Pride: 5 LGBTQ+ news outlets to watch in 2021


By Elise CzjakowskiLMA Contributor 

As the country opens up after the pandemic, Pride Month celebrations are in full swing. LGBTQ+ publications across America are working to serve their audiences; creating and promoting their communities; and helping readers, viewers and listeners keep up with politics, current events, entertainment and other stories uniquely relevant to them. We spoke with five editors of LGBTQ+ publications across the U.S. about how they’re innovating on new products, connecting with audiences, and approaching revenue.

The Buckeye Flame in Ohio

The Buckeye Flame amplifies the voices of LGBTQ+ Ohioans to support community and civic empowerment through the creation of engaging content that chronicles our triumphs, struggles, and lived experiences. Ken Schneck is the editor. 

Schneck

What’s one product or innovation at The Buckeye Flame that you’re particularly proud of?

When we originally set out to compile a Pride Guide, we were hoping to maybe list 10 celebrations from across the state. Given the state of COVID-19 and the rash of antigay and anti-trans legislation being proposed by our state lawmakers, it was unclear whether even the big cities would be having Pride celebrations. Since we published the initial batch, the requests to be added to the schedule of events have been unceasingly pouring in. The Pride Guide currently showcases 37 events covering every nook and cranny of Ohio: big city car parades, small church picnics, marches for equality, and everything in between. It has been an honor to gather them all together in one place.

How do you connect with your audience? What makes your audience unique from that of other outlets, LGBTQ+ or otherwise?

As the only statewide LGBTQ+ news and views platform in Ohio, we are laser-focused at staying on-brand, which for us is “LGBTQ+ Ohio.” Stories only run in The Buckeye Flame that are at that LGBTQ+ Ohio intersection. In our state that currently offers zero statewide protections for LGBTQ+ Ohioans in housing, employment, and public accommodations, readers know that they can come to us to find the latest LGBTQ+ Ohio stories, whether they come to our site for our daily content, engage with us on social media, or subscribe to The Spark, our weekly digest.

Has your approach to revenue changed in the past few years, or is it changing now? If so, what’s been your greatest success?

The Buckeye Flame isn’t even a year old yet! We launched during the pandemic to fill a news desert at a time when LGBTQ+ Ohioans were being separated by (our second) pandemic and legislation designed to suppress both our voices as well as our lived experience. We very intentionally formed as a 501(c)(3) to make it clear that our readers are our publishers. We are still getting our solid revenue footing beneath us, and have not yet leaned into being a certified nonprofit and all of the fundraising approaches [that are] possible. So far our greatest success has been a tiny-but-mighty group of advertisers, but even there, we have the capacity to build on that enormously. In short: a long way to go!

Windy City Times in Chicago

Windy City Times has been a free newspaper serving the Chicago LGBTQ since 1985 and is the only Chicago gay media outlet with demographics audited by outside companies. Tracy Baim is the co-founder and co-owner. 

What’s one product or innovation at the Windy City Times that you’re particularly proud of? 

Tracy Baim

Baim

WCT has tried to stay current with technology, and was among the first gay outlets in the U.S. to go online, have a radio show and podcast, and adapt to an online-only environment. We have partnered with other non-gay media on various projects as well.

How do you connect with your audience? What makes your audience unique from that of other outlets, LGBTQ+ or otherwise?

We focus very specifically on LGBTQ+ issues in the Chicago area, and that makes our work unique from a news and culture standpoint. We cover bigger news nationally and internationally, but we primarily focus on the big stories of the Chicago area. We connect through our website, email and social media.

Has your approach to revenue changed in the past few years, or is it changing now? If so, what’s been your greatest success?

Yes, it has changed dramatically. We shut our regular print publication last fall; we now do four print issues a year as an insert in the Chicago Reader. Our primary revenue now comes from website and email ads, some social media, and grants and reader contributions. Prior to 2020, our primary revenue source was print advertising.

Philadelphia Gay News

Founded by Publisher Mark Segal in 1976, Philadelphia Gay News is one of the largest and oldest publications targeting the LGBTQ+ community. Its mission is to be a platform for the LGBTQ+ community to communicate with each other on various viewpoints, as well as to communicate with the mainstream community. Jason Villemez is the editor. 

What’s one product or innovation at the Philadelphia Gay News that you’re particularly proud of?

Villemez

Our “Family Portrait” series, which is interviews with members of the local LGBTQ+ community, has been going strong for 16 years now. Every week our readers get to learn not only about a new person, but also expand their idea of what the LGBTQ+ community is and the people who comprise it. It gives truth to the cliché “we are everywhere.” And we really are. We’re in every industry and every location. We have different views about life and love. We’re from all sorts of upbringings and experiences. And yet we’re also joined together in this shared community. It’s nice to see and be reminded of that every week.

How do you connect with your audience? What makes your audience unique from that of other outlets, LGBTQ+ or otherwise?

The PGN audience, which we appreciate so much after 45 years and counting, is as diverse as the LGBTQ community itself. We try to give them a diverse blend of stories relevant to them as LGBTQ people who either live in the area or have a connection to the area. We’ve always believed and stressed that education and visibility is power, so the more you know about your own community, the more powerful you are inside and outside of it. I think our readers truly understand that.

As far as reaching our audience, we try our best to be visible on social media and our website, but the one guarantee is that the paper will always be in those purple vending boxes on Friday morning. We still believe in the power of print media. It’s a different experience flipping through a newspaper and seeing the community on page after page. You learn more things than just clicking on the one or two articles online that you’re interested in.

Has your approach to revenue changed in the past few years, or is it changing now? If so, what’s been your greatest success?

The pandemic really forced us to branch out from our traditional print and digital advertising, and one success from that has been the two live-streamed events we did last October and this June. We had performers, community leaders, and other guests helping to create that feeling of celebration and pride. I think we’re still learning lessons from going all-virtual this past year and a half, but I’m hopeful they continue to complement what has worked for us in the past.

QnotesCarolinas.org in Charlotte, N.C.

The focus of Qnotes is to serve the LGBTQ+ and straight ally communities of the Charlotte region, North Carolina and beyond, by featuring arts, entertainment, news and views content in print and online that directly enlightens, informs and engages the readers about LGBTQ life and social justice issues. Chris Rudisill is the project manager. 

What’s one product or innovation at QNotes that you’re particularly proud of?

Rudisill

In December, we announced the evolution of Qnotes with the introduction of QnotesCarolinas.org, a new website that will launch later this year. As a winner of the Google GNI North American Innovation Challenge, QnotesCarolinas.org is creating a new online space for local news, the unique stories of the LGBTQ experience and a community-center-like space that celebrates and engages the LGBTQ+ community.

And Qnotes just launched a new project “Stories of Black LGBTQ Resilience and Economic Mobility” which seeks to connect responses to economic security and upward mobility to the lives and futures of Black LGBTQ+ people. It is also supported by the Solutions Journalism Network and focuses on empowering more BIPOC journalists in our region.

How do you connect with your audience? What makes your audience unique from that of other outlets, LGBTQ+ or otherwise?

Qnotes has been serving the LGBTQ+ community of North and South Carolina for over 35 years, and in that time has covered the AIDS crisis, hate-fueled politicians like Jesse Helms, employment discrimination, marriage equality, and cultural successes and challenges that continue to affect the lives of LGBTQ+ residents in the South. It started as a monthly newsletter, named Queen City Notes, and has often relied on volunteers or freelancers.

Our goal today is to always keep it local and we’re partnering with Free Press to engage the community in new ways through the QnotesCarolinas.org project. That will involve the creation of volunteer editorial committees, town halls, crowdsourcing information and content, community reporting workshops and something we’ve done for years, keeping close connections with community partners that are working at the center of LGBTQ+ issues.

Has your approach to revenue changed in the past few years, or is it changing now? If so, what’s been your greatest success?

Our approach to revenue has definitely changed in the past few years and is continuing to evolve. In the past few years, we have learned a lot more about grant opportunities and recently we launched the Carolinas LGBTQ Journalism Fund, a partnership with the Local Media Foundation.

Through philanthropic funding – both foundation and individual support – the Carolinas LGBTQ Journalism Fund will increase the reporting power of LGBTQ+ people in North and South Carolina, allowing the hiring and contracting of LGBTQ+ journalists focused on telling the stories of the community through solutions journalism, movement journalism, investigative journalism, multi-media production and more. It will allow us to continue educating and informing the public on the issues of vital importance to LGBTQ+ people.

Washington Blade in Washington D.C.

The Washington Blade was founded in 1969 as a black and white, one-sheet community newsletter distributed in D.C.-area bars. Readers locally and around the world have come to rely on the Blade’s unmatched coverage of LGBTQ+ news, earning the paper the moniker “the newspaper of record for the LGBT community.”  Kevin Naff is the editor and co-owner. 

What’s one product or innovation at Washington Blade that you’re particularly proud of?

Naff

Five years ago, a longstanding LGBTQ+ news outlet closed in Los Angeles and we felt strongly that a city of that size and importance deserved a serious newspaper addressing LGBTQ+ issues. We launched the Los Angeles Blade with top local talent and it was an immediate success. We’re proud of our commitment to quality journalism with a local L.A. and West Hollywood focus.

How do you connect with your audience? What makes your audience unique from that of other outlets, LGBTQ+ or otherwise?

We connect with our audience in myriad ways, from engaging them via social media to meeting them in-person at an array of events all year round. It’s important to interact face-to-face with your audience.

Has your approach to revenue changed in the past few years, or is it changing now? If so, what’s been your greatest success?

We have always worked hard to diversify our revenue streams, from digital products to a standalone creative services division, an events business, launch of a sister publication in Los Angeles, a non-profit entity, and new social media products like an Instagram TV program. The only constant is change, and we have fostered an entrepreneurial work environment that encourages employees to innovate and share ideas for new products and business ventures.