Interview with Founding Editor and Publisher Frank Pizzoli
by Joe Siegel
Geographic coverage area: South central Pennsylvania – Dauphin County (home to state capital of Harrisburg), Cumberland County, Lancaster County and York County
Year founded: 2003
Staff size and breakdown: Editor/publisher, five volunteer freelance writers, art director, graphic designer, cartoonist, sales manager, and account executive
Physical dimensions of publication: 12” x 14”
Average page count: 28
PPQ: Who came up with the name and what is the inspiration for it?
Pizzoli: I came up with the name as a way to provide the region with a “central” way to have a “‘voice.”
PPQ: What challenge has your publication had to overcome since its inception?
Pizzoli: There are not enough LGBT-owned businesses in our region to support a gay newspaper and web site. Our challenge is to remind the LGBT community that most advertisers are not from our community. We are in this together.
PPQ: What challenge or challenges is The Central Voice facing now?
Pizzoli: Like all print media, we are balancing print revenue with online revenue.
PPQ: How has The Central Voice changed since it was first launched?
Pizzoli: We offer broader news coverage on all levels (local, state, national, international). We are part of every major LGBT benefit in the region in some community-service way. That’s our value, but also the value of our parent company, Press & Journal. Local non-profit organizations are offered space to write topical columns on issues relevant to their mission.
PPQ: What one change would you like to make?
Pizzoli: More paid writers.
PPQ: What has been the biggest news story or stories The Central Voice has covered?
Pizzoli: We often cover international and national stories with local and regional sourcing. For example, we interviewed Salman Rushdie for his local appearance. As Muslim/LGBT issues heat up, we’ve published the voice of local representatives. When club kid Michael Alig was out and about, we interviewed him. ABC.com picked up our marriage story when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of same-sex marriage.
PPQ: On the Kinsey Scale of 0-6 [exclusively straight to totally gay], how gay is your publication?
Pizzoli: We’re a Kinsey 6 in content, but we’ve also enjoyed readers and advertisers telling us that we’re classy, i.e. no porn images — which takes no imagination whatsoever now that the internet has it all uncovered. We also publish general interest stories, making the statement that we are more than our sexual orientation. We do not aspire to live up to our detractors’ worst expectations of our community.
PPQ: Do you see yourself as an “activist journalist”? If so, in what way?
Pizzoli: I’m a journalist first, then a gay man. The fact that we’re publishing an LGBT newspaper and website in what some call the “buckle on the Bible belt” is an activist effort. But we’re about journalism. Our writers, or their opinions, are not the story. Our personal beliefs belong on the op-ed page. Others may disagree. That’s what makes our first amendment right so valuable. We can disagree.
PPQ: What’s the most surprising feedback you’ve received from a reader?
Pizzoli: Over the years, I’ve liked hearing from readers that they keep a copy out when family is around.
PPQ: What advice would you give to anyone who may want to launch their own LGBT publication?
Pizzoli: Know your market, gay and straight. Business is business. Have a plan to start, watch it fall apart, and keep moving.