, “UNITE Business is more for the mom and pops, which is why advertising rates are not out of reach for small businesses,” he said. Small business rates start at only $200, making the publication affordable for almost any business.

UNITE Business is “more of a Fast Company, entrepreneur-style publication,” said Amato.

A native New Yorker, Amato, who holds an MBA degree from Rollins College, located in Winter Park, Fla., is no stranger to LGBT publishing. He served as the first managing editor of South Florida Gay News and then OMG! Magazine.

In expanding the UNITE brand, Amato has joined forces with Echelon Magazine, a leader in LGBT business information. Through the two publications’ collaborative efforts, Amato and Echelon Magazine editor in chief Michael Lamb hope to create “a dynamic connection with the LGBT business community and promote the economic prosperity of this important economic niche,” according to a Dec. 6 news story published in Echelon Magazine.

IN THE NEWS
Volume 15
Issue 12

Ohio’s Outlook to expand statewide

by Joe Siegel

Columbus, Ohio-based Outlook has announced plans to become a statewide publication beginning in June.

The magazine will change its name from Outlook Columbus Magazine to Outlook Ohio Magazine. Outlook’s website has already moved from www.outlookcolumbus.com to www.outlookohio.com.

“It’s a change that makes sense for us as a company, but more importantly, for us as the Ohio LGBT community,” said Christopher Hayes, Outlook’s publisher. “We are at the height of our struggle for equality in this state, and it’s important to have a unifying sounding board where we can all come together and talk about the issues at hand. We seek to be that voice.”
For 18 years, Outlook has covered Central Ohio's LGBT community. It started as a newspaper in 1996 and transitioned to a monthly lifestyles publication in 2009.

“We're hoping it will help us grow,” explained editor Bob Vitale. Outlook will be distributed in several major cities, including Toledo, Cincinnati, Dayton and Akron. 

Members of the Outlook staff visited several LGBT organizations in Cleveland, which will host the 2014 Gay Games later this year. “They were really receptive to us coming up there,” Vitale said. “We do a lot of political coverage. Marriage equality is heating up in Ohio now. There's a lot going on at the Statehouse now.”

Vitale said there is only one other widely distributed LGBT publication in the state, so the time was right to expand Outlook's distribution. “We thought there was a need out there for information and for helping people find their voice,” Vitale explained.

Outlook is published monthly by Outlook Media, which also publishes High Street Neighborhoods Magazine and hosts Network Columbus, a monthly networking series for LGBT professionals.

IN THE NEWS
Volume 15
Issue 12

Rhode Island's Options no longer mailed in secret

by Joe Siegel

Options, Rhode Island's oldest LGBT publication, has announced it will no longer be mailed to subscribers in its signature white envelopes.

The April issue released on March 30 will be mailed to subscribers without the use of an envelope. This change comes after many conversations amongst Options staff, volunteers and most importantly readers, explained Kyle McKendall, publisher of Options.

McKendall explained that doing away with the envelopes would be a cost savings measure for Options. 

But also, McKendall noted the advances in LGBT civil rights, especially in Rhode Island, where same-sex marriage became legal in 2013. LGBT readers are more open about their sexuality as a result.

“The need for an envelope isn't the same as in the 1980s,” McKendall said. “I'm very optimistic and positive about the decision that we made.”

Options offers free subscriptions and is distributed for free to over 100 locations in the area. 

While younger readers welcomed the change, McKendall said, the publication's older readers were “more hesitant” to do away with the mailing envelopes. 

However, McKendall said anyone who wishes to continue receiving Options in the white envelopes can do so.

Since 1982, the all-volunteer Options has chronicled the struggle in securing equal rights for LGBTQ people in Rhode Island. “People still speak emotionally of the paper’s first 15 years when it was a lone media voice, an oasis for people who felt alone, disconnected, disempowered, afraid or confused. Today, its importance as a unique and important voice, continually building and supporting our community, is as strong as ever,” McKendall said in a statement.

IN THE NEWS
Volume 15
Issue 12

Thursday, March 20, 2014

TOP STORY: Charlie Crist says he’s sorry in his first LGBT interview

Florida’s Watermark gets former and possible future governor on the record
by Chuck Colbert

A Florida-based LGBT publication nabbed a journalistic coup recently when Tom Dyer, founder and publisher of Watermark, interviewed Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor, now a Democratic candidate for the same office in the Sunshine State.

It was a groundbreaking, first-ever gay press interview for Crist, wherein he explains his party switch, gay marriage support, and why he’d like to be governor again.

Within hours of its posting on Dec. 31, 2103, on Watermark’s web site, the interview went viral, with other LGBT publications — Dallas Voice, Washington Blade, Windy City Times and Advocate.com — also posting it, thanks in part to Lisa Keen forwarding the Crist interview for her clients’ consideration. (Keen is chief correspondent and founder of Keen News Service, an Associated Press for LGBT news.)

Even mainstream outlets ran with the story as the Crist interview graced the front page of web sites for Huffington Post and MSNBC. In addition, Wolf Blitzer mentioned the interview on CNN.

Dyer also gave interviews with a couple local Orlando news network outlets.

In an interview with Press Pass Q, Dyer discussed his approach in speaking with Crist, the conversation’s significance, the interview’s genesis, readers’ reactions to it and Watermark's brief tenure in the media spotlight.

“After the interview was posted online it kind of caught fire, with a different outlet — including some major ones — picking it up by the hour," said Dyer.  “It was fun. There were lots of comments. I didn't expect it.”

How the interview came about

"One of his finance directors is a friend," said Dyer, referring to Crist. "So when I heard he was running, I told him that I thought the former governor had a lot of fences to mend with the LGBT community. And I said that if he wanted to have a dialogue with [the community] directly, I’d love to do an interview.”

Dyer said this finance director took the offer to Crist. "He likely shared that I was someone who would not ambush him," Dyer said. "That I wanted to give him an opportunity to address these issues fully and in his own words and be judged by that." 
  
A takeaway message for LGBT media, Dyer said, is to “approach interviews of this kind in a respectful way, possibly through trusted channels.”

“I went through a trusted back channel. I think I have a reputation for being fair in interviews, and that may have made it an easier sell,” Dyer explained. "Charlie had issues with the LGBT community that needed to be addressed. Prior to the interview, I said this was an opportunity for him to speak fully and directly to them through a comfortable source. But I had no idea so many people would eventually read the interview.”

Interview significance

Veteran journalist Lisa Keen of Keen News Service offered her views on the importance of the Crist interview and Dyer’s journalistic prowess.
  
“Tom was really well prepared, he had a well-organized interview, and he got Crist to really answer some tough questions. Whether the answers stand up over time, we'll see, but at least we have some kind of explanation for Crist's ‘evolution’ on gay issues and this is a big race,” she told Press Pass Q.

“Florida is always so pivotal in the presidential election, so the LGBT community would like to see it go blue, but with somebody it can count on in the long run, not just for the race. And Tom got the interview — and got it early,” Keen said. “Tom really put Crist on the spot to explain his change of position on same-sex couples marrying, and he did so with a respectful professionalism that just didn't let Crist slip off the subject.
Watermark's Tom Dyer interviewing Charlie Crist

“Tom ... didn't just let Crist say, ‘Ooh, sorry about that’ for supporting Florida's ban on same-sex couples marrying, he pointed out the contradiction — that Crist once said the ban wasn't important but then he voted for it and then spoke a few years later of how marriage is between a man and a woman, and saying ‘traditional families’ are better for kids. Tom explained how Crist changing his party affiliation and changing his position on marriage came across to many in the LGBT community as strategic political moves, not sincerely held positions.

“And then Tom went deeper and asked what, specifically, would Crist commit to doing for the LGBT community as governor. Crist managed to slip that one a little by saying, ‘I want’ to do this or that, instead of ‘I will’ do this or that, but then he came back around quickly — maybe Tom was giving him a look, like he knows Crist is picking his words carefully — and said he thinks pro-gay legislation needs to aim higher, go for marriage equality.”

Reactions

Any number of readers and activists welcomed Crist’s change of heart and mind at the same time lauding Dyer’s efforts.

“I'm glad to see someone who has done harm publicly pledge to work to repair the damage. My activism is based on the premise that people can and do change,” said Nadine Smith, chief executive officer of Equality Florida. “I'm glad Tom Dyer ... asked the questions that needed to be asked and that we deserved to have publicly and thoroughly answered. I can't recall the last time I've heard a politician say, ‘I was wrong. I am sorry.’”

However, one rather unforgiving reader offered a different perspective. “Screw this weasel and anyone who trusts a word he says,” wrote Brian C. Bock in a posting on Watermarkonline.com. “Let him make amends first before asking us for anything. He did so much damage to gays and lesbians and now he's ‘sorry’ because he wants to run for office in the other party.”

Taking Crist to task for supporting the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Bock continued, “It's a tad late now, isn't it, Charlie? The amendment is on the books today and will continue to deny gay couples hundreds of rights for the foreseeable future. An apology is only a flimsy start to undoing the damage.”

In 2008, Sunshine State voters approved Amendment 2, which limited marriage to between one man and one woman. The ban would include civil unions and domestic partnerships. The measure, which required 60 percent of voters’ approval, passed by a margin of 61.9% in favor, with 38.1 percent opposed. 

Crist’s support, said Dyer, may well have made voting for the gay-marriage ban “palatable” for “less than right wingers” to do.

“A lot of gay people are finding it very difficult to hear [Crist] say, ‘I’m sorry,' and then just respond with, 'Well, okay, you’re forgiven,’” said Dyer. “A few of my friends say they will never forgive him, never vote for him. But I think that's a real minority. Most people are more practical. They want incumbent [Republican] Rick Scott out, and they want a supportive Democrat in.”

Because this was Crist's first interview with the LGBT press, Dyer felt a real responsibility. He was pleased that so many people “gave me strokes for the way I handled the interview, that I didn’t roll over and let him get off with the first apology, that I made him really explain himself. The interview itself was received positively.”

But Dyer also noted, "It was greeted with a great deal of skepticism in some quarters. Many still question his sincerity. Our community wants reassurance that what he said [in the interview] reflects his current belief system, and that he will truly support us if elected. We're justifiably concerned that Charlie is a person who will say anything to get elected. And really, only time will tell."

Dyer said his favorite reaction to the interview came from someone who described him as being "gracious but tenacious.”

Publisher Dyer, who is also an attorney, grew up in Madison, Wisc., and moved to Florida with his family while a teenager. He founded Watermark in Orlando in 1994. “Very quickly, within a year, I expanded it to include Tampa Bay,” he said. Every two weeks on Thursdays, Watermark prints 20,000 copies, which are distributed throughout 500 locations throughout Orlando, Tampa Bay and Sarasota.

The geography of Watermark’s distribution “is the middle chunk of the state, the I-4 corridor, which is hugely important in state and national elections,” Dyer said. “We’re kind of the swing area of the state, and there are large and vibrant LGBT communities in both Tampa Bay and Orlando, so we play an important role."

Watermarkonline.com was launched in 1999. With offices in Tampa Bay and Orlando, Watermark employs a full-time staff of 12, as well as several part-time freelance contributors. The newspaper donates more than $200,000 annually in free and sponsor advertising to local and national LGBT non-profits.

TOP STORY
Volume 15
Issue 12

SIDEBAR: “I was wrong. Please forgive me”: What Charlie Crist had to say

by Chuck Colbert

The stakes for the LGBT community in Florida are mighty high come November when Republican Gov. Rick Scott squares off against former GOP Gov. Charlie Crist (2007-2010), now a Democrat, running for the same office.

Watermark publisher Tom Dyer placed his recent Crist interview in context, explaining more about the Sunshine State’s political landscape  — and how a Democratic governor might make all the difference in advancing LGBT equality.

“Start off with the fact that Florida has half a million more Democrats than Republicans, and yet we haven’t had a Democratic governor in 15 years,” Dyer told Press Press Q. “Up until the last election cycle, both houses of the state legislature had supermajorities (more than 60 percent Republican). Now they just have solid majorities.”

While that is “not the case anymore,” he said, “having a Democratic head of state — in a state where the legislature governs from a place of extreme conservatism — that would be “huge.”

Florida has gone blue in recent national elections, voting for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

As Dyer explained, recent legislative majorities in Tallahassee, the state capital, are “more conservative than the population is.” So, he continued, if Crist were elected, “he would have a veto pen. It would change the dynamic. The Republicans have done pretty much what they wanted, restricting voting rights, resisting the Affordable Care Act, turning down Medicaid funding.”
  
If Crist were to win, Dyer said, “The [political] equation would change dramatically.”

A new political equation in Florida would more than likely bode well for advancing Sunshine State LGBT equality.

Here are excerpts from the Crist interview.

WATERMARK: What you would do to advance LGBT equality as governor? Rep. Linda Stewart just introduced a bill to create a statewide Domestic Partner Registry. Given the progress made in other states it seems like a small thing, but even that faces many hurdles in the Republican-controlled State Legislature. The Competitive Workforce Act —an employment non-discrimination bill — can’t get out of committee. Marriage Equality seems a long way off, unless through some sort of court action. What can you do?

CRIST: I want to do all those things. It’s not complicated. It comes down to one word: fairness. Everybody deserves to be treated fairly.

Later in the interview, Crist added: "And to your point about Linda’s legislation, she called me a month ago to tell me what she was doing in case I was asked about it. And I said, ‘Can I ask you a favor? Go for marriage. Why go half way?’ She explained that she didn’t think it was politically possible at this time, and I said, ‘You don’t know unless you try. You’ve gotta push it to make it happen. Plus,’ I said, ‘I think it could help us win the governor’s race. It might not pass right now, but if marriage equality is out there as an option we can say that Rick Scott opposes it, and I'm for it."

Earlier in the interview, Dyer pressed — and kept up the pressure on — Crist about his change of heart.

WATERMARK: You’ve recently articulated support for marriage equality, adoption rights, employment non-discrimination protections, ... pretty much all the acknowledged ingredients of full LGBT equality. At the same time, I think it’s legitimate for members of the LGBT community to be skeptical. When you first ran for governor in 2006, you said that a ban on same-sex marriage was unnecessary, but then you signed a petition to place Amendment 2 [banning same-sex marriage] on the ballot.

CRIST: And I’m sorry. I’m sorry I did that. It was a mistake. I was wrong. Please forgive me.

WATERMARK: I appreciate that, but I want to make sure I spell this out in full. After you signed the petition you said Amendment 2 wasn’t an issue that moved you, but then you ended up voting for it, saying you believed in it. Just three years ago, when you were running for the Senate as a Republican, you told CNN that you believed that “marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman.” And just three years ago, when talking about gay adoption, you expressed a belief that traditional families are best.

CRIST: Tom, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

WATERMARK: Well, again, I appreciate that. But I think it’s important for you to address this. When you look back at the circumstances, one could come to the conclusion that your shifts in opinion were either politically expedient ...

CRIST: They were. They were. And it was wrong. That’s what I’m telling you. And I’m sorry.

WATERMARK: ... or that you were just trying to make everyone happy and had no real convictions on these matters. I appreciate the apology ...

CRIST: I’m not sure you do.

WATERMARK: Well, I’m trying. But more importantly I want you to have the opportunity to address this in full, to explain where you’ve been and where you are right now.

CRIST: I was a Republican. You know why I was a Republican? Because my mom and dad were Republicans. I’ve told many people this. It’s the same reason I’m a Methodist. So I grew up as a Republican. I joined the Young Republicans, College Republicans, all that stuff. And as I got older, I got interested in politics, and I ran for office as a Republican and I tried to be a good team player. But it was an awkward fit, and on social issues it was especially awkward. I have three sisters. My mom and dad raised my three sisters and me to be decent to other people, to be kind to other people, to have compassion, empathy, sympathy when necessary. ... And it became harder and harder for me to toe the Republican Party line. I tried, and I tried, and I tried, until I couldn’t any more.
         
The examples you cited were examples of me trying to be a good Republican. I couldn’t do it anymore, and I’m sorry I did. I made a mistake. I’m not perfect, ... please don’t hold me to that standard. And I’m sincerely sorry. I understand when it’s necessary to say I was wrong. That’s the journey I’m on ... and I’m still on it.

As a Republican, on social issues, I always felt I was a round peg in a square hole. I just didn’t fit. But I tried, until I couldn’t do it any more, ... until I had to say, “Enough is enough.”

My mom and dad raised us to love everyone, to be nice to everyone, to be kind to everyone for as long as you possibly can. So telling women what to do with their bodies, telling people who to love or who to marry ... it’s not for me. It’s not for government. It shouldn’t be for anybody. It’s between them and their god. I’ve always really felt that way, and I’m glad I don’t have to pretend anymore. As a Democrat, I don’t have to, and that’s why I’m so happy to be home ... where I belong.

WATERMARK: I want to follow up, because I think this is where many LGBT voters need reassurance. You’re a Democrat now. The positions you now hold on LGBT issues are those held by most Democrats, and likely necessary for you have credibility within the party. Can you convince us that your present views aren’t once again driven by political expediency? Can you convince us that the positions you’ve recently expressed are heartfelt, and something we can count on in the future?

CRIST: I just did. There will be doubters, and they have a right to that. But I ask that they have a little faith.

Faith is one thing, and politics is the art of the possible. All things considered, what does publisher Dyer make of his sit-down, face-to-face time with Crist?

“People have a right to be skeptical, absolutely,” said Dyer, “because he has been all over the place and not that long ago.”

Nonetheless, “Based on my time with him and my read, I think this is an accurate reflection of the way he feels. You can judge his journey, getting there all you want. But this is an accurate reflection of the way he feels, and I believe, as a Democrat or governor in the state of Florida, he will support LGBT equality, so I am supporting him.”

Asked what convinced him of Crist’s political and personal evolution, Dyer responded, “It was a combination of a couple of things.” Yes, on the one hand, Crist “evolved” in “the most politically palatable” way much like “what Obama said, ‘I’ve evolved, change.’ But what [Crist] said that was kind of surprising was, ‘I always really felt this way, but I was playing the Republican game. I was doing what I needed to do to be a good Republican’ and then that’s when he said, ‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.'"


SIDEBAR
Volume 15
Issue 12