Saturday, October 31, 2009

Death of Another Gay Magazine: The Advocate

Gay news-and-features magazine The Advocate will be folding, transforming into a 32-page insert in sister publication Out. That's the word from Queerty, which adds that the move follows "massive" layoffs at the title. "Some freelance and contract writers and photogs, meanwhile, have gone unpaid for months; some have threatened to stop working entirely until their balances are paid," reports Queerty.
Youch. I once briefly worked at a small magazine publisher that had been unable to pay some of its freelancers for about nine months. My short tenure there -- I jumped ship to a stable company after just two months -- was made sad by the constant hectoring from writers with very legitimate complaints about payments. Some of them needed it for rent or mortgage payments, and the poor accounts payable staffer had the unenviable job of fielding these requests/pleas/threats and paying the most urgent of them.

That company limped along for another couple years before it finally sold its assets. But it sounds like The Advocate's life will be shorter. (Owner Regent/Here Media already shuttered two of its gay porn titles, Men and Freshmen.)

Journalist and blogger (and he knows the difference) Matthew Rettenmund shares some thoughts on the loss of this long-lasting magazine and what it means to the gay community: "The Advocate has been around for 40 years chronicling gay news, following politics, tracing fads, providing a means by which stars (gay and straight) could directly reach a captive LGBT (not just G and not just L) audience. The death of The Advocate feels like a symptom of the admittedly slow death of 'gay' as an identity."

Frankly, I don't know if I'll miss The Advocate. It was only an occasional buy for me. I'm of the generation that did not go through Stonewall and that was still ignorant of my own homosexuality during the height (depths?) of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Nonetheless, I can still appreciate those who came before me and took on much bigger anti-gay boogeymen than I have had to face. But my intellectual response has always been to reject the magazine's simplistic attachment to outdated gay politics of the 1970s.

That said, Rettenmund is correct: The surviving media -- straight and gay alike -- is not prepared to cover gay topics well, and are unlikely to being to do so just because The Advocate has died. A new magazine is needed, but I'll be darned if I know what it is.

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