Interview with Publisher and Editorial Director John Long
by Joe Siegel
Geographic coverage area: Greater Kansas City and select cities in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Iowa and Illinois
Staff size and breakdown: (writers, editors, designers, etc.)
Independent contractors for the positions of editor, graphic designer and distribution, plus 12-14 volunteer writers
PPQ: Who came up with the name and what was the inspiration for it?
Publisher and Editorial Director John Long: My former founding partner, Jim Gabel, and I came up with the name. At first, we actually had thought about opening a gay bar by that name, which by the way has happened in St. Paul. But we decided that with my background in publishing and his background in graphic design, we’d be much better at publishing than owning a bar. When establishing our trademark, I was actually surprised that no one else had an LGBTQ magazine by this name. In fact, we took a national trademark on the name, thinking that at one point we might have regional editions of Camp in other cities. We came up with the name “Camp” to define what the dictionary refers to as “a community of people with similar ideals” — such as the Hillary Clinton Camp, the Michael Jackson Camp — and also the theatrical or outrageous definition of camp, which is so well known in the LGBTQ community.
PPQ: What challenge has your publication had to overcome since its inception?
Long: As with any independently owned publication, financing has been a constant challenge. We have no outside investors and are totally supported by advertising revenue.
PPQ: What challenge or challenges is Camp facing now?
Long: We are looking to change from a newsprint format to a glossy magazine paper format. And we have more to do with a digital edition and improved website.
PPQ: How has the magazine changed since it was first launched?
Long: Physically it was originally a large tabloid. We changed to a smaller magazine trim size, originally only for the June 2012 Pride issue. However, the smaller size was immediately so popular in comments we received from our readers and distribution sites that we just stayed with the smaller format from that point forward. We also relied more on syndicated material originally and that was changed to feature more local writers.
PPQ: What one change would you like to make?
Long: Printing on glossy magazine stock, and that will happen.
PPQ: What has been the biggest news story or stories Camp has covered?
Long: We featured our then female mayor, Kay Barnes, on the Gay Pride issue cover. Our creative team dressed her up as a 1950s styled housewife holding a rainbow cake. It was very Campy! The headline was “Serving the Community with Pride.” We got all kinds of mainstream press from that. Other news stories have been our annual AIDS Walk issue with poignant stories about people living with HIV/AIDS or people working in community organizations that serve the community. Most recently, we rallied on our press deadline weekend to do a cover story on the “March For Our Lives” march in Kansas City.
PPQ: Do you see yourself as an “activist journalist”? If so, in what way?
Long: I think so. I first got involved with some activism when living in San Francisco during the height of the AIDS epidemic back in the 1980s. I would also ride my bicycle in their local AIDS rides. After moving to Kansas City in 1998, my partner and I formed a fundraising bicycle ride called PrideRide modelled after those 20-mile bike rides and we raised money for groups supporting the LGBTQ community. We did that for five years before starting Camp.
PPQ: What’s the most surprising feedback you’ve received from a reader?
Long: A few years after we began, I received an irate letter from a reader who thought we had too many drag queens on our covers and that “maybe it was because my boyfriend was a drag queen.” Well that was not true for one because my partner never did drag. And secondly, this person was mistaking gender-bending actors in a local theater group called “Late Night Theater” for drag queens. I wrote to him and told him the actual number of covers with drag queens and we were quite proud to feature them. Another surprise I have received over the years is when I received letters from incarcerated gay people asking if I could mail Camp to their prisons.
PPQ: What advice would you give to anyone who may want to launch their own GLBT publication?
Long: Run! No, in actuality, do it because you love your community, but also make sure you have a solid business knowledge of publishing. Camp is the longest-running LGBTQ magazine in Kansas City. We have outlasted all others who rarely survive more than three or four years. I credit that to having a background in publishing. My mantra for success is to do what the community wants and needs, not what I want and need. Publishing is not ego driven.