PRESS PASS Q
A Newsletter for the Gay and Lesbian Press Professional
May 2003 (Vol. 5, No. 2)
A Publication of Rivendell Marketing
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FEATURE: Relying on the Wire
By Jon Coomer
For the 40-odd gay media members of the Associated Press (AP), running mainstream copy can be a complicated business.
"Sometimes our local daily, The Arizona Republic, will pick up the same AP story that we've run, but it's very likely that the piece will be extremely abbreviated in the Republic," said Kelly Reidhead, co-publisher of the biweekly HeatStroke News, based in Phoenix.
Reidhead said mainstream wire news services, like the Associated Press, offer quality articles of regional, statewide, and national interest. The copy is guaranteed to be there, on time, and will be well-written. "If we had the resources to cover everything with our own staff, perhaps we wouldn't need the AP subscription. But I doubt it. We see the AP subscription as another tool that helps us get useful information to our readers. We don't have the luxury of debating whether the AP copy is too mainstream."
HeatStroke News has subscribed to Associated Press for seven years. "Generally, we look to the AP after all the local content has been laid out. We've found that their coverage of HIV and AIDS issues, for example, is often extremely detailed."
And, Reidhead added, not everyone reads the dailies. For some gay readers, the gay paper is the only publication they pick up. So the doubling up of copy with the mainstream publication is not a problem.
The editor of the Philadelphia Gay News agrees that her readers don't pick up the dailies to read about the gay community. "I don't consider them my competition," said Patti Tihey.
Tihey said her paper concentrates on covering local news, then uses AP for national stories. Plus, since PGN publishes three sections every week, there can be large news holes where the instant copy is useful. Tihey added that AP news, like any other, needs to be edited — including for what she considers gay-insensitive language.
Still, using AP copy in what is thought by some to be an alternative market can be a difficult decision. One gay newspaper editor refused to discuss running wire content, calling the topic "too controversial" (though he did not explain why).
For AP, the gay media is a lucrative market.
Nondaily publications can join a separate company, Newsfinder, which provides AP articles. According to sales manager Catherine Powers, up to 50 gay and lesbian news publications subscribe; they become associate members of AP. Powers claimed the gay media numbers have remained about the same over the service's almost 20-year history.
The cost is based on circulation, and ranges from $100 to $1,000 a month, plus an annual subscription fee that runs between $1,000 and $10,000.
For example, a newspaper with a circulation between 5,001 and 15,000 will pay $1,510 annually and $148 each month for the AP articles. Online photos can be downloaded for $32 each.
In the last week of April alone, Powers estimates that more than 100 gay-related stories were placed in the Newsfinder database. Subscribers use a keyword search. (The service is not available to online publications at this time.)
Since AP is a co-op, members are expected to upload articles. Powers said that's why the papers that join must have staff writers — allowing the publication to own the copyright for the texts. But Powers added many don't contribute copy, and it's not a requirement.
Senior editor Dennis Vercher doesn't recall his weekly Dallas Voice ever uploading copy in its eight years of membership.
He, too, is a fan of AP, using it for news briefs and stories like court hearings, because he believes a reporter must sit in on the case to write a good story.
AP's only drawback is its definition of balanced reporting, Vercher said. In its quest to tell all sides of a story, the AP automatically interviews right-wing religious groups like Focus on the Family for any gay story. "Sometimes Focus [on the Family] is driving a story, and needs to be interviewed. But just to grab a quotation from them mindlessly really irritates me."
Regardless, Vercher said AP is worth every penny. "We've never revisited the decision [to join]," said Vercher. "It's a fair amount of money, but we do find it cost-effective."
IN THE NEWS
by Eleanor Brown
DEMOCRATS TARGET GAY READERS. The Democratic National Committee has launched a targeted 18-month ad campaign, designed to whisk gay readers into the U.S. general election of 2004.
Three full-page ads have been created to start, which will begin running this month in the national glossy The Advocate. "This is the only time we have done this in an organized way," said committee treasurer Andrew Tobias (who is gay). "This is a big new thing." The committee will foot the bill, which is in the five figures.
The headline will remain the same throughout the series ("The Democratic Party — OUR Party"), with changes in the center of the ad. For example, one ad features a photograph of "our" attorney general, Janet Reno, and "their" attorney general, John Ashcroft.
The Advocate's large national audience, said Tobias, provides more bang for the DNC's buck. "We don't have the capacity to do all the local papers." And formatting for all the different sizes of papers would be complicated.
Tobias said no focus groups were consulted, nor was research conducted to pull the first three ads together. "I came up with them, I work on this all the time."
He said exit polls show that Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore pulled in 70 per cent of gay voters in the last round in 2000; Tobias hopes this focused campaign will up the number to 90 per cent in 2004.
The Log Cabin Republicans have previously targeted gay votes. Spokesperson Mark Mead said the gay group paid for ads supporting U.S. President George Bush and thanking him for his leadership; Mead said the ads were related to Sept. 11, though that context was not made clear in the ad. The ad featured rainbow flags and ran in local gay media like Boston's Bay Windows, the Washington Blade, the Dallas Voice, and Florida's Express.
COPING WITH CALAMITY. It often takes one disaster to encourage the planning needed to avoid another. Qnortheast Magazine co-editor Wes Bennett returned to Utica, N.Y. from visiting an ailing relative in January to find a massive water leak in his office and $22,000-worth of losses for his fledgling magazine, which was poised to release its second issue.
Hundreds of gallons had poured through the ceiling, destroying computers, artwork, and paper records. "[We] worked on borrowed computers with old monitors set on top of cocktail tables for desks, surrounded by piles of wet paper," said Bennett.
Luckily, the contents of sealed hard drives were recoverable.
A private insurance adjuster was hired to help inventory the losses, and Qnortheast's insurance company sent over a quick check for $5,000 to start. The magazine published one week late, but insurance also covered the loss of advertising that had missed Valentine's Day markets.
The last of the mess was cleared away early this month.
Other publications have different worries. Although located a safe three-and-a-half-hours from the coast, the Charlotte, N.C.-based Q-Notes was hit by Hurricane Hugo back in 1988. But publisher Jim Yarbrough said he worries more about the mundane.
The biweekly paper's office suffered a simple power surge two years ago, with nasty results. Insurance paid for the $4,000 in lost electrical equipment.
Yarbrough pays $300 a year for basic business insurance, a policy that covers data loss — an important add-on for newspapers, he stressed.
And a battery-operated emergency system now kicks in to keep key computers going for up to five minutes in the case of a catastrophic power loss. The time would allow for a quick back-up by staff.
In New York, the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center raised the grim possibility of future terrorism. The weekly Gay City News is insured for every possible natural and unnatural event, from arson to burglary, said associate publisher Troy Masters.
"I think that's the best contingency plan for any 'event' since the long term financial impact is ultimately the most important problem a business might face."
The server is backed up remotely every night, and data can be accessed from outside the office if need be (though cable and telephone systems would need to be working).
A geographically limited terrorist attack, like a conventional bomb a few miles away, would not affect GCN. In case of a larger disaster, like a dirty bomb exploding in Times Square, GCN could publish a web-only issue.
"Cowering in the face of a disaster is not advisable for any business," said Masters. "I don't think there's a single person among us that would allow our operation to stop or be delayed, however, because if there was an extraordinary event in New York we all understand we have a responsibility to the whole world to tell our stories."
FREE STORY IDEAS FROM GLAAD. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has launched a new People of Color Media Program, which is partly intended to push more minority coverage into mainstream gay publications.
Newly minted program director Monica Taher wants to meet and build relationships with gay media editors and reporters across the United States. And then she's going to give them story ideas.
Taher expects to eventually hire four media managers, who will work in tandem with GLAAD's already existing regional managers.
Program staff will become a resource, forwarding ideas and contacts to the gay media. To start, Taher attended Mexico's first lesbian march in April — and pitched the story across the United States, with photos provided. "LGBT media do not always connect the dots in terms of seeing how Latinas share the same culture and language. I want to try to make things easier [for editors]."
Editors and journalists have nothing to fear from the new program, Taher stressed. GLAAD's media activism can be punitive in tone, such as calling for mass letter and e-mail campaigns about shows it considers homophobic, like Savage Nation on MSNBC.
"It's not about monitoring, it's not about silencing," said Taher. "I don't think the organization has ever monitored the LGBT press in the same way it monitors the mainstream press."
The POC Media Program, announced in mid-April, also includes a mainstream media component, as well as an interest in English-language media serving communities of color and in non-English media.
Asked whether it is practical to expect the media to represent everybody, Taher responded that that's an easy attitude for white English-speakers to have, who nonetheless see themselves in the media every day. "Why shouldn't it be the same for Latinos and African-Americans and Asian Pacific Islanders?"
CENSORSHIP AND SEX. Gay media columnists writing about explicit sex have different approaches to coping with obscenity laws. And so do their editors.
As her last act as a regular presence in Ambush Magazine, long-time leather community columnist Red, That Lesbian Guy, censored herself last month, writing a how-to on "crock and bull torture." Her wordplay, she noted, was "in light of any obscenity laws that might apply here."
Ambush editor R. Rip Naquin-Delain said that if his biweekly was restricted to New Orleans distribution, the original words would have been fine. But the paper also goes to "very conservative" Baton Rouge, and even crosses state lines (into Texas, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia). Naquin-Delain said the paper was once threatened with an obscenity charge by a city government official, though no suit was ever filed.
Knowing he would win makes no difference: "If they can tie you up in court, they can put you out of business. We have to be careful." Naquin-Delain checks with his lawyer if in doubt.
On the other hand, Michael Alvear, who has just outed himself as the auteur of the weekly syndicated sex column, "Need Wood? Tips for Getting Timber," said he's never thought twice about obscenity laws. He never censors himself, he said — he's more interested in ratcheting up his outrageousness.
He's also never had any legal problems, and he says no editor has ever toned down the column's pornographic raunchiness. Rather, it's the personal nastiness that makes editors uneasy, according to Alvear. "I tend to really insult people. Gay people are the most thin-skinned people in the world."
The Atlanta-based Alvear also writes a biweekly commentary titled "Slouching Through Gomorrah," which runs in some 14 markets. "I get more censorship in my regular column," he insisted. Some editors refused to run a recent piece on trans issues. Alvear said he was supportive, "but I made fun of [trans people], because I make fun of everyone."
Other editors ran the column, but culled an explicit line about transgender journalist Patrick Califia's imagined sexual practices.
Alvear's "Need Wood" was launched four years ago and is carried in 20 markets. His admission of authorship corresponds to this month's release of his first book, a collection of the columns titled "Men Are Pigs But We Love Bacon" (Kensington Books). He said the decision to come clean as a sex columnist was difficult, as he fears that the association may hurt his mainstream journalism career.
JOHN CALDWELL joined THE ADVOCATE on April 28 as associate news editor. For the past two years, Caldwell has been a staff writer at Frontiers Newsmagazine, the Los Angeles-based news weekly. Caldwell began his career in the gay press as an intern at The Advocate in 2000. And celebrity ROSIE O'DONNELL joins the magazine as a columnist with the May 13 issue.
BUFF CARMICHAEL was awarded the LARRY GOLDEN CIVIL LIBERTARIAN AWARD at the annual April meeting of the Springfield, Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Association. Carmichael is editor of the Springfield monthly, PRAIRIE FLAME, and the award recognizes his work on behalf of the gay and lesbian communities.
New CELEBRATE! art director GREG NEEDHAM (owner of Needham Design) started at the Key West biweekly in March. Predecessor KATE REYNOLDS has moved to Asheville, N.C.
JENN GARRETT has joined the all-volunteer staff of the monthly OUT & ABOUT NASHVILLE as circulation director (expanding distribution and the free subscription program) and as an advertising sales representative. Garrett served in a similar capacity with the Nashville Business Journal.
The GAYLY OKLAHOMAN's art critic, JON OWENS, won first place in the Review Criticism category from the Oklahoma Collegiate Press Association. Owens also picked up a second first-place showing in the April 14 awards, for investigative reporting (for a look at the Southwestern Oklahoma State University's sports policies and practices, which ran in the campus newspaper The Southwestern, where he is also news editor).
GENRE reports that SAM FRANCIS, former publisher of the defunct HERO MAGAZINE, has reinvented himself as porn star Sam Tyson. Hero had a strict "no adult content" policy.
HEATSTROKE news editor ALLEN KALCHIK won two first place awards in the 2002 ARIZONA PRESS CLUB AWARDS, announced April 12 in Phoenix. Kalchik won for small, nondaily publications in the Personality Profile category, and Sustained Coverage/Series reporting for two stories about a proposed AIDS group merger. Kalchik also picked up second place for Feature Writing.
New England's IN NEWSWEEKLY has a new managing editor, FRED KUHR, formerly the news editor. He replaces departing editor RICK DUNN. Senior staff writer TONY GIAMPETRUZZI has been promoted to associate editor.
ANTHONY MCCARTHY has been brought in on a contract to restructure Baltimore's GAY LIFE biweekly tabloid. He created his job, that of publisher, and will function as managing editor until a replacement is found for MIKE CHASE, who left at the beginning of May.
MOM GUESS WHAT publisher LINDA BIRNER was featured in a mainstream Sacramento magazine's "Most Eligible Singles" column for Valentine's. She received an unsigned letter in response, thanking her "for 25 years of wrecking our society."
THE NATIONAL LESBIAN AND GAY JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION has announced its new SARAH PETTIT MEMORIAL AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN LGBT MEDIA, honoring the journalist who died in January at the age of 36. Pettit was a senior editor at Newsweek, and co-founded Out magazine. The award recognizes a body of work of an individual journalist. Nominations close June 30. Other 2003 Excellence in Journalism Awards honor the best in gay-related coverage in print, new media, photography, radio and television. Winners for the 2003 awards will be announced at the NLGJA's September convention in Los Angeles. See http://www.nlgja.org for more information.
The NATIONAL LESBIAN AND GAY JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION-CANADA is in the process of legal disincorporation (in part because of a lack of interest in taking on administrative tasks for the eight-year-old group). Former president PAT SENSON says NLGJA-C is now "a group of LGBT journalists communicating through the Internet on topics of interest to that community and profession."
After appearing every other week since the summer of 2002, the NEW YORK BLADE returned to weekly publication with its April 18 issue.
About half of PLANETOUT PARTNERS' 125 employees (in New York, Paris, London, Buenos Aires, and San Francisco) took a few hours off work in March to attend war-related rallies, according to spokesperson BRYCE EBERHART. The company, which runs PlanetOut.com and Gay.com, offered staff the paid time off for the expression of political opinion (on whichever side). Eberhart said the company's market exists because of acts of civic involvement like the 1969 Stonewall protests.
DAVE WIETHOP has joined WATERMARK, distributed in Orlando, Tampa, and Sarasota, Fla., as the editor of the twice-monthly newspaper. He had been features editor at the News Chief in Winter Haven. Also, DANNY LANCASTER joins Watermark as the Tampa Bay advertising sales executive.
Are there important changes going on at your publication? E-mail the information to PressPassQEd@yahoo.ca.
"Outlook News Goes Weekly" (Press Pass Q, April 2003)
Outlook was founded in 1996 as a newspaper, not "a small black-and-white community newsletter." Response to Outlook's debut in June, 1996 was instantaneous and positive. Our mission included providing a newspaper that reported news relevant to the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community, and not a promotional piece for the gay community.
Prior to the sale of the business to the current owners, our commitment to utilize local talent set us apart from the plethora of publications featuring the repetition of syndicated columnists who rarely can speak to local issues affecting a given community.
We distributed between 8,000 and 14,000 copies of every issue of Outlook in Greater Columbus alone. Each issue ranged from 20 to 32 pages.
The reported "redesign" of the newspaper to a "crisp, newsy layout" is an interesting statement, considering the logo and many of the design features of the newspaper have not changed since we sold.
Outlook was never "going out of business." We ceased publishing the newspaper and began looking for a buyer in late 1998 when Jeffrey Cox relocated to Philadelphia with his partner. At that time, the proposal by the current owners seemed the best option for maintaining Outlook's mission and integrity.
Outlook received five individual awards and was named the third best newspaper in North America in the weekly and biweekly category in the 1998 Vice Versa awards.
The misrepresentation undermines Press Pass Q's credibility.
— Jim Ryan and Jeffrey Cox (founders and previous publishers, Outlook)
"Is The Past Newsworthy?" (Press Pass Q, April 2003)
The Leather Journal publishes an annual magazine, Leather Tribe, Leather Nation, which is more or less a yearbook for the leather community, printed in a magazine format. Leather Tribe, Leather Nation: Volume V will debut in the Leather Market at International Mr. Leather Weekend, held during the Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, IL.
I was inspired to publish Leather Tribe when I read The Advocate's 25-year history of the gay community. The Leather Journal printed a 10th anniversary issue after The Advocate's book appeared. Leather Tribe is not a polished hard-cover coffee-table book as is The Advocate's, but the content, both editorial and photographic, is designed so that it can sit on the coffee table and be read by mom and pop.
This approach makes it less appealing to those who are looking for erotic material, but it is not designed to do that.
Yes, our history is important. Unless it is immediately recorded, it will be mostly lost. That which remains will be easily tainted for those with ulterior motives. The more history there is kept, the harder it will be for anyone to doctor it for their own self-interest.
— Dave Rhodes (publisher and editor, The Leather Journal)
"Gay Media Differ on Iraq Coverage" (Press Pass Q, March 2003)
The vast majority of the gay media wrote the easy story about the war, that of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. But this is short-sighted. Most missed all kinds of other stories that affect gay soldiers.
- Is unit cohesion being jeopardized by having openly gay personnel from the United Kingdom serving alongside deeply closeted gay and lesbian U.S. personnel?
- What will happen to these veterans if they return with their own unique gay post traumatic stress disorder issues, which their very own Veterans Administration refuses to acknowledge, let alone treat?
- What's it like to be at war and not be in touch with those you love, nor to be able to confide in others how badly you miss your same-sex partner. And all this with no visible support, unlike the military wives' clubs located on every military installation?
The gay media need to keep following the story beyond Don't Ask, Don't Tell, even once the troops come home, including once they leave the military. What about veterans' benefits; what about whether former military personnel can petition to upgrade their discharge to an honorable one? What about a look at the health (and other) benefits they lose out on simply over a bedroom issue?
Don't forget the troops, or veterans, when the war is over.
— William G. Kibler (co-founder of the Order of Enslin Veterans, at http://www.gayveterans.org, and the webmaster of GayVeterans.com) A version of this open letter to the gay media first appeared in the Washington Blade.
ON THE WEB. At the Q Syndicate website — www.qsyndicate.com — you'll find back issues of Press Pass Q and up-to-date information on the 15 columns and features we distribute to gay and lesbian media: A Couple of Guys, Bitter Girl, Book Marks, Capital Letters, Crossword Puzzles, Deep Inside Hollywood, Editorial Cartoons, Lesbian Notions, Now Playing, Out of Town, Over The Rainbow, Past Out, Q Scopes, Sex Talk, and Word Searches. For information about subscribing to Q Syndicate content, contact Account Manager David Gardner at QSDavidGardner@aol.com or 310-399-3104.
LOOKING FOR WRITERS. Press Pass Q is always in need of reporters to write feature stories on issues of concern to the lesbian and gay press. Writers should be familiar with gay media, accustomed to tight deadlines, and willing to take editorial direction. Contact Eleanor Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org to express interest or for more information.
DO YOU HAVE AN ANNOUNCEMENT for the Bulletin Board? Are you trying to get your work published? Looking for job applicants? Promoting a special project? Press Pass Q is now distributed to almost 2,000 working professionals in the gay and lesbian press. Bulletin Board announcements are just a dollar (U.S.) per word per insertion, paid up front. Send a check payable to Rivendell Marketing, P.O. Box 518, Westfield, NJ 07091-0518. Publisher: Todd Evans
Publisher: Todd Evans
Jon Coomer is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn. Jon has lived in the South all of his life, but will make the "Yankee" transition this summer when he moves to State College, Pa.
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