Monday, June 15, 2020


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GEORGE BAKAN, the longtime publisher of SEATTLE GAY NEWS, passed away on June 9, 2020, while working at his desk on the newspaper he helmed since 1983. He was 78.
Seattle Gay News' George Bakan

BAY AREA REPORTER, based in San Francisco, announced last month that its Indiegogo fundraising appeal for another month due to a matching offer from an anonymous donor.

CHICAGO READER, published by TRACY BAIM, formerly of WINDY CITY TIMES, has released its first cookbook, “Reader Recipes: Chicago Cooks At Home.” with recipes from more than 90 of the city’s best chefs and bartenders. Books are available for purchase at Fifteen percent of the book’s sales will benefit COMP TAB RELIEF FUND, an alliance to help hospitality workers laid-off or furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DALLAS VOICE is among 17 newspapers in Texas, and one of only three LGBTQ newspapers nationwide, to be included in the latest round of grants handed out by the FACEBOOK JOURNALISM PROJECT, the LENFEST INSTITUTE FOR JOURNALISM and the LOCAL MEDIA ASSOCIATION. The grants are being awarded to support COVID-19 news reporting by helping fill gaps for resource-constrained local newsrooms. The newspaper also celebrated its 36th anniversary in its May 8, 2020, issue.

MONTROSE STAR, based in Houston, entered its 11th year of publication with its April 1, 2020, issue.

Artist Debra Walker's special
San Francisco Bay Times cover
OUR LIVES, based in Madison, Wisc., announced that it has been forced to slow down its statewide expansion efforts due to lost revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The publication also noted that it had to dip into funds earmarked for the development of its new website and its nonprofit foundation in order to sustain regular business operations.

UNITE SEATTLE celebrated its second anniversary in its Spring 2020 issue.

DEBRA WALKER, an artist who was appointed to the San Francisco Art Commission in March, created a special cover for the May 7, 2020, edition of the SAN FRANCISCO BAY TIMES. The image is meant to capture the social distancing aspect of the coronavirus pandemic.

THE WASHINGTON BLADE has postponed its annual summer kickoff party in Rehoboth Beach, Del., our to the coronavirus pandemic. It is now slated for Friday, September 11, as a summer closing party, if large gatherings are permitted at that time.

PETER WOLFF, editor and publisher for 35 years of INTOWNER, a community newspaper covering Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, died April 13, 2020, at his Dupont Circle home. He is survived by his partner of 48 years, Kerry Touchette. He was 84.

Volume 22
Issue 3

LGBTQ media report from the middle of anti-racism protests

Blade photo editor hit with rubber bullets, tear gas
by Joe Siegel

In a month when LGBTQ media outlets would normally be covering Pride celebrations, they are instead covering violent clashes between police and protesters in major cities.

A nationwide series of marches organized by Black Lives Matter activists have been held following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last month. The uprising comes on the heels of the coronavirus pandemic, which has been in the headlines since March.

Not surprisingly, the coverage of Floyd’s death has drawn comparisons to discrimination faced by members of the LGBT community.
Dallas Voice's Standing in Solidarity cover
Minneapolis-based Lavender Magazine posted a statement about the murder on its website, which read in part: “The show of grief, anger, and sadness, as well as the subsequent display of community connection, camaraderie, and charity across all of our interlocking local communities —be they people of color, GLBT folk, artists, faith leaders, businesspeople, and more — is a stark reminder of how far we’ve come as a society, and how far we still have to go, especially in regards to remedying systemic injustices that people of color deal with everyday. Healing doesn’t just happen in a day, but Lavender is committed to being part of the healing process and making for a better community.”

Thankfully, Lavender has not been directly negatively impacted by the pandemic nor the violence in its city.

“We have not been affected by the COVID-19 virus — no employees laid off, no furloughs, no wage cuts, no hours cut, no tapping of cash reserves, no use of lines of credit, or corporate investment funds,” said Stephen Rocheford, president and CEO of Lavender. But he noted, “Lavender’s office used to be on the same block where George Floyd was murdered.”

The Washington Blade’s offices are located on a street that was the site of a protest in the nation’s capital.

“Our offices haven't been affected or damaged,” said editor Kevin Naff. “Our photo editor, Michael Key, was covering [the protest] when he was hit by two rubber bullets and tear gas. He was also physically threatened after taking photos of a protester who was committing vandalism.”

At sister publication the Los Angeles Blade, “Our team is working amidst curfew restraints. West Hollywood has a 4 p.m. curfew today with more protests planned, which [news editor] Karen Ocamb is planning to cover,” Naff continued. “This is a fluid situation but as of now we are still publishing print editions in both cities.”

The Blade published an op-ed by columnist Peter Rosenstein calling for the arrest and charging of the three additional officers “who clearly stood by and let Officer Derek Chauvin murder George Floyd.” Those officers were subsequently arrested and charged. "Police officers must be subject to the law and held accountable. We must demand from the overwhelming number of good officers, those who risk their lives every day to protect us, that they speak up when those in their ranks commit a crime.”

New York City’s Gay City News also reported from an epicenter of violent protests. “Thousands hit the streets of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens … for the eighth straight day of protests citywide following the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer,” according to a June 5 report. “In Brooklyn, cops again arrested peaceful protesters for violating Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 8 p.m. curfew, and several demonstrators were repeatedly hit with batons and thrown to the ground as the curfew entered its fourth night.”

Chicago’s Windy City Times has been largely unaffected by the city’s protests, according to Publisher Andrew Davis. The publication’s staff has no office and everyone works from home.

As for the reporting on the ongoing conflict between law enforcement and activists, Davis was direct: “We plan to cover this like we cover everything else — from an LGBTQ+ perspective.” 

Volume 22
Issue 3

Covering Pride, and making ad revenue, virtually in 2020

by Joe Siegel

The decision of various Pride organizations to cancel June’s annual series of parades and festivals due to the fear of attendees spreading COVID-19 continues to impact LGBTQ media in various ways.

Michael Yamashita, the publisher of San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter, said the cancellation of the city’s Pride will be “devastating.”

“It's the year's biggest issue and helps to carry us through the third and fourth quarters,” Yamashita said. “It's the same for any LGBTQ business where Pride is canceled. This year is our Pride's 50th anniversary, so it's particularly painful for San Francisco.”

San Francisco Pride will be part of the Global Pride virtual celebration on June 27 and will be sharing their content with BAR, according to news editor Cynthia Laird.

Los Angeles is also forgoing its annual Pride celebration. Christopher Street West — the organization that produces L.A. Pride — announced the cancellation of their festivities last month. In solidarity with activists protesting racial injustice, CSW then just planned to participate in a peaceful protest march set for Sunday, June 14.

Initial reports stated that CSW was helping in the organizing of the march. But that changed on June 9 when CSW officials announced on Twitter that they didn’t coordinate with Black Lives Matter leaders before publicly announcing the solidarity march scheduled to take place on the date when the L.A. Pride March would have been held. “For that, we apologize to the Black Lives Matter organizers,” CSW said in the post. “Conversations did continue and grew to later include leaders from Black Lives Matter L.A., and subsequently, an Advisory Board of Black LGBTQ+ leaders has formed to lead the upcoming All Black Lives Matter solidarity march.”

The Los Angeles Blade is making the best of an unusual situation, according to editor Troy Masters. “We are partnering with [WABC-TV] for an ABC7 broadcast and doing a month of special issues that will also allow us to offer something to the many street vendors who will not otherwise be able to reach the community,” said Masters. “I'm trying to sell them and we've had some success pivoting. We are doing our own weekly streaming chat and the sponsorship for that sold very, very well. It will be a hit but not as big of a hit as we had feared.”

Since annual Pride parties have been cancelled or postponed, Lavender Magazine in Minneapolis is creating a series of 100 “Pride @ Home Parties,” which are also fundraisers for Avenues For Youth, a local social service agency. From June 26-28, the parties will be hosted with the help of “party starter kits” for sale. The magazine is encouraging people to party via Zoom or in driveways with neighbours at a safe social distance. Photos will be taken at each event and will appear in Lavender’s Pride in Pictures issue on July 30.

Philadelphia Gay News ran a June 3 story about the cancellation of that city’s Pride. “Our inability to gather in person this year is devastating,” said Celena Morrison, the city’s executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs. “At a time when our community — and our entire country — is suffering such great pain in the wake of COVID-19, the economic devastation caused by the virus, and nationwide protests over the killing of unarmed Black people, the loss of a celebration like Pride stings even more. But I know our community will come out of this stronger.”

Philly Pride planned to go virtual on Sunday, June 14, following a trend in online celebrations. “In the issue before Pride, we’ll basically do an events roundup, and then our Pride issue will be the week after, so we’ll have more content and our ad reps have more time,” noted PGN editor Jess Bryant. “Two weeks was not a lot of notice.”
Dallas Voice's Tammy Nash

Tammye Nash, managing editor of the Dallas Voice, added, “The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on Pride celebrations around the world, and other Pride-related events here in North Texas have not escaped unscathed. The North Texas Pride celebration, usually held in mid-June, has been moved to September, and the Dallas Arts District’s Pride Block Party, also scheduled for June, has been cancelled. … Houston Pride, originally scheduled for June 27, has been postponed to a yet-to-be-determined date this fall.”

New York City, which holds one of the most attended Pride celebrations in the world, has also been at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. LGBTQ media outlets in the city are still proceeding with their Pride coverage.

“We plan to mark Pride in our June 18 issue,” said Paul Schindler, Gay City News editor and associate publisher. “And we know that among many virtual events being planned, the organizers of the various Pride events in NYC — the main one in Manhattan as well as the borough events in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island — plan to participate in the Global Pride virtual event being organized by InterPride and the European Pride Organisers Association for June 27, so we will be out in time for that.”

Volume 22
Issue 3

“Firebrand” Larry Kramer remembered by LGBTQ media he influenced

by Joe Siegel

The recent passing of legendary playwright and outspoken AIDS activist Larry Kramer is being remembered by various LGBTQ media outlets.

Kramer, 84, died from pneumonia in New York City on May 27. In 1981, Kramer founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), the first service organization for HIV-positive people.

Gay City News cover remembering
Larry Kramer
He later organized a more militant group, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), whose street actions demanding faster government action to approve AIDS medications and an end to discrimination against gay men and lesbians severely disrupted the operations of government offices, Wall Street and the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Kramer’s autobiographical 1985 play, “The Normal Heart,” was critically acclaimed and later adapted into an HBO movie. 

Kramer’s 1983 essay in the New York Native — the venerable gay newspaper that ceased publication in 1997 — was an impassioned plea on behalf of all those impacted by AIDS:

“After almost two years of an epidemic, there still are no answers. After almost two years of an epidemic, the cause of AIDS remains unknown. After almost two years of an epidemic, there is no cure.

“Hospitals are now so filled with AIDS patients that there is often a waiting period of up to a month before admission, no matter how sick you are. And, once in, patients are now more and more being treated like lepers as hospital staffs become increasingly worried that AIDS is infectious.

“Suicides are now being reported of men who would rather die than face such medical uncertainty, such uncertain therapies, such hospital treatment, and the appalling statistic that 86 percent of all serious AIDS cases die after three years' time.”

Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, called Kramer “a firebrand when our community needed one.”

“He will long be remembered for his fight to get the government and medical science to focus on HIV/AIDS. What the government and science learned from that effort are being utilized today in the fight against coronavirus,” said Segal. “That’s a legacy.”

Segal recalled a time, eight years ago, when he, Kramer and other gay rights pioneers were all on a float together at New York City’s Pride parade.

“[Kramer] argued with everyone, which was his nature,” said Segal. “After we got off the float, I was met by my friend Rob and his dog Butch. Larry invited us to his apartment. It was fun to watch this angry man playing with the dog rolling all over the floor laughing. I think that’s a part of Larry few got to see.”  

Kevin Naff, editor of the Washington Blade, called Kramer "a force of nature and a source of inspiration for so many of us involved in the LGBTQ movement, including me. His mantra of using anger as a motivator still resonates today. The Blade interviewed him many times over the years, beginning in 1982 when two of our staff writers traveled to New York City to talk to him about the early cases of AIDS in the city. We last talked to him at World Pride last summer in New York. He could be cantankerous and a tough interview, but was always accessible and eloquent. He will be missed.”

Andrew Davis, managing editor of Chicago’s Windy City Times, noted that Kramer’s importance and influence are “essentially incalculable.”

“Through his activism and literary contributions, Kramer gave a voice to those who lacked one,” said Davis. “LGBTQ media justifiably interviewed and analyzed this amazing man. If it weren't for his incredible actions, LGBTQ — and, eventually, mainstream — media would probably have published a very different narrative regarding HIV/AIDS. Larry Kramer essentially altered history.”

Volume 22
Issue 3

A free press must not be taken for granted

Guest Commentary
by Michael K. Lavers
(Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. This originally appeared in the newspaper’s June 5, 2020, issue. It is reprinted here with permission.) 

It is safe to say the vast majority of journalists do everything they can to not become the story. The Cuban government on May 8, 2019, took that choice away from me when I was detained at Havana’s José Martí International Airport for seven hours.
Michael K. Lavers

The Cuban government has not said why it decided not to allow me into the country, and any expectation that I will receive an official explanation is a laughable pipe dream. I do, however, have a couple of theories as to why Cuba decided to declare me persona non grata.

One theory is the Cuban government did not want me to cover an unsanctioned LGBTQ rights march in Havana that activists announced would take place.

Reporters from the U.S. and other countries who are based in Cuba covered the event, which happened three days after I was not allowed into the country. These journalists and their Cuban colleagues also reported Cuban police arrested several people who participated in the march.

Many of the activists who organized the march have publicly criticized Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro who spearheads LGBTQ-specific issues as director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education.

A second theory as to why I was not allowed into the country is Mariela Castro, who is a member of Cuba’s National Assembly, wanted me to be declared persona non grata because she was unhappy with my coverage of her country’s independent LGBTQ rights movement from my previous trips to the Communist island.

The aforementioned theories are not mutually exclusive because there is no such thing as coincidence in Cuba. What happened to me last May is most certainly part of a broader story about the treatment of journalists around the world.

The U.S. State Department’s 2019 human rights report, which notes my detention in Havana, points out the Cuban government “does not recognize independent journalism, and independent journalists sometimes faced government harassment, including detention and physical abuse.”

Yariel Valdés González, a contributor to the Washington and Los Angeles Blades has won asylum in the U.S. because of the persecution he suffered in Cuba as a journalist. The Cuban government last December prohibited Maykel González Vivero, director of Tremenda Nota, the Blades’ media partner on the Communist island, from traveling outside the country.

Authorities on the same day I was not allowed into the country arrested Luz Escobar, a reporter for 14ymedio, an independent website founded by Yoani Sánchez, a prominent critic of the Cuban government, as she tried to interview victims of a freak tornado that devastated parts of Havana in January 2019.

Sunday, May 3, was the 27th annual World Press Freedom Day, and President Trump acknowledged it with a tweet that once again proclaimed the media is “the enemy of the people.” This type of incendiary rhetoric has not only had very real consequences in the U.S., but empowers authoritarian regimes around the world to further target journalists.

The White House ought to defend a free press, which the First Amendment protects, but this wishful thinking seems more elusive than an official explanation from the Cuban government that confirms my theories as to why it declared me persona non grata.

Journalists in the U.S. should be able to work without worrying about whether Trump’s inflammatory and politically motivated rhetoric will inspire someone to target them. Journalists in Cuba should be able to work without worrying about whether their government will sanction and/or arrest them. Journalists in the U.S., Cuba and around the world should be able to work without fear of retribution and retaliation.

A free press is something I no longer take for granted. It is incumbent upon all of us to defend it.

Volume 22
Issue 3

These are challenging times, but it’s not our first rodeo

Guest Commentary
by Leo Cusimano
(Leo Cusimano is publisher of the Dallas Voice. This editorial originally appeared in the newspaper’s May 8, 2020, issue. It is reprinted here with permission.)

The LGBTQ community knows how to survive a pandemic, and the Dallas Voice will be there to keep you informed as we make our way through this one.

Leo Cusimano
I want to speak to you today straight from my heart. Every morning, I wake up in awe of the work first responders and essential personnel continue to do to support our community in this pandemic. We are all in this together, and I am doing my best to stay positive during this phase of our survival.

And we will survive. This is not our first rodeo. Our community is strong and resilient, with a long history of survival. We’ve battled HIV/AIDS and realized that, as a community, that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger if we work together. The key is to help each other stay safe during this dangerous time.

What is our new normal? I can’t think of another time in my life where I simply couldn’t believe what has happened. COVID-19 has created a paradigm shift in how we think about our survival and our work, how we connect with our family, friends and strangers.

So many things have changed — simple things like going out to eat, taking in a movie, getting a haircut, even walking in the park. I find myself sad and worried about many things. Yet, I remain optimistic that we will survive and, in some way, become stronger as a result of this crisis.

It has been a challenging month, as we all have been navigating our survival, staying safe and adopting a new normal. And in the middle of it all, Dallas Voice is marking the beginning of our 37th year as the voice of the North Texas LGBTQ community.

As an essential media business, Dallas Voice has continued working on the frontlines over the past few months, keeping our community informed by getting out critical updates and vital information. And now we celebrate our 36th anniversary.

We have seen so much over the past 36 years, but this pandemic hits us hard. For many free publications, advertising revenue pays for everything from the printing costs to salaries to distribution. LGBTQ media companies across the country are struggling; Dallas Voice is no exception.

We are proud of the fact that we have not missed a single issue over the past 36 years. You may have noticed that our page count is smaller these days, as many businesses in our community remain closed. Yet we continue to publish and distribute to more than 400 locations across five counties in North Texas. We will get through this, but we recognize that this experience will have lasting changes.

We are evolving, along with the media industry. As our cities begin to reopen, we are here to keep you connected and informed. We have multiple platforms to deliver the news to you. Everything in this printed newspaper is also available on our website and in our weekly eBlast. In addition, everything is posted on our social media platforms, with more than 36,000 friends, followers and fans. We also offer a subscription service for home delivery.

We are here for you, our readers, throughout this difficult time and appreciate your continued support for us and for the advertisers that help us continue to publish. On behalf of everyone at Dallas Voice and OUT North Texas, we are honored to be your voice in the community, and we will work hard to remain your most trusted media source. We promise to deliver the most in-depth, comprehensive news and analysis we can on a daily basis.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

Volume 22
Issue 3

Pressing Questions: Lavender Magazine of Minneapolis

Interview with President and CEO Stephen Rocheford
by Joe Siegel

Year founded: June 1995

Staff size: 5 in editorial, 6 in sales, 3 designers, 3 administrators and 17 writers

Average page count: 62

Physical dimensions: 8.375” x 10.875”

Readership: 38,500 per issue

Print run: 17,500

Media age of reader: 28

Gender profile of readers: 55.1% male, 44.9% female

Education of readers: 24.9% with advanced degrees, 46.3% with bachelors degrees; 9.1% with some college; 7.8% with high school diploma, 6% with less than high school diploma


Stephen Rocheford
PPQ: What challenges has Lavender had to overcome over the years?

President and CEO Stephen Rocheford: Lavender was the 13th LGBTQ publication in Minneapolis/St. Paul history. The first 10 were out of business before Lavender started; numbers 11 and 12 owned the market when Lavender started and within 3 years they were out of business. Since then [others] have started and failed. We expect challenges.

PPQ: How has Lavender changed since its inception?

Rocheford: Lavender has been full glossy since April 1, 2005.

PPQ: What has been the biggest news story Lavender has covered?

Rocheford: Lavender has made national wire services several times. We were named the Magazine of the Year in 2016 by the Minnesota Magazine and Publication Association.

PPQ: What advice would you give to anyone wishing to start their own LGBTQ publication?

Rocheford: If you wish to start a publication, purchase an extant one, as it is considerably cheaper than trying to compete with one that controls a market. You should know business; if you don’t, you should be willing to burn a great deal of money for no purpose. If you are wealthy, you don’t have to worry about it. Each market is different, and I know mine. I know how much it would cost for a competitor to start and put me out of business. It is significantly cheaper to buy a company out.

Volume 22
Issue 3