Interview with Editor and Publisher Mike Fleming
by Joe Siegel
Geographic coverage area: Atlanta
Year founded: 2008
Staff size and breakdown: Six including Editor and Publisher Mike Fleming, Publisher and Development Director Matt Hennie, Publisher and General Manager Richard Cherskov, and one full-time staffer each in advertising sales, art direction and online editing. Freelance writers, photographers and designers are also active on a part-time basis.
Physical dimensions of publication: 8.5” x 11”
Average page count: 40 pages
Print run: 4,000
PPQ: What feature or features of Q have been the most popular with readers?
Editor and Publisher Mike Fleming: Our regular print features Q Voices opinion columns, Q Shots photo pages, the Queer Agenda calendar of events and The Q advice column remain our most popular destination cornerstones. Multi-page photo essays on local Atlanta community members and groups are a staple that get a lot of attention.
PPQ: Who came up with the name and what is the inspiration for it?
Fleming: We introduced queer Atlanta to the next generation of LGBTQ media when we launched Project Q Atlanta in 2008. … In 2017, the website name inspired us to put our Q on local queer media in a new way with the introduction of Q Magazine.
PPQ: What differentiates Q from other gay publications in metro Atlanta?
Fleming: Quality and experience. The co-publishers each have decades of LGBTQ and mainstream media under our belts in editorial, advertising and business management. Our reporting, sales and design staffers also have decades of experience in their fields.
PPQ: What challenge has your publication had to overcome since its inception?
Fleming: Overcoming outdated notions of what queer media can be was the first hurdle. Nationwide, the focus has been too narrow on the white gay male nightlife experience or a white gay political understanding. While we embrace that part of our audience, Q serves a broader readership and advertiser base that is noticeable every time a reader picks us up or visits our site. By far, our most frequent feedback is about our commitment to diversity.
PPQ: What challenge or challenges is Q facing now?
Fleming: Ad sales across both our online and print products continue to grow consistently, and like any publishers, we’d love that growth to be faster. Other than that, we enjoy challenging ourselves to outdo what we’ve already accomplished, not rest on our laurels, and just keep up the weekly pace.
PPQ: How has the magazine changed since it was first launched?
Fleming: As Project Q celebrates its 10th anniversary this month and Q Magazine rapidly approaches its first, we’re really pleased with the current trajectory. While the battles for LGBTQ rights and queer culture itself are always morphing, our core mission and dedication to covering them remains as solid and unflinching as ever.
PPQ: What one change would you like to make?
Fleming: More pages and more staff.
PPQ: What has been the biggest news story or stories Q has covered?
Fleming: The biggest news in 2018 has to be the closure of a gay bar in Atlanta over its owner’s racist online rants. Since our inception online 10 years ago, a police raid on a gay bar that affected change in the Atlanta Police Department comes to mind, as well as the move of Atlanta Pride to October, a megachurch leader’s gay sex scandal, one “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner’s Atlanta roots, and another’s racism disgrace playing out on our turf, to name just a very few.
PPQ: On the Kinsey Scale of 0-6 [exclusively straight to totally gay], how gay is your publication?
Fleming: 11. Our Q is for queer, obviously, so we are beyond Kinsey’s gay 6, sitting happily with all gender-orientation expressions at full-tilt LGBTQIA.
PPQ: Do you see yourself as an “activist journalist”? If so, in what way?
Fleming: I’ve often said that the most activist thing any queer can do is come out and live out loud. In that way, every time we present a story from a celebratory, matter-of-fact perspective, we are taking action and changing hearts and minds.
PPQ: There have been a number of publications that have either downsized their staffs or ceased operations completely. Is print media in danger?
Fleming: It’s all about adaptation. When we started Project Q Atlanta in 2008, less than 10 percent of our traffic was on mobile devices. Today, two-thirds of it is from mobile devices. It was groundbreaking at the time to focus online exclusively while so many print publications were just posting their print product online. Now we are supplementing our main online product with print, not the other way around. One thing that remains the same is that readers want information, and LGBTQ audiences need and appreciate content specifically curated for them. While we don’t know what the next change will be, the one sure thing is that it’s coming, and all of us in the industry have to be ready.
PPQ: What advice would you give to anyone who may want to launch their own GLBT publication?
Fleming: Do it for the personal satisfaction, and do it because it’s in your whole heart to do, because the work is intense, the hours are long, and the rewards are rarely material.