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Why LGBTQ Journalists Are More Important Than Ever Now

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There’s this great scene in The Paper, a 1994 film about 24 hours in the life of the hardworking reporters and editors at a financially strapped New York City tabloid newspaper.

The newroom’s top boss, Robert Duvall, tells a story of running up a huge restaurant tab he couldn’t afford with friends as a young man and then being unexpectedly rescued by Pablo Picasso.

When his number two in command, played by Glenn Close, asks him for his point, Duvall tells her, “Well, the people we cover, we move in their world, but it is their world. You can’t live like them, Alicia. You’ll never keep up. Now, if you try and make this job about the money, you’ll be nothing but miserable, ’cause we don’t get the money—never have, never will.”

In my career in mainstream and LGBTQ media (most of it in the latter) I’ve been on numerous TV and movie sets, sat in hot tubs with famous actors, lunched with top musicians, flown to high-roller suites on private jets, snorkeled in nearly every country in the Caribbean, jammed backstage with my favorite bands, and much, much more.

Every time I’m being treated like a VIP, I remind myself, as Duvall did, that we cover their world, but it is not our world. Driving a Maserati for a week on loan? Yes. Owning a Maserati? No.

After a certain point, I began sharing a version of this story with others, especially LGBTQ-identified journalists working in LGBTQ media, because so often our work has been both critical to the livelihood of our community and also ghettoized for being so. What has really been a nexus of collective and individual movements (gay liberation, the women’s movement, the civil rights movment, gender revolution, and more) would not have come together had The Advocate not been there to report on what was happening, as well as signal boost and rally people from across the country.

I’ve spent the last few years running this magazine, listening to every criticism and compliment, trying to hit the right tone as we move into unprecendented times. I’ve told everyone who came up under me the same things I tell journalists coming out of college (or high school—you don’t need a degree) now: (1) It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. (2) It’s their world, we just cover it. You can’t forget that.

It’s pretty clear that I’m not an influencer. I’m just a working journalist who got lucky to meet the right people when I did, to be able to slog through college while working full time in media (hello, student loans!), and to work my ass off for both the people who read my magazines (and the newspapers and books, and watched the TV shows I’ve helped create) and for the people who worked beside me.

That’s why I’m especially proud to be moving up here at The Advocate and the company that owns it. I’ve been named CEO of Pride Media, which means I’ll be running a company with 35 employees who are tirelessly dedicated to covering LGBTQ lives. I’ll still be editorial director of The Advocate (as well as our other brands: Out magazine, Plus magazine, Out Traveler, and Pride.com).

But I’m promoting two of The Advocate’s industrious employees to be the new editors in chief of The Advocate brand. David Artavia, a Latinx gay millennial who has most recently served as managing editor, began working with me at The Advocate as an intern many years ago. Since then, he’s become an award-winning journalist whose reporting has been instrumental in igniting dialogue about discrimination, sexual assault, corruption, and access to health care among LGBTQ and HIV-impacted people. Last fall, Artavia was named one of Folio magazine’s 2019 Rising Stars.

Tracy E. Gilchrist, an LGBTQ media veteran who I first worked with as a freelance writer almost 15 years ago, was The Advocate’s first feminism editor. She’s been working primarily on the digital team while focusing on the intersections of LGBTQ equality and pop culture. In her off time, Gilchrist (above left) is team captain of the award-winning HIV fundraising team Pretty Little Riders for AIDS/LifeCycle.

A Gen-X storyteller, Gilchrist told me something that made me want her in this role: “The Advocate is a virtual queer space, its existence as a destination for queer people is as important as our Pride festivals, community centers, and remaining clubs and bars.”

I wholeheartedly agree. I hope you do too.

Tags: Exclusives, LGBT

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