Thursday, December 19, 2019


(What's happening at your publication? Let us know. Email editor Fred Kuhr at

ZACK FORD is the new press secretary at the ALLIANCE FOR JUSTICE, a Washington, D.C.-based progressive judicial advocacy organization. Previously, Ford spent eight years at THINK PROGRESS, the news source of the CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND.

NLGJA, THE ASSOCIATION OF LGBTQ JOURNALISTS, based in Washington, D.C., is seeking proposals for breakout sessions at its 2020 convention in Chicago. Deadline is January 9, 2020. Find the submission form here
John Townsend

OUT IN JERSEY, based in Trenton, N.J., entered its 25th year of publication with its December 2019/January 2020 issue.

JOHN TOWNSEND, a longtime arts columnist with Minneapolis-based LAVENDER MAGAZINE and a freelance reviewer at the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, passed away October 24, 2019. When he didn’t show up for work that day, authorities did a welfare check. According to family, he died of stroke, heart attack or both. He was 60.

Volume 21
Issue 9

Mayor Pete, Stonewall 50 among top LGBTQ news stories of 2019

by Joe Siegel

News editors and publishers of LGBTQ publications across the nation have selected the presidential candidacy of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, and the violence against members of the trans community as the top news stories of 2019.

“Mayor Pete, who is friends with West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Horvath, came to West Hollywood for a ‘meet & greet’ at a local bar four days after his breakout showing at the CNN town hall at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas in March,” recalled Karen Ocamb, news editor at the Los Angeles Blade. “He was smart, inspiring and said he knew how to stand up to Trump because he has dealt with bullies before. He was very impressive and said he had a ‘narrow path’ to victory, which he has since been following.”

Ocamb also noted two major local and regional stories from the year that are still ongoing.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg
“Regionally, we extensively covered the Democrats flipping the long red Republican seats in Orange County and San Diego that helped Democrats win the House of Representatives. Now the Democrats have to defend those seats in 2020 in purple territory, including the seat unexpectedly vacated by popular bisexual Rep. Katie Hill,” said Ocamb.

Andrew Davis, publisher of Chicago’s Windy City Times, agreed that Buttigieg's “historic presidential run warranted plenty of coverage from us.”

But, he noted, “We do pride ourselves on being a local LGBT newspaper, of course, and there were several big local items that became national ones, such as the Jussie Smollett case “ — the “Empire” actor who alleged to have been the victim of a hate crime — and the election of Lori Lightfoot, who is the first LGBTQ mayor in Chicago.”

Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News (PGN), said the biggest national stories of the year were “Mayor Pete and the number of trans killings still unsolved around the nation.”  

Jess Bryant, PGN editor, added, “I agree with Mark about Pete Buttigieg and the trans murders, especially those still unsolved. I think Stonewall 50 coverage may be up there with Mayor Pete. I suppose I'd add the wave of LGBTQ candidates being elected in different offices across the country and locally, hate crimes on the rise nationally, the trans military ban and the bathroom bill, finally ending with an LGBTQ victory.” 

According to Tammy Nashe, managing editor of Dallas Voice, “The biggest national story we’ve covered this year has been the violence against transgender people, especially trans women of color. That was also the biggest local story, too, because four of the 22 transgender people murdered this year were murdered in Texas, two of them in Dallas in less than a month’s time.”

Nashe said that since the murder of Chynal Lindsey in Dallas the first weekend in June, another trans woman, Daniela Calderon-Rivera, was shot six times by a man shouting anti-trans slurs.

“Although she survived, she was critically injured and still struggling to recover emotionally, mentally and physically,” said Nashe. “We have also had another trans woman who went missing here. In September, just before Daniela was shot, Pauline DelMundo, who lives in Florida, went missing from DFW International Airport during a layover on her way to Cozumel. She still has not been found, as far as I know.”

Peter Frycki, publisher of Out in Jersey, said, the biggest story for his publication has been “the continued assault on LGBTQ people by the Trump administration and the religious freedom arguments running through our court system. The support of the Trump administration to deny civil rights to LGBTQs is fuelling the evangelical anti-LGBTQ movement. Out In Jersey has been following how Trump and the more conservative courts are reversing a majority of the rules and regulations that the Obama administration put in place to protect LGBTQs.” 

Frycki said the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots was also a major news story.

“Here in New Jersey, we had a plethora of new LGBTQ Pride festivals, rainbow flag raisings, celebrations, awards, and other events that were just about everywhere,” Frycki added. “It seemed during the summer and fall months that almost every city and town was celebrating LGBTQ Pride in some new and more public way.”

Volume 21
Issue 9

Editors of Out and The Advocate are out

by Fred Kuhr

On the same day, Dec. 11, the editors in chief of two venerable community magazines, Out and The Advocate, announced that they are leaving their jobs at Pride Media, which owns both titles. In fact, as many as 11 staffers left the company, according to various media reports, including interim CEO Orlando Reece.

Phillip Picardi, the now-departed editor at Out, made the announcement on Twitter. “Today marks my last day at @outmagazine, just one year after I started,” he wrote. “This journey has been shorter and more complex than I had hoped, but it has been an honor to lead such an incredibly talented team of LGBTQ+ people. Each of us on the team for the Out relaunch firmly believes that LGBTQ+ media deserves the best. So that’s what we gave you: Our best.”

Phillip Picardi, formerly of Out
Picardi left his position last year as editor of Condé Nast’s Teen Vogue to take over at Out. He also founded Them, an LGBTQ digital platform. He was often referred to as the protege of Anna Wintour, artistic director at Condé Nast. For now, Picardi will continue writing a men’s grooming column for GQ.

Zachary Stafford, editor at The Advocate, will stay in his position until January 2020, as will CEO Reese. Notably, they are the first African-American men to hold their respective positions.

Interestingly, while NBC News simply reported that Stafford and Picardi are “departing,” the New York Times reported that Picardi was “let go.” And these personnel disruptions come at a time when Pride Media — which is owned by Los Angeles-based private equity firm Oreva Capital — is experiencing financial troubles that are allegedly the cause of freelancers not getting paid. In fact, the National Writers’ Union filed suit against Pride Media earlier this year on behalf of 25 freelancers who were allegedly owed over $40,000 at the time of the filing.

Out now has five full-time employees, down from about 15 a year ago, former staffers told the New York Times. Stafford declined comment to the Times, as did Adam Levin, owner of Pride Media.

Some observers put the blame for the problems at the feet of Levin and Pride Media. For one, Aaron Hickin, a former editor in chief at Out for 12 years, told the Times that Picardi could have done a lot of good at the magazine, “But only if the people that own the magazine have and share the same interest as the team. I think it’s clear that, despite other issues, fundamentally, there was a misalignment between the top ownership, and they didn’t seem interested in what Out represented.”

While Levin denied that he was looking to sell the magazines earlier this year, these latest moves are boosting speculation that he will sell the titles, file Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, or file for Chapter 7 liquidation, according to insiders who spoke to Women’s Wear Daily (WWD). 

As previously reported by WWD, in order to acquire Here Media, Levin’s Oreva took out a high interest loan of somewhere between $10 million and $15 million from Chicago-based senior secured debt fund ExWorks Capital. But Oreva/Pride is reportedly still be missing interest payments, another signal of a lack of cash flow.

Volume 21
Issue 9

World AIDS Day still important, say editors

by Joe Siegel

Nearly four decades after the first cases of AIDS appeared, the epidemic has seen a massive reduction in deaths due to new drugs in the marketplace. LGBTQ publications continue to provide substantial coverage of the topic and editors note the disease remains a problem in the community.

Paul Schindler, editor of New York’s Gay City News, believes the recognition of World AIDS Day is still important.

“World AIDS Day, among many other things, is when the state and the city announce their data on new HIV diagnoses and estimates of new HIV infections for the previous calendar year,” said Schindler. “Given that we have been tracking each year since 2014 and the stated plan to ‘end the epidemic’ by 2020 in New York State (which involves having no more than 600 new infections in the city and 750 in the state), those numbers have always been the source of considerable coverage in the newspaper.”

San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter (BAR) started its coverage early, according to news editor Cynthia Laird.

“We were given advance notice by the National AIDS Memorial Grove of its plans to take over stewardship of the AIDS Memorial Quilt and had a story ready to post online November 20 – breaking the news – when they held the announcement ceremony,” said Laird. “It was a big story, as the quilt and co-founders Cleve Jones and Mike Smith still reside in San Francisco (Smith splits time with North Carolina) and many of our readers are familiar with both the AIDS grove and the quilt.”

BAR also ran a roundup of local World AIDS Day events on November 28. “Additionally, we had a story on a new study showing that young people didn't report using condoms or PrEP, and another piece on a Los Angeles television host’s new website aimed at lessening stigma,” Laird noted. “I also ran an op-ed from one of the college students who received a Pedro Zamora scholarship through the AIDS grove. The [student] wrote a great piece on how the Trump administration's Title X gag rule is detrimental to HIV/AIDS care.”

The Washington Blade provided a listing of several events coinciding with World AIDS Day. And on December 5, the newspaper was spotlighted in a photographic history of HIV/AIDS in the nation’s capital. The exhibit featured stories and photos from the Blade archives and was presented by AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

The event featured the Blade’s senior news reporter Lou Chibbaro Jr. in a conversation with longtime HIV survivor Ron Swanda.

Philadelphia Gay News featured a story about the 28th annual Friends for Life Awards event held by Action Wellness, a nonprofit that helps those in the Greater Philadelphia area living with chronic diseases. According to PGN, “The Friends for Life Award, Action Wellness’ highest honor, intends to embody the organization’s mission that ‘No one should face HIV or chronic illness alone.’”

Volume 21
Issue 9

Starbucks cool to advertising in LGBTQ media

by Scott Stiffler
(This article is the second in a series by the Washington Blade’s Scott Stiffler looking into large corporations and their relationship with LGBTQ media. It is reprinted here with permission.)

Many are happy to stand in line for what they serve at Starbucks — but the global coffee conglomerate has left LGBTQ media standing at the altar, rebuffing repeated proposals to court a demographic of discerning tastemakers who would, seemingly, make for a marriage made in marketing heaven.

“It’s surprising to me that Starbucks wouldn’t target ads to our community,” says Todd Evans, president and CEO of Rivendell Media, which places advertisements for the National LGBT Media Association. Together, the Association’s members — including Boston’s Bay Windows and the Washington and Los Angeles Blades — reach an estimated 500,000 weekly print and online readers. (Rivendell Media also publishes Press Pass Q.)

Evans, who had just returned from a Starbucks run when the Blade spoke with him, said numerous deep dives searching LGBTQ media for the company’s ubiquitous mermaid logo left Rivendell treading water in a sea of unproductive efforts.

“We monitor all LGBT newspapers and websites to see who’s out there, advertising,” said Evans of his sales team, “and they’ve not come across our radar as doing any outreach. Like Apple, the thing I would most want to say to them is, with a company with a presence in every major urban center, they have to know the LGBT market is a big part of their clientele.”

Evans says Rivendell has been reaching out to Starbucks “for years,” through its various advertising agencies (currently Spark Foundry). “And the answer was always, ‘Starbucks doesn’t do print.’ Now they do. I see their ads all the time, in the New York Times and Martha Stewart Living Magazine, so we know they’re predisposed to having creative [print-centric material at the ready]. That’s all the more reason for Starbucks to be more precise in their marketing. We will definitely be reaching out again shortly.”

Also making the case for direct marketing is Michael Yamashita. The president and CEO of BAR Media Inc, Yamashita is publisher of San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter, a member of the National LGBT Media Association.

“It’s as close as you can get to speaking directly to the LGBT consumers, and the decision makers in the community,” says Yamashita, of advertising in print and online, via LGBT-focused outlets.

BAR's Michael Yamashita
Bay Area Reporter reader surveys, he notes, consistently show LGBT readership is “interested to know which corporations support them,” and more inclined to give those corporations their business.

“There are several Starbucks locations in the gay [Castro] neighborhood here,” said Yamashita. “They’ve been a mainstay for years. Our sales manager, he’s pretty aggressive about trying to get local corporations to advertise with us, but we’ve never seen any advertising from them.”

That absence is not just felt locally, says Bay Area Reporter vice president of advertising Scott Wazlowski. “I’ve been here since 2010, and, to the best of my knowledge, they’ve never done any print or online advertising in our publication — and beyond that, I don’t think I’ve seen them in any LGBT publication.”

Although Rivendell handles national sales, Wazlowski did reach out to Starbucks locally, and was “told by the store manager the only thing they could do to show any support would be to provide product” at Pride or other notable LGBTQ events. Starbucks, he notes, “brings coffee and pastries for each of the monthly membership meetings of the Castro Merchants.”

A tasty treat perhaps, but of no help to the bottom line.

“We didn’t want that,” said Wazlowski. “We wanted an ad in the paper. Advertising in a local or regional publication says, ‘We care about you, and we care about the news that affects your community.’ Anecdotally, advertisers who do that seem to do better, in terms of having an impression among our readers.”

Wazlowski cites San Francisco Federal Credit Union as a success story of how local engagement pays dividends. A winner of its Reader’s Choice Award for Best Bank or Credit Union, they never, Wazlowski recalls, “showed up on the radar until they placed ads with us. They skyrocketed in the ratings, and have held that position ever since.”

Wazlowski attributes this ascension to advertising “at least once, monthly, or in special editions” as well as, in past years, having a booth at the Castro Street Fair. “That multi-pronged appeal to the LGBT community,” he says, “has proven very successful.”

Much more successful, says Yamashita, than gestures perceived as merely symbolic, or downright opportunistic. “It’s a frequent criticism,” he notes, “to see a lot of these corporations participate in our Pride parades and events in the month of June. But they are nowhere to be seen before or after. People do see that concentrated presence in June as a token recognition. That’s pretty much the heart of the matter right there.”

Echoes of token recognition reverberated through two weeks of email communication, when the Blade’s request for an interview with a Starbucks representative was answered by a Seattle-based member of global communications firm Edelman.

Replying on the day of this reporter’s deadline to repeated requests to answer a series of questions sent via email, Jonathan J. Cruz, Account Executive, Starbucks Corporate & Crisis Communications, wrote, “Apologies for the delay as we worked on gathering details for you. Unfortunately we are unable to facilitate your request for an interview, but we’re happy to share more details on how Starbucks supports and advocates on behalf of the LBGTQ+ community.”

Starbucks’ “longstanding commitment to creating an environment of belonging and inclusion” was one such example. Ally status was further claimed when Cruz noted U.S. and Canadian customers were privy to “limited edition rainbow Pride cups, and our in-store partners (employees) had the option to wear Pride t-shirts.” He also noted the raising of a Pride flag at Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters (“for the sixth year in a row”), and a June 2019 partnership with the Born This Way Foundation, in which the Starbucks Foundation engaged in “matching donations to the BTW Foundation up to $250,000 which will be used to increase access to mental health resources and support organizations that empower the LGBTQ+ community and young people across the country.”

Bringing a perspective from the town where Starbucks started, Seattle Gay News editor George Bakan said of their local presence, “They spend a lot of money at Pride, they sponsor community events, and they have a scholarship fund. There’s lots of ways you can help a community besides advertising in the gay press, as much as I hate to say that. I’d love to get a big check from Starbucks every month, to help my business. But I’m much more concerned with their equitable hiring and welcoming everybody as a customer. A gay couple holding hands will not elicit a smirk or a comment from somebody behind the counter at Starbucks. … It’s one thing to talk about equality. It’s another thing to act upon it.”

In the realm of LGBTQ engagement, Starbucks should act now, says Evans. “Like Apple, they’re not the only game in town anymore. Pretty much everyone makes a latte today. Why not capitalize on their already loyal following?”

Still, Evans observes, the java conglomerate consistently “comes up as a gay-friendly company” in surveys, and places well in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index.

Rivendell Media's Todd Evans
But they’re hardly immune from controversy. In May 2018, the company shuttered thousands of its U.S. stores for a training session, after the April arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia location. A photo from a May 29, 2018, NPR article showed a sign on a Starbucks cafe in Portland, Maine, noting the shutdown’s purpose was to “reconnect with our mission and share ideas about how to make Starbucks even more welcoming.”

In 2015, a gay D.C. man filed a discrimination complaint claiming the manager of a Dupont Circle Starbucks called him anti-gay slurs and assaulted him. “You are fucking with the wrong one and I will break your neck you little fag, and I will break your spic boyfriend’s neck as well,” the complaint quoted the store manager as saying to the gay couple.

Evans also noted an annual kerfuffle that began in 2015, when Starbucks introduced a red cup for the holidays, instead of a Christmas-oriented one.

“I literally heard about that while I was in line at a Starbucks store, looking at one of their Advent calendars,” recalls Evans. “It was a really poorly handled public relations thing for Starbucks, because they didn’t push back. I thought, ‘Oh, what a shame.’ LGBT consumers are fiercely loyal. … The idea is to turn your best customers into your advocates — and this is a company, like Apple, that could really do that with just a little specific outreach. I know it would certainly make me feel better about the amount of money I spend there.”

Moral support aside, Evans makes the case for a presence in LGBTQ media thusly: “Who are the people reading it? The people who care the most, the people who want to see who is reaching out to them, who want their business. So from a corporate standpoint, they haven’t been open to it, but maybe it’s time to say, ‘We should support our best customers. It is time do this.’”

Volume 21
Issue 9

GUEST COMMENTARY: 50 years telling our stories, writing our history

by Kevin Naff
(Kevin Naff is the editor of the Washington Blade. The following is adapted from Naff’s speech at the Blade 50th anniversary gala on Oct. 18 and originally appeared in the Blade. It is reprinted here with permission.)

It is impossible to sum up 50 years of what this newspaper has meant to the community in a few short minutes. The New York Times describes the Blade as the “newspaper of record” for the LGBTQ community.
The Washington Blade's Kevin Naff

That’s true. From Lou Chibbaro’s unflinching coverage of hate crimes in the city to Chris Johnson’s tireless work at the White House to Michael Lavers’ investigative work in Latin America and the Caribbean to Joey DiGuglielmo’s insightful and entertaining celebrity interviews to Michael Key’s award-winning photos documenting it all, we keep busy as the nation’s newspaper of record.

But as we know, our readers feel a real connection to the Blade. From my friend Kenji Mundy, who spoke of turning to the Blade for news on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” when no one else was paying attention, to Isaiah Poole’s account of meeting his future husband in the Blade personals, our readers are connected to us and we to them. 

During my 17 years at the Blade, I have been privileged to have a front-row seat to some of the most historic moments in our movement — witnessing President Obama sign the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” attending the first-ever White House Pride receptions, and so many other unforgettable events. This job has had its exciting moments, like the time I introduced Antonin Scalia to Laverne Cox.

But the stories that have stayed with me and affected me most are those of ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances because of bigotry and discrimination.

One such story we covered more than 15 years ago involved a young gay couple in Baltimore, long before the arrival of marriage equality. They were public school teachers. One partner, who was estranged from his conservative Christian family, was diagnosed with a terminal illness and died. Despite having a will and all legal protections available at the time, his parents later sued the surviving partner to move their son’s body back to the family plot in Tennessee. They won in court and the surviving partner was faced with the prospect of digging up his partner’s grave. The Blade covered the story. National legal groups got involved. He kept fighting and eventually won on appeal but only after losing everything he had, his life savings, his car, just to keep his dead partner in the ground.

It was a story of resilience. And that’s a theme I have seen repeated in our coverage over the decades. The story of a resilient and loving community fighting to overcome ignorance and hate. We saw it during the height of the AIDS crisis and we saw it again on the ground in Orlando after the Pulse massacre. And we see it today as we stand up to the current administration’s attacks on the transgender community.

In 2016, people used to ask me, “Why do we need gay press or gay bars? We have marriage and Hillary is going to win and cement everything.” Well, no one says that anymore. As Barney Frank used to say, “If you’re not at the table, then you’re probably on the menu.” I can assure you that the Blade is at the table, working every day to ensure our issues are addressed and our political leaders held accountable.

In the final press conference of his presidency, President Obama called on the Blade’s Chris Johnson for the third-to-last question of his presidency. Chris asked him how LGBTQ issues would factor into his legacy. And President Obama gave a thoughtful answer in which he declined to take credit for all the LGBTQ progress under his administration. He said, “The primary heroes in this stage of our growth as a democracy and a society are all the individual activists and sons and daughters and couples who courageously said, ‘This is who I am and I’m proud of it.’”

I’d like to echo that sentiment and thank all the people over 50 years who agreed to trust us with their stories. It’s a responsibility we continue to take seriously. Without the courage of all those people over five decades who stepped up, came out, and talked openly about their lives, all of our legislative victories would have been impossible. As we wrap this celebration of 50 years, we remain committed to our longstanding mission of telling LGBTQ stories through our lens and writing the first draft of our own history. Thank you for being here and congratulations to the Blade on its first 50 years.

Volume 21
Issue 9