Interview with Editor Lou Weisberg
by Joe Siegel
Year founded: 2009
Staff size and breakdown:
President/CEO/Co-founder Leonard Sobczak
Publisher Steve Staloch
Editor-in-Chief Louis Weisberg/Co-founder
Managing Editor Lisa Neff/Co-founder
Copy Editor Stephen DeLeers
Editorial Assstant Wade Vonasek
Business Manager/Ad Coordinator Angela Wiegert
Administrative Assistant Danielle Kaboskey
Designers Maureen M. Kane, Eric VanEgeren
Distribution Manager Heather Shefbuch
Distribution assistant Robert Wright
Three sales reps
Eight delivery people
Average page count: 40
Print run: 29,000 bi-weekly
Press Pass Q: What feature or features of the Wisconsin Gazette have been the most popular with readers?
Editor Lou Weisberg: WiGWag, our tidbits of strange and bizarre news bits, plus our political coverage, editorials and opinion columns, environmental coverage, and our pet section
PPQ: Who came up with the name and what is the inspiration for it?
Weisberg: The CEO and three co-founders together came up with the name during several weeks of back-and-forth brainstorming. We wanted a name that implied statewide coverage and reflected old-fashion journalistic values. Besides, the name Gazette allows people to call us the Gayzette.
PPQ: What challenge has your publication had to overcome since its inception?
Weisberg: Many! Make that “challenges.” First, it was getting businesses to carry our paper. A number were put off that we’re gay and do so much LGBT coverage. Then we faced brutal competition from another alternative newspaper. When they went low, we went high (shout out to Michelle Obama) and focused on the quality and diversity of our content. As a result, we’ve won 24 Milwaukee Press Club Awards since 2010. We also won a first-place design award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. We’re very proud of our writers and designers!
PPQ: What challenge or challenges is the Wisconsin Gazette facing now?
Weisberg: The usual – sales. Anybody want to buy an ad?
PPQ: How has the Wisconsin Gazette changed since it was first launched?
Weisberg: We’ve evolved into a unique product that’s unlike any other that I’ve seen. When we began, we focused exclusively on LGBT news. Then 2010 happened, and the entire state went to the crazy right. We took a hard turn to political coverage and stories about the many things under attack in Wisconsin, such as the environment, reproductive freedom, racism, immigration rights and social justice. Also, our entertainment coverage has become very Wisconsin-focused. In the beginning, we focused more on national LGBT cultural stories. We’re exposing progressive special interest groups to each other’s issues and to LGBT issues.
PPQ: What one change would you like to make?
Weisberg: I wish we’d hired a seasoned publisher in the beginning, instead of winging it with me trying to steer the helm of everything.
PPQ: What has been the biggest news story or stories the Wisconsin Gazette has covered?
Weisberg: Our most widely distributed and extensively read story was about a gay server who was fired by an Applebee’s restaurant in northern Wisconsin because he was the victim of an anti-gay hate crime. Yes, you read that correctly. Second was a story marking the 20th anniversary of serial killer Jeffery Dahmer’s crime spree. Another big hit was the story about a tar-sands pipeline that runs underneath every major waterway in Wisconsin. And, of course, the syndicated interviews with Barbra Streisand and Cher that we ran got enormous attention online
PPQ: Do you see yourself as an “activist journalist”? If so, in what way?
Weisberg: Very much so. It shows in the stories we focus on and the way that we cover them. We exist to promote progressive values, fight corruption and strive for social justice. We don’t play the game of getting a quote from someone who’s in favor of conversion therapy when we cover the subject. If people who pick up the Gazette don’t already know our values, they learn them very fast just by looking at the headlines.
PPQ: What advice would you give to anyone who may want to launch their own LGBT publication
Weisberg: Start small and grow slowly. Keep your day job unless you have a reliable, committed and wealthy backer.
TRANSITIONS AND MILESTONES