PRESS PASS Q
A Newsletter and Trade Publication for the LGBT Media Professional
APRIL/MAY 2010 (Vol. 12, No. 1/2)
Celebrating 11 years of serving our community of journalists
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FEATURE: Facebook has LGBT media all a-Twitter: Social networking tools help keep community media outlets on the cutting edge
by Chuck Colbert
In yet another technological innovation, Facebook announced the advent of a new platform that will make it easier for users to share interests – including favorite news stories – across a range of Internet platforms. At its April 21 launch, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters that the new venture, called Open Graph, “is the most transformative thing we’ve ever done for the web.”
But with 400 million Facebook users to date, and an estimated 600 Twitter tweets and 55 Google Buzz posts per second, according to Search Engine Land, social networking media has already revolutionized how outlets gather, report and distribute news. Of course, LGBT media have become key players in this brave new digital world.
“The day has come to an end where folks get their news from a print publication,” said Ross von Metzke, editor of Advocate.com. “Very rarely does print break a story.”
And just as the Advocate employs Twitter in covering and breaking the news, as well as in distributing content, so do any number of LGBT publications, both big and small, rely on social networking platforms.
For example, when police arrested Lt. Dan Choi on March 18 for handcuffing himself to the wrought iron fence surrounding the White House, Twitter enabled the Washington- based D.C. Agenda to break and report the officer’s civil disobedience, his peaceful protest at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that drew attention nationwide to lagging legislative and executive progress towards repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
As the story broke that day, D.C. Agenda’s news and multi- media editor Josh Lynsen said his outlet relied not only on live tweets, but also dispatched two reporters, a photographer, and a videographer, all to report the breaking story through multiple and integrated venues.
Our Twitter audience “devoured those tweets … exactly as it happened,” Lynsen said. To date, D.C. Agenda has roughly 6,000 Twitter followers and more than 1,600 Facebook fans.
Also using Twitter, editor von Metzke said Advocate.com provided real-time coverage of the Proposition 8 trial, a federal court case challenging the constitutionality of California’s same-sex marriage amendment. “We were able to send a writer who provided live tweets from inside the courtroom,” he said.
In breaking the news, Advocate.com reported exclusively about a sit-in at the San Diego marriage license office, a peaceful protest held shortly after the California Supreme Court ruled to uphold Prop 8. Using her cell phone, and unidentified participant tweeted updates, enabling von Metzke to follow the incident and piece a together a story. “I had a conversation with her from inside the building,” he said. At the time, “nobody was reporting on this." To verify the protest was actually happening, von Metzke said he relied on cell phone photos and other corroborating information.
Even smaller publications use Twitter technology to report breaking news. Based in Cedar Rapids, ACCESSline (www.accesslineiowa.com), Iowa’s LGBT newspaper, found Twitter essential in learning of the state’s Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage. “Iowa doesn’t often make national headlines,” said editor Arthur Bruer. But when the court’s website crashed on decision day from overuse, ACCESSline pieced together “tweet by tweet” what the justices said in their unanimous ruling, he said.
LGBT media rely on Twitter for news tips, corrections, praise, criticism, questions from readers – and to recruit sources. “It works both ways,” said von Metzke. “We reach out to people, and they reach out to us.”
What about Facebook? And what about Facebook versus Twitter? Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News (PGN), prefers Facebook. Both the publication and Segal have Facebook fan pages. “They’re more personal,” he said. “People feel closer to you,” which helps to scale “a wall between you [and those with whom] you are interacting on Twitter.”
As publisher, Segal also pens a weekly award-winning column called “Mark My Words,” which he posts on his own Facebook page in addition to PGN's fan page. How are the two used? “Interchangeably,” Segal said, “because I have not figured out how to make the divide. Still, more people choose [my] personal page,” he said, “because they want to know something about me, the person.”
Perhaps the biggest benefit of Facebook, Segal said, is brand loyalty. “We have extremely loyal readers,” he explained, citing the case of a PGN survey, put out over social networking media, asking readers for suggestions on how to make the publication better. “Within an hour, 120 people had responded,” he said. “That’s amazing.”
For Segal and others, Facebook is simply more interactive than Twitter.
Altogether, what has the digital technology of Facebook, Twitter, and Google done for LGBT media? And is there a downside? As it has done for all media, they have made LGBT media widely available, said Dana Rudolph, who blogs for Bilerico and publishes Mombian, a lifestyle website for lesbian moms and LGBT parents.
“But the danger for people in small towns,” said Rudolph, is that “national news may overtake local stories.” To remain relevant – and essential – to their local communities, Rudolph urges smaller publications to revamp their websites, taking advantage of some basics like RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds to push their content out so it can be read in a variety of formats
In addition to ACCESSline, St. Louis-based Vital Voice Magazine (www.thevitalvoice.com) and Charlotte, N.C.-based qnotes all have recently revamped and redesigned their websites (see SIDEBAR below).
Like it or not, social networking media is action central – for both personal and business uses. “A lot of people are there when they are not [necessarily] looking for news,” said Rudolph, who has more than 10 years of Fortune 500 experience in Internet strategic marketing. “Facebook is just another way to put yourself in front of people,” she said. “So anyone not there is missing a great channel."
Undoubtedly, media is ever-changing and highly competitive. These days, anyone can embed a You Tube video on a website, “and it’s called news,” said editor von Metzke. Accordingly, Twitter and Facebook, he added, “are essential tools at our disposal to get news out in a way we want to tell it.”
SIDEBAR: Carolina newspaper hits some new notes
If the advent of digital technology has been a boon for national LGBT media and big-city gay publications, what are smaller LGBT outlets doing? How are they tapping into this brave new technological world? And what kinds of digital and editorial innovations help keep their brands relevant and essential to readers and advertisers alike?
Check out the Charlotte, N.C.-based qnotes – formerly written as Q-Notes – a biweekly publication serving LGBT communities in North and South Carolina. Take note of the new logo and branding, new design and layout, new online content, events listings, and editorial direction – all to chart a different course for the 21st century, according to editor Matt Comer.
“Instead of looking at ourselves as a newspaper that has a website, we look at ourselves as a media company that has two products,” one print, the other online, said Comer. “We’ve got a brand new look and fresh editorial direction.”
Sure enough, the time for change had come. “We’ve had the same logo for about 10 years,” said Comer. “Our brand needed revamping.”
So after considering dozens of possibilities, qnotes staffers decided upon a new logo, one that has been up for several months. The overall objective, he said, was to make the publication feel less like a “stereotypical serious newspaper” and more like “a fun, alternative newsweekly.”
The publication also changed typeface from a serif font to sans serif. Why? “To loosen up a bit more,” Comer said.
New print-edition redesign and layout accompanied the logo and branding changes. “Our print edition has a more relaxed newsmagazine look and feel now,” Comer said. “While many liked the old look, many others also felt the paper seemed old and staid.”
Better yet, “As much as we’d like to think we are the New York Times of LGBT news in the Carolinas,” Comer wrote to readers explaining the changes at qnotes, “the simple reality is that our community is so cool, so inventive, and so cutting edge that we should reflect the same characteristics.”
The revamped website, at www.goqnotes.com, emphasizes recent headlines and stories, online reporting of the Carolinas, national, and international events and news. “We update the website almost every day and can keep up-to- date whereas before, we had to wait for two weeks," said Comer. Readers can also download the current print edition.
Publisher Jim Yarbrough ensures a distribution run of a 24- page print edition – circulation 10,000 – to North Carolina cities and towns including Charlotte, Asheville, Chapel Hill, Columbia, Durham, Greensboro, Raleigh, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem. In South Carolina, Greenville and Spartanburg are the primary distribution centers.
Comer said that the hard copy now has more of a focus on arts and entertainment. But that doesn’t preclude news in print. Rather, online hard news, say a short story between 400 to 500 words, “could blossom into and become the basis for a future-focused news feature,” he said.
The newspaper’s origins date back to a small and now-defunct newsletter begun in 1983, called “Queen City Notes.” The newsletter ended its run in 1984, with the closing of the non-profit that published it. Two years later, the newsletter was resurrected and began publication as a monthly print newspaper.
In 1989, publisher Yarbrough, the owner of Pride Publishing and Typesetting, Inc., bought the publication. And in 1996, it began distributing every other week.
In May 2006, it merged with Raleigh-based The Front Page, another LGBT publication. The Front Page began publishing in 1979 under longtime publisher and editor Jim Baxter.
What else accounts for the newspaper’s present-day renaissance? Editor Comer points to the demographic and economic growth of the region. “North Carolina is now the 10th most populous state,” he said. Just as the state continues its population increase, “so does its political importance. Elected officials will look to the LGBT community in the Carolinas as a community they need to speak with and reach out to.”
What has been the reaction to the changes at qnotes? One reader left little doubt about his approval: “Fabulous! I absolutely love it.” Another reader put it this way: “I don’t care either way. I’m just looking for good content.”
— Chuck Colbert
IN THE NEWS: The Washington Blade is back
After five months of publishing under the name D.C. Agenda, publishers of Washington’s oldest gay weekly newspaper resumed using the name The Washington Blade.
Blade staffers began publishing D.C. Agenda only days after the Blade shut down in the wake of the collapse of corporate parent Window Media. The new corporate entity that publishes D.C. Agenda – Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia – subsequently acquired from a bankruptcy court all assets of the Blade, including the name, all trademarks and copyrights, the entire 40-year archive and any other content located at the now-defunct LGBT newspaper’s old office. The purchase price was $15,000.
At the time of purchase, D.C. Agenda staffers were undecided whether to return to the previous moniker or retain its new name. But readers who responded to a recent survey "overwhelmingly" said that “they wanted us to go back to the Blade name,” said editor Kevin Naff. “A lot of people have an emotional connection to the paper. They grew up with it, or it helped them come out, or there is some other deep- seated attachment to the name.”
D.C. resident Bob Witeck is a case in point. “I have read the Washington Blade almost since its start 40 years ago,” said Witeck, who is CEO and founder of Witeck-Combs Communications.
"It's great to see the storied name return,” said Michael Tune, managing director of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. “That the staff at D.C. Agenda/Washington Blade never missed an issue is incredible.”
“There was a deep concern in Washington about what would happen to all that history,” said Cathy Renna, managing partner on Renna Communications, referring to the archival material.
Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia “understood the importance of saving what came before them,” Renna said. “They were involved in this new endeavor for all the right reasons.”
“[Staff] could have gone home” after former Blade owner Window Media abruptly shuttered the venerable gay newspaper on Nov. 16, and subsequently filed for bankruptcy four days later. “They could have cried in their pillows, licked their wounds, got new jobs, and walked into the rest of their lives. But they decided to take a stand, which is what this [resurrection] story is all about.”
And yet, the Blade’s survival and ultimate triumph may well say something about bonds between regional LGBT publications and the local communities they serve.
“The economics of news media is a challenge for all publications. But the Blade’s resurrection also is proof that there is a loyal readership, a real and growing advertising base, and a constant appetite for specialized news and entertainment needs,” said Witeck.
Editor Naff had many people to thank. “I want to thank local, national, and even international folks – including the generosity of lawyers, accountants, advertisers, and readers – who wrote us, or sent checks, or helped in some other way. Without that support this, couldn’t have happened.”
Beyond the resumption of the Blade name, Naff said that staffers are looking for more permanent newsroom offices. Currently, the Blade rents space in the Metro D.C. LGBT Community Center. Future endeavors include restoring 10 years of digital archives on www.washblade.com, as well as finding a permanent location for the Blade’s print archives.
Personal absolution is also in store for Naff. “Let’s be honest,” he said. “I didn’t want to go down as the editor in charge when the paper went under. And I am very relieved to be saved from that bit of infamy.”
— Chuck Colbert
The Advocate partners with NBC News Channel
The Advocate put another peacock feather in its cap when it entered into a new affiliation with NBC News Channel. In fact, the Here Media property is now the first LGBT news source to be in partnership with a peacock network outlet.
NBC News Channel is an NBC News unit that provides content services to NBC television affiliates and other selected news outlets around the world. Advocate.com will now utilize NBC News Channel’s worldwide resources to create daily news segments that will air online and on air.
According to Here Media, the new collaboration continues the Advocate’s overall expansion. The brand now produces its print publication, breaking news and video content on Advocate.com, and The Advocate On-Air, a television and online newsmagazine.
“Media continues to evolve, and the Advocate continues to grow and deliver news and entertainment across all platforms,” said Paul Colichman, CEO of Here Media. “The Advocate’s partnership with NBC News Channel allows our brand a unique opportunity to focus an LGBT lens on issues important to gay and lesbian Americans and their families. Our editors and expert journalists look forward to breaking new ground in a diverse media landscape.”
Advocate.com will host daily video news reports using footage from NBC News and its local television affiliates. Additionally, NBC News can utilize Advocate talent and content when reporting on important gay issues to its predominantly mainstream audiences.
“The NBC News Channel prides itself on supporting the client’s mission,” said Bob Horner, President of the NBC News Channel. “We respect the commitment Here Media has to its community and we look forward to assisting the Advocate in its coverage of the issues important to the LGBT community.”
The new partnership also positions the Advocate to provide innovative on-air and online advertising opportunities for companies targeting LGBT consumers. By expanding video capability, the Advocate now offers advertisers direct contact with LGBT consumers. Not limited in scope, the Advocate’s relationship with NBC News will organically extend across Here Media’s other brands, including but not limited to Out, Gay.com, HIV Plus, OutTraveler.com, SheWired.com and Here TV.
— Fred Kuhr
PRESSING QUESTIONS: Liberty Press of Wichita, Kan.
by David Webb
Geographic coverage area: State of Kansas
Staff size and breakdown (writers, sales reps, etc.): one full-time staffer, seven freelance writers, one freelance graphic designer, one webmaster, many volunteer writers, four volunteer distributors, no sales representatives
Physical dimensions of publication: 8.5” x 11”
Average page count: 52
Key demographics: LGBT audience, percentages of each undetermined
Print run: 5,000 monthly
PPQ: What part of your publication is the most popular?
Editor/Founder Kristi Parker: We have several popular columns: “Butch’s Corner,” “Minor Details,” “Trans- Formative,” “Bridges” (notices of births, deaths and anniversaries) and “Around Kansas” (resource listings).
PPQ: What challenge has your publication had to overcome over the past few years?
Parker: As you can imagine, being the only LGBT paper in Kansas we face constant political, community and financial challenges. National advertisers won’t budget for Kansas because of a lack of numbers. All of the advertising is local, which is challenging because it is our only source of revenue.
PPQ: What challenges are you facing right now?
Parker: Like everyone else, the economy has hit us pretty hard. We have great community support though, and our content quality is at its best. Our biggest challenge as of late is finding the monetary backing to keep our strong presence on the web as it continues to grow.
PPQ: How has your publication changed since it was first launched?
Parker: Tons. The first edition had 12 pages and five advertisers. I started it in 1994 with a $1,000 loan from my mom. The longest-running [LGBT] paper in Kansas up until that point was 17 months. Our largest issue to date was our 10-year anniversary issue, which was 72 pages and had over 160 advertisers. Last year’s Pride edition came close to that with 68 pages. Back in the early days we did the entire paper on one 486 IBM computer.
PPQ: On the Kinsey Scale of 0-6 (exclusively straight to totally gay), how gay is your publication?
Parker: We only have the resources to do LGBT coverage in the newspaper. It is also 100 percent Kansas, with no national content except for the horoscopes, Rex Wockner’s “Quote, Unquote,” Jennifer Parello’s “Dateland” and Alison Bechdel’s “Dykes to Watch Out For.” We have a locally drawn cartoon and Kansas writers covering only content with a Kansas tie-in.
PPQ: Do you see yourself as an "activist journalist”?
Parker: I used to see myself as an activist. I’m not sure about an activist journalist. It is hard not to be everything, located in the part of the country that we are. [Someone] used to call my office the Gay Community Center of Kansas. And it sometimes still feels that way.
PPQ: What’s the most surprising feedback you’ve received from a reader?
Parker: A mother wrote last fall to say thank-you for saving her 17-year-old daughter’s (now son’s) life. After years of counseling, self-mutilation and bouts of depression, he found our trans column and finally found a name for what was “wrong” with him.
PPQ: What advice do you have for others working in the LGBT media?
Parker: For the small papers in rural/conservative parts of the country: keep the faith, utilize your resources and keep in touch with your community. They need you.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: There’s an app for that
While we are hearing a lot about something being historic – Obama's presidency and health care reform – but it could be that a lot of things are. And that may be true of the new online LGBT media and the iPhones. I had not heard of the work being done by gaycities.com, and the information available at mygaygo (“LGBT media? There’s an app for that: Editors and publishers are finding new life courtesy of online applications,” March 2010). They give travelers information on resources in cities. I still find the print versions worthwhile, such as Gayellow Pages, which is also online.
Bossier City, LA
(What’s your opinion? We’d like to know. Send your letters to editor@PressPassQ.com. Letters should be kept to a maximum of 250 words and may be edited for length and clarity.)
(Editor’s note: Are there important changes going on at your publication? E-mail the information to editor@PressPassQ.com.)
ABOUT MAGAZINE, based in Toronto, Canada, and Buffalo, N.Y., relaunched its website – www.aboutmag.com - in March.
THE ADVOCATE was named Outstanding Magazine at the 21st annual GLAAD Media Awards at a ceremony held March 13 in New York City. The magazine won against Entertainment Weekly, The Nation, Newsweek and People.
ECHO MAGAZINE, based in Phoenix, Ariz., announced changes to its publication. BRUCE CHRISTIAN, the magazine’s television columnist, will now write about politics. The magazine also introduced a new order to its contents, moving the news and features to the front.
ELROY FORBES, JR., who published HOUSTON SCENE MAGAZINE and Houston’s first PRIDE GUIDE for Houston Pride, died Jan. 24 in Houston’s Veterans Administration hospital. He was 69.
GAY & LESBIAN ALLIANCE AGAINST DEFAMATION (GLAAD) unveiled its new logo on April 15, designed by global design and brand strategy consultancy Lippincott.
GAY LIFE, based in Baltimore, Md., celebrated its 31st anniversary with its Jan. 8-21 issue.
HANNAH FREE, the film starring SHARON GLESS and produced by WINDY CITY MEDIA GROUP publisher TRACY BAIM, will be released on DVD on June 1.
METRO WEEKLY, based in Washington, D.C., announced the winners of the magazine’s 2010 Next Generation Awards.
OUT magazine was named a finalist for the 45th annual National Magazine Awards, the preeminent awards for magazine journalism, sponsored by the American Society of Magazine Editors in association with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Out was named in the Photo Portfolio category for JASON BELL’s “Out 100: School Days” collection.
FRED SAINZ, formerly of the GILL FOUNDATION, has joined the HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN as its new communications and marketing vice president.
MARK SMELZER has been promoted to vice president and publisher of THE ADVOCATE and GAY.COM. He most recently served as publisher of THE ADVOCATE and ADVOCATE.COM. He is based in HERE MEDIA’s Los Angeles office.
TRAVELOUTNEWSWIRE, the brainchild of the INTERNATIONAL GAY & LESBIAN TRAVEL ASSOCIATION and the NATIONAL LESBIAN & GAY JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION in partnership with WITECK-COMBS COMMUNICATIONS, was launched April 13. The joint initiative is a web-based news distribution service dedicated to travel-related news and announcements of direct interest to the global LGBT community.
ON THE WEB At the Press Pass Q website - www.PressPassQ.com - you'll find back issues and subscription information. Also, at the Q Syndicate website - www.qsyndicate.com - you'll find up-to-date information on the 12 columns and features we distribute to gay and lesbian media: A Couple of Guys, Bitter Girl, Book Marks, Deep Inside Hollywood, Editorial Cartoons, Now Playing, Out of Town, The OutField, Political IQ, Q Puzzle, Q Scopes and Sex Talk. For information about subscribing to Q Syndicate content, write to email@example.com or call toll-free 888-615- 7003.
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Publisher: Todd Evans, todd@PressPassQ.com
Editor: Fred Kuhr, editor@PressPassQ.com
Associate Editor: Dave Brousseau, dave@QSyndicate.com
Contributing Writers: Derrik Chinn, Chuck Colbert, Tanya Gulliver, Liz Highleyman, Michael K. Lavers, Matthew Pilecki, David Webb
CHUCK COLBERT is a freelance journalist based in Cambridge, Mass. He is a longtime contributor to the National Catholic Reporter and covered the crisis of clerical sex-abuse in the Boston archdiocese. Previously a senior reporter and columnist for the former In Newsweekly, he is a contributor to Keen News Service and Boston Spirit Magazine. Also, he has written for major mainstream daily newspapers and magazines, including the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Dallas Morning News, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FRED KUHR is an editor, reporter, performer and personal trainer based in Toronto. He has written for The Advocate, AdWeek, Toronto-based Xtra, and Boston Spirit Magazine. He has also served as editor of now-defunct publications In Newsweekly (based in Boston) and Out in the Mountains (based in Vermont). He has served as a news analyst on the Fox News Channel and CBC Radio, as well as other media outlets. Fred blogs about politics and pop culture at the FredBlog at www.fred- blog.com and has been rated one of the top Twitterers of “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”
DAVID WEBB worked for both mainstream and alternative media during his 25-year career, including LGBT newspaper Dallas Voice for seven years as a staff writer and news editor. He now lives on Cedar Creek Lake southeast of Dallas. In addition to freelancing, he authors the blog therarereporter.blogspot.com.
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