Phil Reese

The problem with Gay Ink

Filed By Phil Reese | August 23, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Democratic Party, Democratic politicians, DNC, gay media, lgbt media, queer media, Regent Media, The Advocate, Windows Media

What do gays working for the DNC and gays writing and producing for con-gLay-morate Regent Media have in common?

gaymedia.jpgWell a lot more than you think.

Michael Musto, legendary Village Voice columnist and frequent commenter on VH1 I Love Whatever shows, laments the seeming death rattle coming over from Regent's Allyson Books as he awaits for the release date of his long... long... long... long awaited book.

Musto is getting the run-around about the non-publication of his book, and he's finally coming to grips with the truth--all of the optimism about moving ahead coming out of Regent media is horse-pucky. They may very well believe what they're saying, but that still doesn't make it so.

Believe me, I know how he feels. Over at the publication I write for, Out&About Illinois Magazine--the only central and southern Illinois gay publication--I've been waiting anxiously for four months for the next issue to go to print. I keep getting told its going to happen. Only to again see another month's first week pass by with no new issue.

I'm also their Champaign-Urbana delivery rep, and the only check I've thus far drawn from any of this activism and organizing has been the little one I get from that. My bank account has been missing that check since Spring.

Then again, I'm also the local advertising rep (and if you'd like to advertise to the rural downstate Illinois gays, drop me a line), and I've never been able to convince a single gay bar, single gay organization, single gay-friendly church or coffee shop or restaurant to fork up the cash to support the lone queer voice out here.

That's the problem.

We all know that the economy is a huge issue for LGBT media and other niche outfits. Publishers of magazines, newspapers, books and blogs need to be getting real with the community and saying, "Look, you're not paying for it, so we can't keep producing it. If you want a queer voice to be present in the marketplace of ideas, you need to support gay ink."

Instead what we get is smoke blown clear up our tushies in a constant, billowing, plume.

And much like the queers at the DNC, and all of the gays at organizations that work closely with the DNC, we buy it hook line and sinker.

What we need is some honest communication and conversation about what's happening. If the Democrats go down this November, and Republicans take over Congress, you can forget about ENDA, a DOMA repeal, Uniting American Families Act, or anything pro-gay. In fact, forget about anything progressive.

However, we're righteously angry as a community, and having a hard time supporting a party that doesn't seem to really support us. When we pass Hate Crimes without Blue Dog Dem support; when we pass an incomplete DADT repeal without Blue Dog Dem support, we have a serious problem.

LGBT activists are ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Folks are frustrated--they're confused, they feel cheated, they are cynical and rightfully so. All deadlines have come and gone several time with unfulfilled promises over and over. It all feels so empty. Like Michael Musto, we're still calling back to check on the status of what we've been promised, but now it just seems like a hollow habit.

Democrats need to have an honest conversation about the problems in their party. Republicans lie when they say they're the big tent party--the Democrats are really the big tent party. Perhaps that tent, however, doesn't fit the guest list. Everyone is told they're underneath, and yet all of us feel like we're still getting rained on. We've got a problem.

Before we lose our voice

Likewise, we need to have a serious conversation about our gay media. The internet is great and all, trust me. However, as an unpaid blogger sitting alone in his living room drinking coffee in his underwear, I don't have the resources and organization behind me to cover a big, complex story with the rigor it deserves. I need to go to my real job in a few hours. The rent doesn't pay itself.

If paid, professional journalism disappeared in our community, we'd be absolutely screwed. We're taken even more serious as a community because we have in the past had some quality print publications standing up right next to mainstream ones in Barnes and Nobles and Borders and Wal-Marts everywhere in America.

Do you remember your first exposure to The Advocate in a bookstore? I sure do. When that bookstore closed, I had to scramble to find another place to get another taste of what was out there. Sure a lot of that information is available online, but there's something official about putting it down and printing it out.

That honest conversation needs to begin with us. Are we fully supporting "gay ink"? Times might be tough, but if you're a gay business owner, and you're choosing to advertise in a mainstream publication, but not an LGBT specific publication, you're missing a major market. Admit it, we LGBT folks love to shop with our own. You're also setting yourself up for disaster.

What's going to happen to resources and organization in your local gay community when that resource shuts down? They're going to dissipate. They're going to get diluted. They're going to shut down. All the great things you take advantage from events at the LGBT community center to happy hour at the local leather bar are now all in jeopardy.

Then what happens when there's no real community, and--say--the city starts denying contracts to gay owned businesses because "This is a good, Christian community." Who is going to tell your story? Who is going to help organize press, attention and a backlash for that?

Paid professional gay media is our voice, and we're losing it--fast. Literally half the "Voice" publications went under last year with the demise of WindowsMedia.

But publishers, stop lying to us and telling us everything is ok. Maybe that's why we're not picking it up. We want truth from our publications, not fiction. Let's get real here. Let's talk about the economic climate and what the community can do to help keep the industry afloat until a turn-around.

You can't sugar-coat this bad news--just give it to us straight, the way you used to in better times.

UPDATE: Just moments ago, I got word from my publisher that the presses have been fired up again and the latest issue of Out&About Illinois Magazine will hit stands Wednesday. So, again, if you'd like to advertise after this ringing endorsement of print media, see above.


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>> However, as an unpaid blogger sitting alone in his living room drinking coffee in his underwear, I don't have the resources and organization behind me to cover a big, complex story with the rigor it deserves.

Having worked with a number of LGBT publications over the past thirty years, I have to ask: who gets paid these days? Everyone I know in gay media is a volunteer, and somehow the stories get written -- and written well.

And it's long past time to admit that the days of paper communications like newspapers and magazines are hopelessly numbered. If anything, that should be a boon to publishers of gay content, because their overhead just dropped by 75%: the offices become virtual, the product is virtual -- no need to deal with printers demanding payment because the only real production expense is to the guy putting the web site together... and chances are, he's a volunteer too.

Dont misunderstand: I think it's great when you get paid (and paid well) for doing something you enjoy. But everyone in media publishing is suffering these days, from long-established newspapers to book publishers. Everyone wants a sure thing, an easy bet to pay the ever-rising costs of creating something tangible like a magazine. And it's bleakly ironic that Musto gets yet another vacuously "entertaining" book out there when I can direct you to manuscripts from dozens of writers I know across the country who have far more talent and far more of a singular voice. But because they're not Musto, their work will never see print. They're not a name.

Hell, I have no illusions about ever seeing a collection of my cartoon in print from even a small-time press. It wont happen. So I'm looking at ereaders for both Kindle and iPad and preparing the work for that format. It's the future, bud. Best to be ready now while the field is still wide open.

Honesty seems to be in rare supply these days.

Let me quickly say I don't do this for the money. It's more of a service than anything else... *sighs*

I'll just second what Bil said and remind everyone that probably the majority of queer media they enjoy exists at least partly because of the good will and interest of the people producing it. As in, feel free to send me a check, folks!

I subscribe to (as in pay for) Out, the Advocate, The Gay & Lesbian Review. I depend on these publications for honest information, and I get it. Some things I just need to hold in my hand and turn the pages. Funny part of it is I'm a transwoman, largely rejected by the LGB community. Someone has to support this stuff.