by Joe Siegel
LGBTQ media across the country are struggling to meet the needs of their readers in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Many have cut back on entertainment and nightlife coverage and have asked staff members to work from home if possible.
Stay-at-home measures have also forced some outlets to innovate in how they reach readers. For one, Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, has launched a daily broadcast on Facebook Live to address the crisis.
“We in the LGBT community have had to deal with an epidemic before without any support from the government or society,” Segal wrote on March 24. “At that time, it was LGBT media that did the job of informing people and getting them to protect themselves. The difference now is that this health crisis is one that the entire nation is going through, and therefore people do not feel ashamed to talk about it. Through a crisis, we get stronger. Now is a time to talk and bond with your friends, family and co-workers. It’s also a time to be responsible. We’ll all get through this and life will continue, but before that happens, we have a job to do: keep our community informed.”
Sam Martino, editor in chief of Trenton-based Out in Jersey, along with publisher Peter Frycki, posted a message to subscribers on March 27.
“COVID-19 is a very serious threat. This is an extraordinary, fast-moving situation, and we appreciate your patience,” they wrote. “By far the hardest part of ‘social distancing’ is not being able to take part in the communal activities we as an LGBTQ community value most. We will have to postpone some laughter and good times as a community. Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones during this difficult time.”
Also on March 27, the Dallas Voice published a scathing critique of the way the Trump administration has been handling the pandemic.
“The federal government’s response to COVID-19 has been abysmal, in large part because we don’t have a real president,” wrote commentator D’Anne Witkowski. “We have Trump. And this reality show is way too real for him. If only he could shout, ‘You’re fired,’ at COVID-19.”
New York City’s Gay City News published a list of which health services were open or closed for the LGBTQ community.
“The coronavirus crisis has brought much of society to a screeching halt, but many organizations will continue to provide the essential services that are necessary for LGBTQ communities in New York City and the surrounding region,” wrote Matt Tracy on March 20.
The April issue of Iowa City’s Go Guide was to be devoted to covering the pandemic. “So many in the medical profession are swamped,” explained publisher Tim Nedoba. “I’m working with local and county public health officials to get out the most accurate information possible.”
Florida has seen a tremendous uptick in COVID-19 cases, which has had a huge impact on the coverage LGBTQ publications provide for readers.
Wilton Manors-based South Florida Gay News has slashed its entertainment, lifestyles, and features coverage as a result of events being cancelled.
“It’s definitely hurt our ad revenue and the longer this continues the more we will lose,” said associate publisher Jason Parsley. “We drastically cut our page count — last week 28 pages, this week 24. Normally we’re 40-60 (pages). We’ve eliminated our weekly events calendar and scaled back our non-local coverage in print. We used to also have many weekly photo galleries featuring local events. Obviously that’s all stopped as well.”
|South Florida Gay News
In a message to readers of Livonia, Mich.-based Between The Lines, co-publishers Jan Stevenson and Susan Horowitz assured readers that their coverage would continue.
“We remain committed to publishing and using all our resources — print and digital — to connect our community to the needs and resources available, and to provide some level of comfort through connectivity,” they wrote in the March 19 issue. “Fear can be paralyzing. Empathy, love, caring and support can and does mitigate some of that fear.”
The Dallas Voice offered some solace to their readers by running a column entitled, “Dealing with the trauma of quarantine.”
“I want everyone to come out of this ok, but I also want us to learn how to be our brothers’ keepers, too,” wrote contributing columnist Sandra Kelley. “Right now, despite the stress and the trauma, we have an opportunity to build the kind of world we want to live in. I know it is hard, sometimes, to see the bigger picture when what is right in front of you is so scary. But there is a bigger picture, and we have the chance to make it a better picture. Like the caterpillar coming out of its cocoon into a new world, we have the chance to emerge from the cocoon of COVID-19 quarantines into a new and better world, too.”