Tuesday, November 17, 2009

GLBT newspapers

I was disappointed but not surprised to learn that the Washington Blade and several other GLBT newspapers owned by Window Media ceased operating yesterday. Some employees arrived at work Mon morning to find the locks had been changed.

There are likely several causes:
1. The economic downturn over the last year has resulted in many business closings and advertising budgets slashed. There are literally fewer professional advertisers than there used to be.
2. The general shift from newspapers to online news sources means there are fewer newspaper readers than before. This holds true for large mainstream papers like the Washington Post and New York Times. More and more people prefer obtaining their news online.
3. Internet dating/hook-up sites have all but replaced the use of personal ads in print newspapers. Those looking for love or just a booty call prefer the immediacy of placing an online ad versus waiting for a print ad to be published.
4. Mainstream newspapers now cover GLBT issues/interests more than ever before, rendering GLBT-specific papers less important.

While I understand and agree for the most part with items 1-3, I take issue with #4. It may be true that mainstream papers cover more GLBT issues than before, that doesn't mean they cover all of them or that they do a good, fair, or unbiased job of reporting on these issues. An online gay news source I visit published a story about a gay teen who was burned and decapitated. I could not find this story in the Washington Post or New York Times.

Its hard enough to combat apathy when people are informed, but I fear that without these GLBT-specific newspapers our community will be even less informed, and therefore less involved.

I vividly remember being in my late 20s when the internet was just starting to become available to household consumers. AOL was basically the only provider and they charged by the hour! (Yes, dear young ones, its true.) As I hungered for information about the gay community, I poured over each weekly edition of the Washington Blade. I depended on it to inform and educate me. I read articles about gay issues and concerns that were written by gay people.

Our issues; for us, by us.

I think Village Voice writer Michael Musto summed it up perfectly: “This was the gay community writing about itself, and that’s a voice we should never lose.”

Now, I realize that some of the 'our issues; for us, by us' can still be found in gay blogs. Bob and others do a great job of making us aware of issues that concern the GLBT community.

But it is important to remember that bloggers are not held to the same standards as professional reporters. Bloggers can and do write opinions that may or may not be factual. Reporters who work for newspapers and TV news shows have to be able to back up their stories with facts. Reputable news sources employ people called fact checkers to verify the details of the stories they run.

Although I'm sure they have no ill-intent, most bloggers have day jobs and do not have the time or resources to validate everything they write. Most don't create original news content; they repost news content found elsewhere. So where will the gay bloggers go to research or validate their info, now that 1/2 a dozen gay newspapers have folded?

My hope is that some of the talented and dedicated gay reporters who used to work for the Washington Blade, South FL Blade, Southern Voice, and Houston Voice will find a way to continue writing professional, factual articles online.

I believe we need to hear about GLBT issues from GLBT people.

What do you think? Do you think GLBT have become so integrated into general society that our issues are sufficiently covered by mainstream news sources?

Crush du Jour: Lambert Wilson


Kyle said...

Mark, like you, I very much disagree with number four. Str8 press do not cover our news, at least not with any kind of consistency or depth. We already suffer from GLBT folk not being as informed as they should be, this is just going to make it worse.

cb said...

I don't view these closings as anything more than a heralding of the times changing. And not just for gay press, but ALL press. So many newspapers are in trouble and the only reason some of them are still afloat is because they are bigger.

But all newspaper/print media is in real trouble and I don't see that changing.

Bob said...

Hey mark, thanks for the shout-out.
I agree wholeheartedly that many of "our" stories are not covered by the mainstream press--the murder in Puerto Rico is a prime example.
We need to stand up and tell our stories, good, bad and indifferent, before we are just a news nonentity.

Larry Ohio said...

I haven't lived in a place with a gay newspaper in nearly 12 years, since I moved away from Cleveland. I miss having a news resource I can hold in my hand. These papers will definitely be missed.

Jeff said...

It's too bad these and other papers have gone under, but I do see it as a general trend affecting all print media... I'm fairly confident the Internet can and will pick up the slack.