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Robin Tyler and ‘trickle down’ activism

Marching toward an empty building: "The only thing they're going to be putting pressure on is the grass," Rep. Barney Frank told The AP in 2009.

Yesterday evening I posted briefly about activist Robin Tyler’s desires to organize another national LGBT march on Washington, this time in 2012. I pointed to the five alternatives I suggested when activists in San Francisco called for a similar march in 2009, ultimately leading to the National Equality March in October of that year.

I have a few more thoughts to add…

Back in 2006 (0r sometime around then, I’m not entirely sure), Robin Tyler ramped up efforts to organize a national march in 2008. (On a side note: What’s up with organizing these things in huge election years?) I was recruited to start building support for the march in the Greensboro/Triad area of North Carolina. I started a little website, tried to get others involved in the planning processes, spoke to student groups and community members and… the idea went no where. No one I knew then was interested in helping to organize a national march when there was so much work to do on the ground in their schools, communities and in our own home state. The time, money and other resources spent on getting people to Washington, D.C., for a one-day, feel-good, accomplish-nothing rally was better spent organizing locally, lobbying locally and creating change locally.

It’s been nearly a year-and-a-half now since the 2009 National Equality March, and despite big promises of after-march action in all 435 congressional districts across the nation, march organizers (many of whom are now involved in GetEqual) have done nothing to move their mobilized hundreds of thousands toward that goal. Small GetEqual chapters have started up here and there, but nothing has come close to the master plan march organizers had in mind.

Similarly, no one so far has pointed out any single direct benefit gained from any of our community’s past national marches on Washington. I’m willing to listen and weigh the evidence, but as it stands I know of no victories, successes or changes that came as a direct result of encouraging thousands or even hundreds of thousands to blow hundreds or thousands of dollars in traveling for to the national mall for one day’s worth of chanting and holding signs.

Yet, according to the Washington Blade, Robin Tyler is pushing that same old, tired meme that bringing thousands to D.C. will somehow create massive waves of change across the country:

Tyler said the process of organizing a national march would trigger more activity in the states than what is currently taking place under the leadership of both state and national LGBT groups.

“[L]arge national marches on Washington, which take over a year to do on that scale, produce activists and activity from every state,” she said.

National marches do create activists and activity in every state, but the activity is focused on getting people to Washington and money raised for the event. Never in any significant way is the activity focused on creating change at home. This “trickle down” theory to activism is just as flawed as Reaganomics.

National marches on Washington are not effective. They are not effective at creating change in the Capitol. They are not effective at creating change in the states. They certainly aren’t effective at creating change in the thousands of small cities and towns scattered across our country.

If activists like Robin Tyler are truly interested in creating change in this nation, then they would seriously consider giving more support to equality initiatives focused on the state and local levels. Our movement has made significant progress at state and local levels and we stand to make more, if given the resources that is. If you want to have a national gathering, try going to a Creating Change conference. There you’ll at least learn something, meet new and valuable friends and allies and have the real resources to start doing the work of equality at home.

But if education and true motivation to create change is not want you’re really after, then go ahead and plan a national march on Washington. You’ll just spend a day walking and marching and chanting and holding signs. When you go home, you’ll feel really, really good. But you’ll have exactly the same amount of resources you left home with: zero.

(Photo credit: J. Morton Scott, via flickr.)

I’m reminded today of the children’s song:

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush.
Here we go round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning.

The Washington Blade reported Sunday that veteran activist Robin Tyler is ratcheting up her previous call for a national LGBT march on Washington, D.C., in 2012.

Anyone feeling a bit of deja vu?

I have nothing further to add to the discussion than what I’d already discussed as a response to 2009’s National Equality March. If you care, you can read those “Five Alternatives to the March on Washington” here…

Update: “Robin Tyler and ‘trickle down’ activism”

Wow. Everyone seems to be having a field day with this topic of print media vs. online media. Last week, the gay media world and blogosphere discussed the issue in-depth. That conversation continued into this week. On Monday, Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff responded to Michael Lavers’ original Village Voice piece, which caused all the uproar beginning last Tuesday. On Tuesday, Adam Bink was able to round up opinions from new media folks like John Aravosis, Bil Browning and others (including me). And, on Tuesday as well, ColorLinesKai Wright brought together three queer bloggers of color to discuss the future of LGBT media, Obama’s politics and the future of the community in general.

Wright, a former Washington Blade writer, spoke with Rod McCullom of Rod 2.0; Miriam Zoila Pérez, an editor at Feministing and the founder of Radical Doula; and Pam Spaulding of PamsHouseBlend.com.

Continue reading this post…

Last week’s debate over the current state and future of LGBT print media carries into this week, it seems.

Last Tuesday, gay journalist Michael Lavers wrote a piece, “Gay Print Media on the Wane,” for the Village Voice. I responded to that piece with my own thoughts last week, as did other journalists and bloggers. On Friday, I wrapped up a good portion of the week’s discussion at Bilerico.com.

Today, Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff publishes his own response, calling Lavers’ piece an “unfair attack” and claiming Lavers failed to include accurate information, fact check his work or include interviews with the subjects of his article.

Naff writes:

The recent Village Voice story, “Gay print media on the wane,” by Michael Lavers is riddled with factual errors and suffers from conflicts of interest and general amateurishness. Lavers and his editors clearly set out to write a self-serving story about the supposed demise of LGBT news outlets. And they didn’t let pesky facts get in the way of their hypothesis.

Lavers interviewed me for the story and it became clear from the outset that he had already decided what to write — he just needed a few supportive quotes to fill out the piece. Hence, nothing I said to him made it into the final story. He spends significant time writing about the Blade, Window Media and the Advocate, but no one from those entities is quoted or allowed to respond to Lavers’ irresponsible and baseless claims. Instead of talking to professionals working in LGBT media, Lavers quotes an anthropology professor whose qualifications and experience in niche media are never revealed.

Of Lavers’ conflict of interest — which is never disclosed in the story — Naff writes:

What’s more disturbing than the lack of basic fact checking (what an old-school concept!) is that Lavers fails to disclose his work for Edge Media Network, a company he describes as “fast becoming the new gay press establishment,” a grandiose claim he offers no evidence to support. He also conveniently omits the fact that one of Edge’s senior executives, William Kapfer, was an officer of Window Media, the Blade’s former parent company that is criticized in the story. It sounds like Kapfer, an Edge marketer, wrote the story for Lavers.

Read Naff’s full thoughts at WashingtonBlade.com.

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Is gay print media in its last throes?

Gay journo Michael Lavers, national news editor for Edge Media Network, took to discussing the state of LGBT print media in the Village Voice‘s annual “Queer Issue” this week.

His piece, titled “Gay Print Media on the Wane,” rehashes the demise of Window Media — once the nation’s largest LGBT newspaper company — and delves into the possible future of gay journalism.

In the story, Lavers writes that the rise of digital media has given traditional print media a run for its money. No doubt there. He also details some specific challenges to gay media and proclaims some new “kings of the forest” (he calls them the “new gay press establishment”) in the process.

Continue reading this post…

It has become one of my biggest pet peeves (and, I do have many) since beginning work at a “real world” day job. When people offer complaint, they should also offer a suggestion for improvement or a solution. Criticism is fine by me, but it should be constructive.

1979_marchVeteran activist Cleve Jones has called for a march on Washington. He says it’ll be different from what most people think of as a “march on Washington.” None of the big flashy staging. None of the celebrity and fanfare. None of the circuit parties.

“This is a march – a demonstration – not Lollapalooza,” Jones told the Washington Blade. “It’s not a national political convention. We are trying to unite around a single, all uniting, all encompassing goal of equality.”

For the record: I think a march on Washington, in this day and time, is a bad idea. Jones is planning his march for October. Veteran gay activist David Mixner has called for one in November. Marriage advocate Robin Tyler says hold off to 2010. Whatever the date, whatever the time, there are several reasons why a march remains a bad idea: the money isn’t there, the time to plan and organize isn’t there and, even if the time and money suddenly appeared, national marches don’t accomplish squat.

In the days since Jone’s call for a march has become public discussion, we’ve seen plenty of similar reasons not to plan the event. An L.A.-based LGBT journalist put together a list of five reasons not to march. An Indiana-based blogger put together a similar but more comprehensive list of 10. In a thread of 80 comments (and likely more by the time you read this), citizens of the LGBT blogosphere weighed in on the topic at Pam’s House Blend.

And while there have been ideas for better uses of time and energy, what we haven’t seen as much are constructive alternatives to the march: ideas to turn whatever passion there is for a national march into real, change-inspiring, on-the-ground, long-lasting action. My five suggestions aren’t anywhere near exhaustive, complete or perfect, but, at the least, it is a start.

Continue reading this post…

qnoteshomepageIt has been a year, this month, since my day job, Q-Notes newspaper, upgraded its website from a mis-matched collection of simple, static HTML pages to a fully automated content management system (CMS). In the year since, I’ve learned a lot about new media and how it complements and improves traditional news-media, including the gay news publishing business.

In Q-Notes‘ case, we chose to use WordPress as a CMS. Really, the “software” is a blogging platform. Its uses, though, are almost limitless. Tweak your site design/template and the way in which you post your information and it makes a great CMS for a small newspaper or magazine; student newspapers across the country, I hear, are using WordPress and other similar blogging platforms as CMS solutions.

The choice was easy for us. WordPress is an open source project. It is free to use and the worldwide community it has spawned provides plenty of technical support and information. It’s amazing, really, that so many people around the world would seem to have a vested interest in something like a blogging platform.

Our online news publishing process before our CMS was cumbersome, slow and horribly out-of-date and behind the times. Prior to our use of a CMS we’d have to wait two weeks before the website was updated. In the most urgent of cases, we’d call up our out-of-office web designer and have him add a small notation regarding a breaking event or news on the front page. WordPress immediately changed the way Q-Notes utilized online mechanisms to publish news. Updating breaking news stories or publishing recent headlines on a daily basis became a reality, improving our connection to readers and keeping our content fresh, exciting and new.

Continue reading this post…

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More NASDAQ doubt for PlanetOut?

According to a press release sent out today by PlanetOut, Inc., it looks as though the company continues to face a doubtful future that might include getting the boot from NASDAQ:

PlanetOut Inc. (Nasdaq: LGBT), a leading media and entertainment company exclusively focused on the gay and lesbian market, announced today that the audit report contained in its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2008, which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) on March 4, 2009, included an explanatory paragraph from PlanetOut’s independent registered public accounting firm expressing substantial doubt about PlanetOut’s ability to continue as a going concern due to its continuing net losses and accumulated deficit. Pursuant to Nasdaq Market Place Rule 4350(b)(1)(B), any company whose securities are listed on one of the Nasdaq stock exchanges that receives an audit opinion expressing doubt about the ability of the company to continue as a going concern, must make a public announcement through the news media disclosing the receipt of such an opinion.

As a result of recent operating losses, PlanetOut has carefully assessed its anticipated cash needs and adopted an operating plan to manage the costs of its capital expenditures and operating activities along with its revenues. As part of this plan, PlanetOut reduced its workforce by approximately 33% on January 16, 2009. [link mine] In addition, as previously announced, on January 8, 2009, PlanetOut entered into a merger agreement with Here Media Inc. and certain other parties, and this transaction is anticipated to be completed during the second quarter of 2009.

If the proposed business combination is not completed, PlanetOut has adopted an operating plan, including further cost reductions, to manage the costs of its capital expenditures and operating activities along with its revenues in order to meet its working capital needs for the next twelve months.

Back in August 2008, the gay media company announced that its placement on NASDAQ (LGBT) might face the chopping block. In January, the company agreed to a merger with Here Media, the same company that bought up PlanetOut’s print publications The Advocate, OUT and others.

PlanetOut isn’t the only gay media conglomerate facing tough times. In February, Gay City News reported that the majority share owner of Window Media (Washington Blade, Southern Voice, Genre etc.) was going into a receivership with the Small Business Adminstration.

There’s no doubt that the news publishing business, especially the LGBT news industry, is going to be facing some tough questions in the months and years to come. Small publications like the one I work for and large conglomerates like Window Media and all those in between will face cutbacks, shrinking page counts and stiffer competition from the online world. How will we survive? Do we even need to survive? Every one says the era of the print media is going, going … gone?

I don’t think the news-media industry will ever disappear. It’s all just a matter of how quickly print news fades away and how LGBT print news publications learn how to adapt. No one has the answers… I guess we’ll all keep waiting for some genius out there to come up with the next big innovation.

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More bad news for the gay media

windowmedia_logoWith Planetout and Gay.com possibly saved by its merger with Regent Media (who bought up The Advocate and Out some time ago), more bad news its the gay news-media industry.

Gay City News reports that the investment fund owning a majority share in Window Media (Washington Blade, Southern Voice, Genre) has been forced into receivership by the Small Business Administration:

The investment fund that owns the Washington Blade, the Southern Voice, Genre magazine, and other gay publications has been forced into receivership by the federal Small Business Administration (SBA), which will sell the fund’s assets and distribute the proceeds to investors.

“As a consequence of defendant’s continuing violation… SBA is entitled to the injunctive relief… including the appointment of SBA as receiver of [the Avalon Equity Fund],” the SBA wrote in an August 2008 court filing, which was only recently found by Gay City News.

Avalon, which owns a stake in the company that publishes the New York Blade and HX, was licensed by the SBA as a small business investment company (SBIC) in 2000. Through 2007, it borrowed just over $38 million from the federal agency to invest in gay media properties and a range of other ventures.

As part of its contract with the SBA, Avalon was required to have private money or assets in the fund from sources, such as individual investors, that had a value equal to half the amount it borrowed from the SBA or just over $19 million.

In 2007, the SBA wrote Avalon that it had a “condition of capital impairment” because the value of its private assets had fallen below the required level.

Read more of the story at Gay City News, including the closed lips of Window Media officials (I don’t blame them).

Rumor is several gay newspapers have folded over the past year, although I haven’t been able to get an accurate list of them. This isn’t even to mention the fact that I’ve never been able to find an accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive list of all gay newspapers in the U.S. to begin with.

Newspapers were already in a downward spiral before this economic mess. Here’s to hoping we can all hold on until things get better and finally find a way to survive in a new media world.

And according to one commenter on the Gay City News article, perhaps things aren’t all gloom and doom:

Having researched the SBA and its practices, I know that receivership means that the company has an opportunity to reorganize and preserve assets with an invested officer at the helm. I believe that is what is happening in this situation, and the doom and gloom piece seems to be a bit dramatic. All media companies are in essence in receivership and in search of one buyer to take over the entire portfolio. Why else would this group have put together so many of those titles you listed? The economy dictates, and no matter who is running the company, given today’s economy, it is obvious that the portfolio and all its entities will be business as usual for at least the next few years, when the market rebounds and can support a large network buy, such as this would require.