Interview with: Publisher Gricel M. Ocasio and Editor in Chief Nicole C. Lashomb, the publication’s co-founders
by Joe Siegel
Geographic coverage area: New England
Year founded: 2006, but the first print issue was published in February 2007
Staff size and breakdown (writers, editors, designers, etc.): The team is composed of an assistant editor, nine writers, four photographers, an advertising manager, and a website manager
Physical dimensions of publication: 10.75” x 12.125”
Average page count: 24
Key demographics: 35.9 percent are ages 18-24; 39.9 percent are 35-54; 24.2 percent are 55-plus. Sixty percent of our readers are male and 40 percent female. 77.3% are white/non-hispanic and 23.7% are people of color.
PPQ: What feature or features of The Rainbow Times have been the most popular with readers?
Publisher Gricel M. Ocasio: The feature stories that have been the most popular with our readers are those that pertain and expose social justice issues, particularly dealing with the intersectionality of our identities such as race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and so on. An example of a popular piece is the solitary confinement story in relation to how members of the LGBTQ community are treated while imprisoned. Another series that was well received was our “Beauty Beyond the Binary” two-part series, which explored transgender and non-binary identities and the courageous contention that beauty cannot be limited to binary identities and traditional, cisgender, heteronormative standards.
PPQ: Who came up with the name and what is the inspiration for it?
Editor in Chief Nicole C. Lashomb: Part of the mission of The Rainbow Times is to bridge the gaps of understanding and acceptance between the mainstream and LGBTQ community. The concept behind The Rainbow Times was to combine something traditional (the word “Times”) with something obviously representative of the LGBTQ community. Another angle we, Gricel and I, considered the idea of integrating the current times reflecting the LGBTQ community. We drafted the mission statement on a napkin at a local coffee shop in Amherst, Mass., in October 2006.
PPQ: What challenge has your publication had to overcome since its inception?
Lashomb:The publication’s first issue launched in February 2007. From its inception, we started to receive physical threats against us and our staff for publishing The Rainbow Times. That has continued throughout the last decade, unfortunately. However, those events did not and do not censor or deter us from the work we do.
PPQ: What challenge or challenges is The Rainbow Times facing now?
Ocasio: With journalism being an ever-evolving field, we are continually seeking graduates of journalism programs to write for the publication. That is not to say that there are no journalists out there, but that we are looking for LGBTQ and allied journalists who are willing to work for a gay publication. We have found people interested to write for us, but who are concerned about how writing for an LGBTQ publication could affect them professionally in the future.
PPQ: How has The Rainbow Times changed since it was first launched?
Lashomb: We changed our original traditional monthly newspaper layout to more of a tabloid newsmagazine feel. In addition, we first launched the publication in western Massachusetts and had intended it to stay there. However, in 2009 we expanded to Boston and eastern New England. By 2012, our headquarters were in Boston.
PPQ: What one change would you like to make?
Ocasio: I’d like to expand the Spanish-language section since the LatinX LGBTQ community is grossly underserved.
PPQ: What has been the biggest news story or stories The Rainbow Times has covered?
PPQ: Do you see yourself as an “activist journalist”? If so, in what way?
Ocasio: Yes, I do. As the publisher of The Rainbow Times, I oversee all of the coverage, including the angles of each story. As an objective publication, we pride ourselves on exposing the political, exclusive and discriminatory actions from those in power, while exalting the work of others who have made our community safer, more inclusive and who fight the good fight everyday.
Lashomb: Yes, I do. When I have the opportunity to write for The Rainbow Times, my stories are rarely focused on hard news. Instead, my passion is to give a voice to those who are often silenced. This includes covering controversial topics such as the LGBTQ immigrant community, Black Lives Matter, voter suppression, gender inequity and more.
PPQ:What’s the most surprising feedback you’ve received from a reader?
Ocasio: Someone came to me at one of the Pride parade celebrations and said that The Rainbow Times had saved her life. She told me the story of how she took the newspaper to her therapist’s office and how she discussed the transgender stories found within. She said that at a moment when there was practically nothing out there for her where she lived, she had The Rainbow Times and that it brought her sanity.
PPQ: What advice would you give to anyone who may want to launch their own GLBT publication?
Lashomb: Never forget the community that you serve. This includes all of the sub-cultures that exist within the LGBTQ community.
Ocasio: A degree in journalism and gaining experience working in the field, while you establish a deeper knowledge of all aspects of the business, are crucial to being able to run an operation of this type and to knowing how each one of one of the pieces fit together.