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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 6 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 36
The road to the Hall of Fame - Making the case for print media at the NLGJA
Section One
ALL STORIES
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The road to the Hall of Fame - Making the case for print media at the NLGJA

by Mark Segal - Philadelphia Gay News

What surprised me most at the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association annual convention in Boston last week was the widespread concern for the future of print media.

Granted, print is having a hard time at present - it doesn't know how to monetize its online material and newspaper circulations are on the decline. So, that led me, at the last minute, to completely change my acceptance speech for my induction into the NLGJA Hall of Fame.

First, to give some perspective to audience members who didn't know me, I detailed my activism background. Those of you who read this column regularly know that the timeline went: Stonewall, Gay Liberation Front New York, the founding of Gay Youth, disruptions of CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite & and then the founding of Philadelphia Gay News.

I first told of our early days, in which we put up with our vending boxes being bombed, vandals destroying our office, having only one IBM Selectric typewriter for all of us, and using press type for headlines. We even had The Thunderbolt, a white supremacist magazine, put us on their hit list. No journalism organizations allowed us to join.

Then, to give the NLGJA attendees cause for optimism, I explained that PGN now owns its own building and equipment, is current on all its bills and taxes, and employs a full-time staff of 14 with benefits. That is success in print media.

Then the important part - how did we become so strong? It's a simple formula, at least to me: a strong business department that generates the funds needed to hire award-winning journalists to put out not an 'LGBT newspaper,' but a high-quality journalistic newspaper that serves the LGBT community. It was easy to explain that. PGN is the most-awarded LGBT publication in the nation. Yes, I said that with some of the other publishers present.

VITAL COMPONENTS
Stories that readers can get only in your newspaper bring readers, so publications shouldn't be afraid of controversy and strong opinion pieces, and allowing those who disagree with you to do so in letters to the editor or in op-ed pieces. But the most important element is investigative reporting. Here I recalled Tim Cwiek's 10-year saga on the case of Nizah Morris, a Transgender woman who was found dead shortly after a chance encounter with police. The articles prompted a critical report by the city's Police Advisory Commission and rule changes at the Philadelphia Police Department. No other paper that I know of would put the resources into such a story for so long.

Hard news and features keep you relevant. We were out front on the Boy Scouts and the city's decade-long battle with that group began in our pages, while we also covered the dangers of 'pumping parties' and had a reporter spend a night on the streets with homeless Gay youth.

Media has changed and print must embrace and innovate. I explained that we have partnerships with Philly.com and Philadelphia Business Journal, the first such arrangement in the nation involving LGBT media. Our work with the Philadelphia Multi-Cultural News Network not only allows PGN to work with a full range of diverse publications but has helped more than 20 newspapers, making Philly a vibrant, diversified newspaper city.

I had much more I could have added, but my allotted time was running out. My desire was to bring new ideas and optimism, and I believe I succeeded.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation's most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at mark@epgn.com.

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