A Newsletter for the Gay and Lesbian Press Professional

July 2006 (Vol. 8, No. 4)
A Publication of Rivendell Media and Q Syndicate


FEATURE: Working race into the mix
A lack of knowledge contributes to distrust
By Tanya Gulliver and Eleanor Brown

Want to start a discussion about the coverage of race in your publication? Publish a marquee columnist's critique within your pages. In Newsweekly editor James Lopata, who's white, did just that. "It was hard on me to read," said Lopata.

But it's a challenge many mainstream LGBT publications face. In fact, it's almost a cliche to complain about minority coverage in mainstream LGBT media.

Nonetheless, longtime In Newsweekly columnist Rev. Irene Monroe was blunt in her assessment: "Covering the news is an arduous task when it comes to communities of color and other marginal groups within the larger lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community around the country. One of the problems is due to the paucity of reporters of color in our newsrooms. And because of a lack of reporters from our varied communities, these stories are then subsumed by a white queer universality that not only renders these marginal populations within the larger community speechless, but invisible as well."

And in the quest for well-intentioned coverage of minorities, she wrote, stereotypes creep in. The "helpless victim," she noted, is often black, as with stories of economically poor "survivors of HIV/AIDS." On the other side, she wrote, is the "happy negro minstrel image" that can obscure real issues in favor of "news lite."

Lopata said he doesn't agree with all of Monroe's criticisms, but he won't pick through the arguments, saying that's not the point. The dialogue is more important, he said. Lopata added that he's interested in the future, not the past (though Lopata and his columnist went through old issues of the paper together).

The editor has since made a point of attending, introducing himself to, and talking to those at African-American events (and discovering that some agree with his columnist - and some don't). And he's making stronger connections with Boston's black newspaper, The Banner. (Monroe's critique was aimed at coverage of blacks; Lopata notes his paper began running a monthly Spanish-language column in October 2005.)

The discussion has made him consider how race fits into an LGBT newspaper "that's all about identity."

Lopata said he's asked reporters to seek out blacks for stories, but it can be hard for white reporters to get non-whites to speak on the record. Whites are seen "as being in a position of authority. There's a distrust there... a trust issue we're trying to work through." He's looking to add non-white contributors to the paper, but said it can be tough. One lesbian, he said ruefully, simply told him that "he's not trying hard enough."

In Newsweekly's Boston, Mass., competitor, Bay Windows, also tackles race, according to editor in chief Susan Ryan-Vollmar, who's white. She said it's a necessity in a place with Boston's history, a city that was "paralyzed" in the 1970s over the desegregation of schools. In April, she chose a high-profile route, penning an editorial attacking another publication, the queer Boston Spirit.

"What's with the white power lists?" asked Ryan-Vollmar. She wrote that a recent tally of people "who make a difference" in Boston Spirit was lopsidedly white, who made up 29 out of 32 luminaries. Ryan-Vollmar ended her piece with a list of more than 25 people of color (and transgenders, also too often left out, she wrote) who deserve recognition for their hard work.

Some might think that going after a competitor is a conflict of interest. (Boston Spirit publisher David Zimmerman responded to Press Pass Q's request for a response with: "Unfortunately Bay Windows has chosen to write several negative articles on Boston Spirit. It is our policy to not comment on the articles or Bay Windows in general.")

But Ryan-Vollmar said Spirit's glossy format and bimonthly schedule preclude the magazine from being a competitor to her own weekly tabloid. She said calling others on what she sees as racism or ethnocentrism is a duty (though she worries that sounds "arrogant"). The Spirit piece, she said, engendered "annoyance bordering on anger.... [race is] an important topic. We have to think about it."

Karen Ocamb, news editor for the biweekly IN magazine in Los Angeles, said no editor can ever rest on her laurels, and Ocamb is always looking for ever more diversity. Ocamb said editors must get out into the field, learn, and make contacts. They must mentor new writers - both in writing and in ethics - to help create a pool of talent. Lastly, Ocamb said that press relations professionals working in community-of-color organizations, whether gay or straight, are often a source of news and writers (as long as conflict of interest guidelines are clear).

IN Magazine launched a section called IN Latino in September 2004 (coinciding with National Hispanic Month in the United States). It was spearheaded by Peter Gonzaga, publisher of the now-defunct queer Latino publication qvMagazine. (He's no longer with IN.) The Pride 2006 issue featured a one-page section in the back of the book, mixing a profile of a local person, calendar listings, and a column titled "IN Latino Social Whirl." (There are no ads obviously related to the special section, however.)

Anita Moyt, the white managing editor of the Memphis, Tenn., regional monthly Family & Friends magazine, said that ensuring diverse representation is a challenge in parts of the mid-South. "For some people the magazine is the only source they have for gay information. It's very much on the down-low in Mississippi."

Indeed, publisher Patricia Pair has written that the magazine's first issue, in 1998, was very white. But Pair and Moyt made connections in the black Same-Gender-Loving (SGL) community. Coverage began with Black Pride events, although Pair has noted, "We needed more than just pictures and a few stories; we needed the black SGL community to know we cared about them, too, not just as tokens, but as real people with real issues." Soon after, a single African-American writer, Anthony Hardaway, was given column space.

Coverage of the black community has been expanding ever since. And in January, Family & Friends received an award from the International Federation of Black Prides for its inclusive coverage.

Said Moyt: "Since we began we've tried to represent…the entire LGBT population regardless of color. We have been very fortunate over the years to make inroads in the African-American community, but we've not been successful in getting into the growing Latino or Hispanic community here or the various Asian communities."


EXP DEAL GOES BUST. The Out in America Internet network has gobbled up the Sacramento, Calif.-based biweekly Outword, but the Web-based company has rescinded its purchase offer for the three regional publications in the EXP group that had been announced in May.

The move came within one month of a radio talk-show host in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (Dan Gaffney of WGMD Radio), publicizing EXP majority owner and publisher Jeff Balk's 1988 guilty plea to criminal charges connected to having sex with teens. Balk was sentenced to 10 years in prison (and served seven). He blames the fresh publicity directly for the business deal going sour.

Out in America marketing director Jonathan Mabry said company officials were unaware of Balk's past when the purchase deal was announced, although they know now. He said the information "didn't have anything to do with the merger not happening," and that the sudden about-face with EXP was "for purely business reasons. The two companies would do better as stand-alones."

Out in America's announcement reads: "A recently conducted in-depth review of EXP Magazine and its publisher revealed that it is not a good fit for Out in America's current business model, built on the mission to be the most respected LGBT media property."

In his own communique, Balk said Out in America can't rescind the sale, because it's already a fait accompli, having closed in April. Balk has hired a lawyer. The company "refuses to pay the employees of EXP Magazine. They also have not provided any notices of termination to the employees of EXP Magazine. [The company] is attempting to avoid its legal obligations as a result of the acquisition."

In an interview tih Press Pass Q, Balk said he gave Out in America permission to conduct a criminal background check, but was later told it was never done. He said he has not re-offended since his release.

In a May note to his publications' readers, Balk wrote that he had "dreamt" for years about being able to announce a sale that would "take EXP Magazine to the next level." He wrote that the print publications were "limited in our potential online." EXP publishes in St. Louis, Rehoboth Beach, and Denver, Colo.

But one deal with Out in America has gone through. Outword executive publisher Fred Palmer said his transaction is not a sale, but a merger. "It's a stock deal," he said. "I'm a part owner" of Out in America. Palmer said a brokerage firm approached him a few months ago, and the contact led to the compact.

Outword has a print-run of 15,000 copies and is distributed throughout Northern California. (A second edition, the monthly Southern California Outword, was launched October 2003 and shut down in January 2006.)

Palmer will continue to manage Outword, but has also has been named president of publishing for Out in America. Mabry said the 10-year-old company is interested in continued expansion into print, and is considering purchases in New England, Florida, and the West. He would not disclose specifics. He said regional publications would be coupled with already existing local websites, which number 178.

The Columbus, Ohio-headquartered company, and its parent Ethan Interactive, just announced in a press release the hiring of the global management firm Schubert Group to "assist in its aggressive growth strategy." That business is headed by Walter Schubert, founder of (The Gay Financial Network), and the first openly gay member of the New York Stock Exchange.

- Eleanor Brown

PLANETOUT LAYOFFS. The "integration" of PlanetOut Inc. and its two recent acquisitions, RSVP Vacations and LPI Media, publishers of The Advocate and Out magazines, will result in a workforce reduction of five percent.

The layoffs were called a "headcount reduction related to the integration of services and business units, along with other organizational changes." The "consolidation and operational efficiency" was announced in a June 29 press release. "Specifically, we are consolidating media and advertising services, e-commerce services and back-office operations on a global basis," stated Karen Magee, who officially took over as chief executive officer of PlanetOut Inc. two days later. Magee was already a member of PlanetOut's board of directors; she is a former employee of Time Warner.

Restructuring costs and other related one-time charges will total about US$1.5 million.

Magee succeeds CEO and chair Lowell Selvin, who stepped down after seven years for medical reasons. He remains on the board as chair emeritus. (The new chair is Bill Jesse.)

But other changes seem to be directly related to the restructuring. founder Mark Elderkin has left the company, and has been replaced as president by Jeff Soukup, who will also retain his role as chief operating officer. Also gone is Donna Gibbs, senior vice president, consumer marketing and commerce.

Company public relations manager James David would not discuss any other staff changes. "In regard to your query on specific employees, we do not comment on specific employees unless they are senior management."

PlanetOut Inc. senior editor and news director Tom Musbach told Press Pass Q he was laid off earlier this month after 11 years with the company.

- Eleanor Brown


*San Francisco-based writer Joe Dignan, 49, died of a heart attack on June 29. A freelance reporter, he contributed to such local publications as BAY GUARDIAN and BAY TIMES, as well as to New York's GAY CITY NEWS. Dignan is survived by his daughter Mary and his ex-wife.

*New York's GAY CITY NEWS was honored at the 2005 New York Press Association Awards in April. GCN won first place in the "Reporting on Religion" category. It also picked up third place in its division for "coverage of local government."
*The San Francisco Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society is hosting an exhibit of works by photojournalist RICK GERHARTER, a contributor to BAY AREA REPORTER, among other publications.

*INSTINCT has inked a deal with OUT IN AMERICA, in which the Internet company buys a subscription to the print magazine for its Web readers who upgrade to a paid Out In America Plus membership. The length of the sub depends on the length of the Internet purchase.

*Psychiatrist DR. FRITZ KLEIN, born Fred Klein, died May 24 in San Diego of a heart attack. He was 73. Klein was a longtime activist and founder of the American Institute of Bisexuality. He was an editor of THE JOURNAL OF BISEXUALITY and founder and publisher of the website BIMAGAZINE.ORG. Klein is survived by partner Tim Reise. Contributions may be made to the nonprofit Diversionary Theater (4545 Park Boulevard #101, San Diego, Calif., 92116).

*The advice duo LIPSTICK & DIPSTICK have pulled the plug on their syndicated column, though they'll continue to contribute to the national glossy CURVE. There's also talk of a book.

*Editor in chief JEFF LOVARI left the Las Vegas-based national glossy ENVY MAN in April for a media relations position at Station Casinos.

*TROY MAY and business partners MICHAEL COMAN and ERIC GAITHER bought the monthly, 15,000 print-run San Jose, Calif., OUTNOW Magazine in April from MARK GILLARD. It's been renamed ON. The publication began as a newspaper in 1992, then was sold and converted into a glossy magazine. May doubles as publisher and editor, Coman is art director, and Gaither is creative director. The team has already redesigned the lifestyle magazine, and May said he expects quick growth.

*TIM MCBRIDE, general manager of Phoenix-based ECHO MAGAZINE for the past five years, is leaving to pursue an MBA at Arizona State University. Also, LUIS GARCIA has taken over as classifieds manager from RICHARD STEVENS.

*OUTLOOK WEEKLY in Columbus, Ohio, is being bought for an undisclosed sum by managing editor MICHAEL DANIELS and editor CHRIS HAYES. The sale is expected to close later this month. The paper was founded in 1996 as a local newsletter, eventually becoming a weekly magazine (in a tabloid format). The paper is published by Outlook Media, owned by MALCOLM WRIGGLE and partners since 1999. Company brands include local professional networking organizations Network Columbus and Network Metro Cleveland, and the online portal

*Palm Springs, Calif., Mayor Ron Oden declared April 4 to be "DONALD PILE and RAY WILLIAMS 35th Anniversary Day," in honor of the long-time couple. The two are based in Kansas and write a syndicated travel column (and also work as antique dealers).

*The syndicated FM two-hour RADIO WITH A TWIST weekly show, backed by INSTINCT magazine, has spawned a 24/7 music, information, and lifestyle radio station. It's now available across the U.S. on the AOL Radio Network. Hosts include Will Wikle, Melissa Carter, and Dennis Hensley. Instinct magazine will provide some editorial content. In addition, Instinct recently joined radio station partner Wilderness Media & Entertainment and Sony Music to create the first major gay music label.

*Activist ERIC ROFES, 51, died June 26 in Provincetown, Mass., of a heart attack. Rofes was spending the summer in P'town; he was a resident of San Francisco. He has been called "a giant of the gay movement" and worked on Boston's GAY COMMUNITY NEWS in the 1970s, also founding various queer organizations. He later had a career with AIDS and gay rights groups and was the author of 12 books. Rofes is survived by partner Crispin Hollings.

*Ottawa, Canada's THOMAS M. STRAIN, 48, pleaded guilty May 18 to mischief in a case involving the vandalism of CAPITAL XTRA distribution boxes. (Repairs cost about CDN$10,000.) Strain was sentenced to three months of house arrest plus one year of probation and 100 hours of community service. The Capital Xtra report stated that Strain would volunteer at a gay and lesbian organization "if they're willing to accept me."

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Publisher: Todd Evans,
Editor: Eleanor Brown,
Consulting Editor: Paula Martinac,
Associate Editor: Dave Brousseau,
Contributing Writers: Robert DeKoven, Tanya Gulliver, Liz Highleyman, Fred Kuhr, Bennett Marcus, Frank Pizzoli, Christopher Tittel



ELEANOR BROWN hopes to sell her newly launched newsletter for millions in a couple of months. Her contact info's below.

TANYA GULLIVER (at is a freelance writer based in Hamilton, Ont. She is the Ontario regional director for the Professional Writers Association of Canada.



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