Holiday issues to be affected by coronavirus issue

by Joe Siegel

With many states in various forms of shutdown due to the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, such closings continue to have an impact on community media. The reliance on arts and culture news have placed these publications in a precarious situation due to the shuttering of performing arts venues and nightclubs which cater to the LGBTQ community. And the situation is not likely to change until large amounts of the vaccine are distributed in 2021.

“Since the COVID shutdown in April, arts coverage has concentrated on events that moved online, as well as the usual reviews of books, movies, and music that can be enjoyed alone,” said Michael Yamashita, publisher of the Bay Area Reporter in San Francisco. “This will continue until businesses and venues are able to reopen. The last-minute cancelation of limited reopening for indoor activities has caused clients like museums, restaurants, and performing companies to postpone their return to advertising. At least they haven’t canceled, but we’ll have to limp along until infection levels decline or the vaccine arrives.”

In Washington, D.C., arts venues have “creatively adapted to the restrictions and announced virtual holiday shows, which we’ve previewed,” said Washington Blade Editor Kevin Naff. “There are lots of film and streaming TV projects with queer content that we write about weekly. In addition, we have been profiling small business owners in D.C. and written about the creative ways they are staying relevant and afloat. So, no shortage of arts news to write about.”

Washington Blade cover

As for the Blade’s annual Year In Review issue, “We are in the planning stages,” and it will be published on January 1, 2021, Naff added. “COVID will certainly play a major role in our story selection.”

Advertising from local bars may continue to be a concern as D.C. gay bars are “struggling to stay open in pandemic,” according to a recent Blade headline. The article focuses on how bars are affected by Mayor Muriel Bowser’s most recent order requiring bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol after 10 p.m. According to the Blade’s reporting, the order “has had a devastating impact on what had already been a major decline in business since the COVID restrictions were put in place earlier this year.”

In Seattle, COVID closures are “significantly continuing” to impact arts and entertainment coverage, said Seattle Gay News (SGN) Publisher Angela Cragin. “We are seeing many alternatives to in-person events, being done virtually, but sadly, it just does not equate to the pre-COVID level of activity. In conjunction with these lack of events, our distribution has been affected due to restaurant, bar and library closures.”

SGN has had to get “creative with our resources,” Cragin continued. “We produced a Holiday Shopping Guide prior to Black Friday. This was an alternative to the standard December Arts & Entertainment issue that we usually publish. It gave our advertisers an opportunity to highlight a special product [or] service and promote the holiday spirit regardless of our circumstances.”

As for the Los Angeles Blade, “We made it through this and are down in revenue but not catastrophically so,” said Editor Troy Masters. “I’ve been very inventive in sales and will remain so. I created a [space on] the flag page for our local non-profits that their logo appears on with a message each week, and that includes sponsorship of online panels we try to do. The non-profits or sponsors get one ad during the month, in addition.”

As far as arts coverage in Los Angeles, “Much of what we have reviewed locally has been of virtual events, so that will continue until events are allowed to happen again,” Masters said. “There has been none since May. I am optimistic about the vaccine but under no illusions that it will mean an instant restoring of life as it was or an instant successful defeat of the virus. It will be a long time before the COVID fog lifts and we have to fight our way out of a recession, perhaps worse. It will still be the story of our century.”

A similar story is told in Philadelphia. “Like all media, including all LGBTQ media, we are down in advertising,” said Mark Segal, editor of Philadelphia Gay News. “Our local mainstream daily, The Philadelphia Inquirer, on some days has five or 10 ads. With advertising funds at a smaller rate, we print fewer pages, and that impacts all editorial departments.” 

PGN writer Jason Villemez, added, “The pandemic won’t change our Year In Review coverage because LGBTQ people continued to make news despite the health restrictions in place. We will do the exact same Year In Review coverage we do every year, including our Person of the Year.”

Volume 22

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December 15, 2020