Whither NLGJA?

The leading professional organization for LGBT journalists is facing a crisis that threatens its very survival. In a changing media landscape and a tough economy, how does a small nonprofit live up to its mission and retain members?

BY Christopher Lisotta

December 20 2008 12:00 AM ET

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“Since
jobs in newsrooms are being cut, our members are going in
different directions,” Barre said, explaining that
whether they wanted to or not, many NLGJA stalwarts
have become part-time journalists, begun blogging,
shifted into PR jobs, or left the industry completely.

“Our
challenge now is, How do we serve swaths of
membership?” he said. “If we
don’t offer them anything, why do they stay?”

Barre is trying
to offer different kinds of options to a changing
membership. NLGJA has loosened its membership guidelines to
include part-timers, launched a career watch
newsletter, and instituted distance learning calls,
where a dozen or so members can talk part in a
phone-based seminar on different subjects. In terms of
revenue, NLGJA has debuted OutNewsWire, an opt-in news
distribution service that charges firms interested in
getting their message out to LGBT journalists.
“We’re not forcing it on our
members,” Barre said. “We’re looking at
other things like that, that don’t take as many
resources on the staff side.”

Alex Davidson,
the NLGJA chapter president for New York and New Jersey,
said if the organization wants to survive the transition, he
and other local leaders need to do more fund-raising
and membership retention. He’s also been
thinking about having a one-day regional conference.
“We can’t assume anymore people are
going to come to our events,” he said, adding
that NLGJA is more relevant now than ever. “If
you need a job, this is an organization you need to be
a member of.”

“Chapters
need to be more proactive, and I’m excited about
that,” he added. “It’s making
lemonade out of lemons, and that’s how we’re
looking at that.”

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