The Once and Future Gay Periodical

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ASSESSING the state of the LGBT print media universe is like pinning Jell-O to a wall. Whether discussing local or national publications, the situation is changing at such an accelerated pace that no one can predict the future of these media outlets. Because of the dual spears of the economic downturn and the ascent of the Internet, this inability to forecast is true of both gay and mainstream print-based companies.

In researching my new book about gay media history, Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America, I focused primarily on weekly or biweekly U.S. regional newspapers, those print publications that use the traditional newsprint format. But I also summarize the history of gay media, including the rich diversity of magazines, digests, and ’zines, both local and national.

Most gay publications evolved over the course of their life-spans. Some that are weekly newspapers now, such as The Washington Blade, were once monthly or bimonthly newsletters. Some that are now national glossy magazines, such as The Advocate, were once regional newsletters or papers. Some weeklies went biweekly (Nightspots). Quite a few publications have changed their names over time. When printing and publishing technologies were more expensive, mimeograph was sometimes the only way to get the gay news out—so we wouldn’t call them “newspapers” by today’s standard, but they fulfilled that role. Of course, it’s also important to take into account what was in the pages of these publications, not just what kind of paper they were printed on.

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