GLBT Press Continues to Grow

by Paul Harris

It all started by accident really...... A fellow freelance writer whom I got talking to at the annual National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Convention (NLGJA) one year asked if she could borrow the card index that I had created for my own use in selling my work to the gay press...As a result of that conversation I published The Queer Press Guide 2000 to be followed up in February of this year by the The Harris Guide 2001. Publishing the guides has been a real eye-opener into what is going on in the gay world out there... Firstly, to state the obvious, until I actually started to put the guide together I didn't realize quite how many different papers and magazines aimed at the GLBT population there are.... Everything from publications aimed at gay air travelers, those who pursue various sexual fetishes, black men, black women, disabled gays and lesbians, alternative families, older gays and lesbians, you name it! Particularly noteworthy has been the growth in the number of publications aimed at transgender people in the US.

And boy, do the GLBT publications come and go quickly I worked it out that once every seven days and 14 hours a new GLBT publication started in this country. Once ever ten days and 17 hours one went under!! With the exception of those papers and magazines catering to Computer and Internet users, the GLBT Press has been the fastest growing area of the print media in the last twenty-five years. Today every city of any size has its own publication, with many having more than one, with the resulting competition for advertising and readership. How things have changed. A couple of years ago I read Rough News Daring Views a collection of the writings of Jim Kepner, the grandfather of gay journalism, who used to edit ONE, an ancestor of today's Advocate. Up until 1958 he felt compelled to write using a pseudonym. The legal right to distribute the publication by mail even wound up as a case in front of the Supreme Court who ruled that we did indeed have the right to have such publications delivered in a plain wrapper to our door.

Some of the publications are extremely professional, get published every week or month with the highest standards of journalism and design, while others are put together by activists on the kitchen table -- when they can get around to it. Some are profitable, many are not...... The GLBT press ranges from publications that can count their readerships in the hundreds of thousands carrying glossy advertisements from mainstream household names, to small publications like the one in Texas that distributes a hundred copies an issue to our transgender brothers and sisters....

As exciting for me has been discovering what our colleagues overseas are doing. For some of them, they risk being closed down and imprisonment simply for running off a news sheet. In some countries where gay bars and clubs are few and far between and homosexuality is a crime, the courage that it takes to publish should not be underestimated. Not every country enjoys the relative freedom that we have where we can buy our publications on the newsstands in mainstream bookstores.

The GLBT press has helped the legions of businesses that cater to our needs to come into existence. These businesses were able to advertise directly to their market without having to engage in coding their message. Sadly there are rotten apples in every barrel -- both in terms of unscrupulous publishers who don't pay their contributors, or worse still steal articles off other websites, and advertisers who don't pay their bills. One small publication out of Bloomington, Illinois, The Prairie Flame, published in his spare time by Buff Carmichael and his partner almost went under last year because a handful of local businesses didn't pay their bills. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!!!!

It is obvious to me that not everyone who starts a gay publication should! Some would-be publishers act as if they wouldn't know what a business plan was if it got up and hit them over the head after doing a tap dance. While enthusiasm and activist zeal are extremely valuable commodities, without an accompanying viable business plan disaster tends to strike. Mike Bradbury was working for The Seattle Gay News, earlier this year when he realized that he could publish a paper better himself. And so was born the Seattle Gay Standard which is in direct competition with his former employer. So far things are going very well. Only time will tell whether he did his math right.

When the New York Blade News opened in New York a few years ago LGNY, the then only gay paper in the city, seemed to fear the worst going so far as to campaign against the new game in town. Last year I was in conversation with the LGNY's publisher, Troy Masters, when he acknowledged that the new competition had been good for the gay community in New York. The reality has been that editorial standards have risen and the advertising departments at the respective papers have had to deliver otherwise they would lose business to their competitor.

Overall the GLBT press is in a vibrant state. The growing numbers of people who are out and willing to pick up a paper or magazine in a public or semipublic place is ever growing. The number of businesses gay and straight willing to spend their advertising budgets in these publications continues to grow, while more and more journalists are prepared to self-identify themselves as gay or lesbian by being published by them.

Paul Harris Paul Harris, has been a freelance journalist for over twenty-five years. His work has been featured in such publications as The Advocate, Alternative Family Magazine, A&U, Au Courant, Baltimore Alternative, Bay Area Reporter, Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review, Lifetime2, Philadelphia Gay News, San Francisco Bay Times, Seattle Gay Times, the Windy City Times and many others.

He is the author of The Harris Guide 2001, a comprehensive directory of the world's GLBT press. The first edition of his GLBT market guide, titled The Queer Press Guide 2000 was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. He is also an award-winning playright whose plays have been performed across the United States.

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