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Was This Veteran Lesbian Journalist Tossed Aside for Millennial Writers?

Karen Ocamb

Karen Ocamb's former boss gave an interview saying she was too old to write for Frontiers. Now Frontiers is bankrupt and she's suing for discrimination, while helping start up the nation's newest queer newspaper.

Within the 38 pages of last week's inaugural issue of the Los Angeles Blade were interviews with Congressman Adam Schiff on his investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia and a firsthand account of the city's recent Human Rights Campaign gala, which attracted everyone from Katy Perry to Sen. Tim Kaine. The L.A. Blade -- an offshoot of the respected, news-focused Washington Blade -- also included a story that initially seemed more local and esoteric.

"Nevertheless, I persist: Why I'm suing Frontiers" was a firsthand account by the L.A. Blade's senior contributing writer, Karen Ocamb. In the short narrative, Ocamb -- a storied lesbian journalist who's covered local and national LGBT news for decades -- spoke plainly about being "laid off" last year as the news editor for Frontiers, Los Angeles's long-running queer newspaper. After nearly three decades of employment, Ocamb was shown the door amid a restructuring. The true nature of her termination became clearer, Ocamb says, when the CEO of Multimedia Platforms Worldwide, Frontiers' parent company, gave an interview the month after Ocamb was let go.

"Unfortunately, Karen fell where we realized we were moving toward a digital and millennial audience, and we wanted to give the generation of millennials a real shot at creating our content," Bobby Blair told PressPassQ. "Karen did an incredible job and is very much missed. We would like to use her services in the future from time to time, if she would like to."

With Multimedia Platforms now bankrupt and all its publications -- including Frontiers, New York's Next, and the Florida Agenda -- defunct, Ocamb initially considered just walking away. But after watching Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell try to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was objecting to Jeff Sessions's nomination as attorney general, Ocamb had an epiphany.

"But Elizabeth Warren persisted," Ocamb writes in her Blade op-ed. "She stepped outside the Senate chamber and kept reading the [Coretta Scott] King letter in the dim light of 'Facebook live.' Silence=Death, I remembered. Why should I die inside to avoid being called a 'nasty woman' by the bosses at Frontiers?"

Ocamb filed an age and gender discrimination lawsuit against Multimedia Platforms Worldwide March 21.

As successful and respected as she is, the 67-year-old Ocamb knows she's lucky to have landed on her feet after having, allegedly, been replaced by younger employees (attempts to reach Multimedia Platforms Worldwide for comment were unsuccessful; a woman who answered the phone at a number listed on its website claimed this was a different holding company that had nothing to do with MPW). Even though Ocamb has a deep digital footprint -- she's been blogging for over 10 years and launched her own blog, LGBT POV -- there's often an uphill battle for veteran employees in youth-driven, image-obsessed fields.

"I came out of mainstream broadcast journalism and shared several ideas for producing unique news webcasting," Ocamb told LGBTQ Nation last year, in an article that included a statement from MPW denying bias. "So I do not think one's age automatically renders someone digitally incompetent."

With many Americans working well into their 60s and 70s, claims of age-related bias appear to be on the increase; there were more than 21,000 age discrimination complaints filed at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2015. Proving age bias is not easy, according to The New York Times, which points out that a 2009 Supreme Court ruling made the standard for proving discrimination even more difficult to meet.

Ocamb does at least have the possibly damning words of her former boss to help her case. She also has the benefit of a new endeavor to lift her spirits.

"Los Angeles Blade publisher Troy Masters and I are very excited to be working as a sister publication with Kevin Naff and his team at the highly regarded Washington Blade," Ocamb tells The Advocate. "We hope to bring to the L.A. LGBT community the steady, solid reporting people want and deserve, especially in these volatile times."

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