PRESS PASS Q
A Newsletter for the Gay and Lesbian Press Professional

March 2007 (Vol. 8, No. 11/12)
A Publication of Rivendell Media and Q Syndicate

TABLE OF CONTENTS


FEATURE: “Junk mail” journalism: Blurring the line between original reporting and public relations
by Derrik Chinn

Think of it as the forbidden fruit that editors often find dangling in their faces — free editorial content.
Ripe, heavy with juice, and just begging to be devoured, PR-produced stories are often made available to publications by publicists at no charge. Most tend to be fluffy celebrity interviews. While newspapers and magazines save time and money by printing these free handouts, the outcome can end up being quite costly.

In a guest commentary entitled “Art journalism vs. public relations” that ran in January’s issue of Press Pass Q, freelance music writer Jason Victor Serinus chastised Charlotte, N.C.-based Q-Notes for publishing an interview with lesbian guitarist Kaki King. Serinus’ strongly worded finger-pointing stemmed from the publication’s failure to mention the interview was penned by Peter Galvin, a publicist. Galvin heads Blue Streak Consulting, a New York-based marketing firm that caters to GLBT publications. (Galvin originally agreed to an interview for this story, but then declined after learning it was regarding his Q&A with King.)

Serinus, who contributes to a number of gay publications, did not blame Galvin, who was just “doing his job.” Rather, he directed his criticism at Q-Notes’ editorial staff for violating its journalistic integrity and deceiving its readers.

“It underscores a key way in which LGBT media continues to fail its readership,” Serinus wrote.
Despite the fact a publicist conducted and authored the interview, Q-Notes Editor David Moore said he decided to run Galvin’s work because of King’s upcoming appearance in Atlanta, and because the piece was “simply well written.” King said some insightful things about her life as a lesbian, in Moore’s editorial opinion, and so was worthy of gracing the pages of Q-Notes. Had it not been applicable to his readership, Moore said he would have not printed the interview.

Serinus said he believes if a publication chooses to publish PR-supplied content, staff must clearly label the copy as generated by a publicist. By not doing so, the publication abdicates its responsibility to encourage critical thinking and instead becomes a mouthpiece for the PR firm, he told Press Pass Q.

Why else would an editor choose to run copy that’s been provided hook, line, and sinker by a PR firm? In Serinus’ opinion, it’s all a matter of time and money. An editor would only choose to run a product of a marketing machine because he or she lacks the budget, staff, and credentials to produce such a piece on his or her own.

But according to Moore, it’s perfectly acceptable to utilize publicists as a resource, especially for smaller publications that are economically unable to produce sizable packages celebrities whose names alone carry the power to quickly empty newsstands.

“A publicist is there to pitch to their client,” Moore said. “The journalist has to decide if the material is of value to their readers.” In his defense, Moore said publicists offer him quite a bit of editorial content that he doesn’t use.

“It’s like sifting through junk mail,” he said. “It’s often very difficult for GLBT publications to survive increasing production costs and falling advertiser income.”

Editors working in the GLBT press seemingly have disparate views on the issue. While welcoming press releases to keep abreast of upcoming events, Chicago’s Windy City Times publisher and executive editor Tracy Baim maintains a no-tolerance policy regarding free editorial content from publicists, including celebrity interviews.

“A press release is treated as such and noted as such,” Baim said. “If a PR firm pitches a completed story done by them, we do not run such a story.”

Baim said she finds some publications may revert to filling space with interesting pieces provided by PR firms, but it would be wrong to run them without forewarning their audience with some sort of disclaimer.

According to Serinus, doing just that is as simple as a byline. “‘Peter Galvin is a New York-based publicist engaged by Blue Streak Consulting.’ That says it all,” he said.

According to Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff, a publicist’s purpose is to pitch stories, and editors should work with them to ferret out any news and information beneficial to readers. Naff said he enjoys “good relationships” with publicists and relies on them for certain stories.

“But those relationships never cross any lines related to our independence or any guarantees of story angles,” Naff said. Printing press releases, in Naff’s opinion, is the antithesis of journalism.

“Transparency is a minimum requirement,” said Tom Rosentiel, director of The Project for Excellence in Journalism and coauthor of “The Elements of Journalism: What Newspapers Should Know and The Public Should Expect.” In his book, Rosentiel outlines a journalist’s core responsibilities, which are to uphold truthfulness and to avoid deceiving one’s audience at all costs. But, said Rosentiel, if a journalist runs a story that has been provided by a publicist without labeling it as such, he or she is guilty of deception.



GUEST COMMENTARY: Defending the value of the gay press
by Paul Varnell

(Some of Paul Varnell's previous columns are posted at the Independent Gay Forum — www.indegayforum.org. His e-mail address is Pvarnell@aol.com. This column was first published in the March 7 edition of the Chicago Free Press.)

Every few years, someone announces that the gay press is obsolete. Once it was because the mainstream daily papers were doing a fine job of covering gay issues. Then it was because the Associated Press was already providing ample coverage so gay newspapers were unnecessary.

Now, in last month’s issue of Press Pass Q in an article entitled, “Merger mania: Is media synergy a good thing for the GLBT press?,” Prof. Larry Gross, director of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communication, announces, "I don't see the gay press serving any important political or cultural function for the community anymore.”

"The Internet is much more effective because it is there all the time," Gross explained. "The gay press can't compete in terms of news value. It used to be that the gay press was essential, that you couldn't find this information anywhere else."

Well, it wasn't true then and it isn't true now. I don't know how much of the gay press Gross sees for comparison, but if he is depending on the Internet for his gay news and "culture," I dare say he is missing quite a lot.

One obvious reason is that the very virtue of the Internet — that no one is in charge — means that information is widely dispersed, so it is impossible to find relatively comprehensive coverage of gay news and culture at just one or a few websites. You have to do a lot of searching on different websites to hope that you are getting a good overview. Even then, you cannot be sure.

Another is that a good deal of information on the Internet, from blogs to organizational and institutional websites, is selective, partisan or biased in a wide variety of ways. No one has the responsibility of making a judicious blending of viewpoints and perspectives, including the known facts that may be favorable to the various perspectives.

Without the constant pressure of a daily deadline, gay newspapers have the time to develop a story providing pertinent background information and context that the breathless — "This just happened!" — rush of most Internet coverage seems to have neither the time nor inclination for. And the Internet then abandons each story for the next thing that just happened this moment.

Third, and vitally important to notice, is that most Internet sites and the individual or groups running them simply lack the economic means to do much serious journalism, whether news or culture. The hunting down of facts, the examination of documents and the grilling of politicians and advocacy group spokespeople (not just publishing press releases), takes time and someone has to be paid to do that. And "someone" seldom is.

The gay press can act as a widely available advocacy mechanism for gay issues in a way that websites do not have the clout to do. It can lure electoral candidates to submit to interviews and publish the results. It can push gay issues that are being neglected. It can shame homophobes in a way that the mainstream press seldom does and websites have little impact to do effectively.

And a good deal of news and — even more — culture never makes it to the Internet at all, so people have no idea what they are missing. It takes time to go to a gay play or concert and write a cogent evaluation, to read a book of gay history, psychology, or sociology and write a thoughtful review, to go to an exhibit by a gay artist and write judiciously about it. Few people have the (a) time, (b) commitment, and (c) background knowledge to do that for free or for the pittance a website might pay.

The gay press also serves as one of the few centripetal influences in a gay/lesbian community that constantly threatens to fragment into mutually non-communicating subgroups. It provides everyone with the same mix of information, evaluation, and opinion rather than leaving gays and lesbians to access such widely divergent sources that they have little in common. The gay press may not provide the final word, but it does provide a common starting point.

Finally, the gay press serves as a community bulletin board in a way that websites have not (yet) become. Drawing on my own experience, after I wrote a column about the need for a gay artists group, I got numerous e-mail responses from gay artists, and those became the nucleus of what is now a thriving organization. More artists contacted us after announcements of the first meeting. But if I had posted some notice about an artists group at some website, who knows whether gay artists would have stumbled upon it? 


PRESSING QUESTIONS: This month: Out Front Colorado of Denver
by Derrik Chinn

(The feature Pressing Questions puts the spotlight on a different GLBT media outlet each month. If you are interested in being featured, send an e-mail to editor@presspassq.com with the subject line “Pressing Questions.”)

Geographic coverage area: The state of Colorado, but also available at several locations outside of the state

Year founded: 1976

Staff size and breakdown (writers, sales reps., etc.): 12 staff total — two owners/publishers, one of whom is the art director, and one of whom is the editor-in-chief; one associate editor; one staff writer; two graphic designers; one sales manager; four advertising executives; and one human resources/office manager. Out Front also employs a contract photographer — a straight man — who has been with the publication for 25 years.

Size of office space: 3,150 sq. ft.

Physical dimensions of publication: 11” x 15” tabloid-style newspaper

Average page count: 80

Key demographics: GLBT professionals ages 25-50

Print run: 20,000 copies every two weeks

Website: www.OutFrontColorado.com

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Press Pass Q: What is most popular about Out Front Colorado?

Editorial assistant Matt Kalley: Feature stories with a local slant, interviews with local GLBT newsmakers, entertainers, and Colorado-based political and informational pieces. Colorado GLBT residents generally have a fierce loyalty to, and interest in, the state of their state.

PPQ: How so?

Kalley: As home to Focus on the Family, as well as a decades-old GLBT-rights movement, we have very conservative conservatives and very liberal liberals, and the battles between the two groups always makes for interesting copy.

PPQ: How has Out Front Colorado changed since it was first launched?

Kalley: It launched as a 20-page, black and white, monthly publication, compiled on a typewriter and produced with cut-and-paste layout methods, hand-drawn advertisements, and grainy photos. It is now more than three times the original length, with a color cover and color graphics on many pages, produced completely on computer.

PPQ: What are your thoughts on the shift to web media?

Kalley: Although I use the Internet to get news and information quickly, it's not practical for longer and more in-depth work. The problem is that many people today are satisfied with information bites – they don't feel a need for anything deeper. Advertisers prefer to support the "modern" — making it difficult for newspapers and magazines.

PPQ: What is the most surprising feedback you’ve ever received from a reader?

Kalley: That publishing an interview in interview format was a lazy man’s journalism.

PPQ: What do you find appealing about pieces in interview format?

Kalley: I love reading Q&As because I have access to the subject's exact words and thoughts, rather than one journalist's interpretation. Keeping the reader interested involves the art of the question.

PPQ: Explain “the art of the question.”

Kalley: The interviewer needs to ask, at the very least, one or two questions that are out of the ordinary, not what the reader — or even the interview subject — would expect.

PPQ: Do you consider yourself an activist journalist?

Kalley: As much as possible. I keep abreast of the latest legislative issues that will impact the community. I think that presenting GLBT-specific features, news, and politics is activism because we are informing the community of what is out there that will impact them. Being a GLBT newspaper in Colorado for over 30 years is activism.

PPQ: What would you say to someone to convince him or her to move to Colorado?

Kalley: We have a thriving GLBT community. Colorado ranks seventh in the country as far as increase in same-sex couples from 2000 to 2005, according to the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, with the number of identified same-sex couples increasing by 58 percent during that period. We are a beautiful state, full of activities and support systems for GLBT people.

PPQ: What work were you doing before joining Out Front Colorado?

Kalley: I was a social worker in child welfare for 18 years prior to leaving to become a full-time writer. I freelanced, and I wrote one book, “Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience” (Beacon Press, 2005).

PPQ: What are your thoughts on the gay community's attitude toward transgender people?

Kalley: The GLB community is becoming more accepting of trans people, but it's happening in increments. But for as much transphobia as there has been in the GLB community, there has been an equal amount of homophobia in the trans community.

PPQ: In what ways?

Kalley: While many in the GLB community have said, "Trans people are going to prevent us from getting equal rights if they join with us because they're too far outside the box," many trans people have said, "Gay and lesbian people are going to prevent us from getting equal rights if we join with them because they're too far outside the box."
 
PPQ: Any words of advice for other gay publications?

Kalley: Develop as many contacts as you possibly can, both locally and nationally, and on both sides of every issue. Even if anti-gay sources decline comment, you still have a name and they remember yours.


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Dallas Voice’s “Dreamgirl” update

In your piece about Daniel Kusner’s article on Jennifer Hudson and her response (“’Dreamgirl’ says she was dissed by Dallas paper,” January 2007), you wrote Ms. Hudson “even contacted The Advocate ... to clear up the matter.”

In fact, Ms. Hudson’s representative contacted me as we were putting the print edition of that issue to bed — the story on Ms. Hudson had appeared earlier on our website. The representative e-mailed me the exact same statement later published in The Advocate, and the statement was printed, word for word, in the same print issue of the Voice as Daniel’s story, and was on our website (www.DallasVoice.com) that same day.

Tammye Nash
Senior Editor
Dallas Voice


URGENT LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER: Free important survey needs your attention

Recently, Rivendell Media entered into a more formalized business relationship with Community Marketing, Inc. (CMI) for the specific purpose of helping our clients with surveys, focus groups, and relationship building - services that we ourselves cannot perform, but have many requests for - all with the purpose to help with national ad sales.

Additionally, I have known CMI President Tom Roth for years and have always wanted to work on larger "big picture" enterprises with someone who is as forward thinking in this market as I think Rivendell Media has been. Now I have such a project, and I want to bring it to your attention and encourage you to participate.

Community Marketing has been surveying the LGBT community since 1994 and is expanding to conduct surveys of individual publications for the purposes of promoting the LGBT market as a whole. Additionally, since this national survey will be funded by corporate sponsorships, it will require no outlay of cash on your part. You will simply need to send an announcement to your email list, and print a notice for readers to encourage participation - and results.

An objective, third-party survey profile of your readership will be a great tool for your publication and sales staff. But the survey can also be segmented demographically to give a picture of the market for corporate America, which Rivendell will use to gain more national ad sales.

ADDITIONALLY, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, most spirits companies belong to an organization called Discus, which is the voluntary governing body to regulate spirits advertising. Members of Discus, and most big spirits companies belong, must abide by Discus standards, and one is that these companies can only advertise in publications where at least 70 percent of their readers are over 21, and in 2007 this must be verified by an independent company. Community Marketing is an independent company that can qualify your readership. CMI understands the nuances of local gay media, so you will have the information you need to keep and gain additional spirits advertising. For this reason alone, I highly, highly recommend that you participate. Use the link to download all the information you need to do so. You should act quickly to be included.

Download information and registration form at www.CommunityMarketingInc.com/documents/CMI-MediaResearchAgmt07.pdf.

I promise that Community Marketing will make it as painless as possible, but rest assured EVERYONE needs and can use this information. Community Marketing will understand your special issues and concerns.

If you have questions, please feel free to call me, or contact Tom directly (contact information is on the download). For now, my advice is to just do it. This will move the market forward and be of use to you and all companies involved in the LGBT market.

Todd Evans
Rivendell – the Gay Media Company
908-232-2021 ext. 210


CORRECTION

A news story in last month’s issue of Press Pass Q (“An amicable split or something more?”) states that Fred Palmer, owner and publisher of Outword, did not respond to Press Pass Q’s request for a follow-up interview. Due to a miscommunication, Palmer never received Press Pass Q’s request for a follow-up interview. We regret the error and any confusion that may have resulted.


TRANSITIONS AND MILESTONES

(Editor’s note: Are there important changes going on at your publication? E-mail the information to editor@PressPassQ.com.)

JONATHON AUBRY has been promoted to Director, Corporate and Marketing Communications, at gay television network HERE! In his new position, Aubry, formerly the Manager of Corporate and Marketing Communications, will continue to report to STEPHEN MACIAS, the network’s Senior Vice President of Corporate and Marketing Communications.

COLIN DUGDALE, a third-year journalism student at Indiana University Bloomington, is the 2007 award recipient of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association’s Leroy F. Aarons Scholarship Award. The award was presented at Headlines & Headliners, NLGJA’s 12th Annual New York Benefit, held at ABC Times Square Studios on March 15. An Indiana native, Dugdale is a columnist and reporter for the university’s Indiana Daily Student who often writes about GLBT issues.

EDGE PUBLICATIONS announced the official launch of EDGEMIAMI.COM and EDGEFTLAUDERDALE.com, the media network's seventh and eighth online publications. Each portal delivers eight channels of information to its readers, including daily news, business, weather, entertainment, health, style, sports, and travel. Additional channels provide coverage of nightlife, shopping, lodging, dining, plus a local business directory and calendar of events. The sites join a family of online publications currently serving more than 600,000 readers in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Providence (R.I.), Provincetown (Mass.), and greater New England.

FRONTIERS MAGAZINE, Southern California's oldest gay magazine, is launching a series of audio walking tours on the gay and lesbian history of Los Angeles. With audio available online through the magazine's website or iTunes, readers will be able to download the tours onto their portable media devices and explore the history of gay life in downtown Los Angeles as well as the gay enclaves of Silver Lake and West Hollywood. Each audio tour will be accompanied in the magazine with a tear-out guide and map.

SHANI HECKMAN and SHANESTAR PRODUCTIONS have won the inaugural Tee A. Corinne Prize for Lesbian Media Artists from MOONFORCE MEDIA. The $1,000 grant will be used to support the production of a feature-length documentary video, “America’s Most Unwanted: Stories of Hope from Former Foster Kids.” In June 2005, Heckman finished her first short documentary, “Wrong Bathroom,” which is touring on the festival circuit. The Tee A. Corinne Prize was established in 2006 to honor Corinne, an artist with bold vision and a fierce dedication to encouraging and preserving lesbian art.

HERE!, the gay television network, along with HERE! INTERACTIVE MEDIA, announced the relaunch of GAY MONKEY magazine — a free national gay publication — as HERE! MAGAZINE. The first issue is now available in 30 major cities across the U.S. It will be published six times per year. In addition, the ad-supported magazine is scheduled to expand its reach by nearly doubling its circulation with the June/July issue. For more information, go to www.here-magazine.com.

MALINDA LO has been promoted to Managing Editor at AFTERELLEN.COM. KARMAN KREGLOE has been promoted to Senior Writer and Director of Special Projects. And SCRIBE GRRRL has joined as Senior Editor. The site was acquired by LOGO in June 2006.

ORANGE COUNTY & LONG BEACH BLADE, a monthly based in one of the most conservative counties in the U.S., celebrates its 15th anniversary with its April 2007 issue.

OUT IN AMERICA and the RAINBOW WEDDING NETWORK.COM have announced a new marketing alliance targeted to the same-sex wedding industry, joining forces through comprehensive online marketing strategies as well as print advertising and event promotion.

OUTRADIO AUSTRALIA, that country’s only Internet-exclusive radio network catering to the GLBT community, has announced its Founding Partners program. Under the program, gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses will be given the opportunity to advertise on the soon-to-be-launched OUTRADIO 2 station free of charge throughout 2007.

PRIDE RADIO, a new gay radio station serving Dallas/Ft. Worth, has been launched by CLEAR CHANNEL RADIO DALLAS. The station is locally programmed and will be music intensive featuring a blend of Top 40, dance, and gay anthems. The station targets the affluent, active 18-34-year-old community in the DFW area. The station can be heard at www.prideradiodfw.com and will be broadcast in high-definition on 106.1 FM's HD2 channel via the new HD Radio technology.

WE THE PEOPLE, Sonoma County, California's GLBT newspaper, has ceased publication. The free monthly was founded in 1988. Editor GARY CARNIVALE told the BAY AREA REPORTER that the nonprofit community-owned corporation that published the newspaper will now focus its attention on producing a website, GAYSONOMA.COM.

XM SATELLITE RADIO, which carries the weekly GLBT radio show “THE AGENDA WITH JOE SOLMONESE,” is now also streamed on XM’s online platform (xmro.xmradio.com). The show is hosted by Solmonese, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign. It will continue to be broadcast live on Monday nights, 6-8 p.m. ET on XM channel 200.


SEAN STRUB, founder and advisory editor of POZ magazine, is seeking stories about the life and work of BOB HATTOY, the longtime AIDS activist who passed away March 3. Those wishing to share their thoughts can contact Strub at Strubco@aol.com.

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 13 columns and features we distribute to gay and lesbian media: A Couple of Guys, Bitter Girl, Book Marks, Crossword Puzzles, Deep Inside Hollywood, Editorial Cartoons, Lesbian Notions, Now Playing, Out of Town, The OutField, Past Out, Q Scopes, and Sex Talk. For information about subscribing to Q Syndicate content, write to sales@qsyndicate.com or call 908-232-5974.

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 Media, P.O. Box 518, Westfield, NJ 07091-0518.


THE STAFF

Publisher: Todd Evans, todd@PressPassQ.com
Editor: Fred Kuhr, editor@PressPassQ.com
Consulting Editor: Paula Martinac, paula@PressPassQ.com
Associate Editor: Dave Brousseau, dave@QSyndicate.com
Contributing Writers: Derrik Chinn, Robert DeKoven, Tanya Gulliver, Liz Highleyman, Frank Pizzoli, JoSelle Vanderhooft


CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE

DERRIK CHINN is the former editor in chief of the Out in America Cities Network and a graduate of The Ohio State University with degrees in journalism and Japanese. He can be reached at derrikchinn@gmail.com.


CONTACT US

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