Monday, February 16, 2009
by Wayne Besen
In one of the most important articles of the year, Walter Isaacson wrote in Time Magazine
about the shredding of the newspaper business. With free content available online, people are dropping daily subscriptions and newsstand sales are declining. The only way for newspapers to remain profitable is through advertising revenue in the print and online editions.
The problem with this business model, however, is that it leaves newsrooms beholden to advertising interests instead of readers. And, if the economy goes into a tailspin, precipitous drops in advertising can quickly lead to ruin. Isaacson says the way to save the news business is to move to a paradigm where newspapers go completely digital and readers pay directly for online content. For example, a web surfer who wants to read an individual story online can pay a nickel -- or pay a larger fee for a weekly e-subscription.
The main obstacle is creating technology that makes reading e-news as pleasurable as the newspaper experience. Within a few years, however, new technology will make this possible, with several products scheduled to hit the market.
If mainstream newspapers are having a difficult time, it should be no surprise that gay and lesbian publications are disappearing faster than a rabbit at a magic show. There is a long list of venerable GLBT publications that have recently vanished.
Earlier this month, Gay City News reported
, "the investment fund that owns the Washington Blade, the Southern Voice, Genre magazine, and other gay publications has been forced into receivership by the federal Small Business Administration (SBA), which will sell the fund's assets and distribute the proceeds to investors."
When the technology reaches fruition, the GLBT media should embrace Isaacson's model. The gay community's top reporters do a superior job covering the news and offer in-depth analysis that can't be duplicated. I am willing to bet that people will pay for such content.
The question is, will the publications themselves actually survive or will the GLBT media become a collection of enterprising freelance reporters who sell by the story? While most items would not bring a large bounty -- there would likely be a couple of breaking stories that would pay the bills. For example, a blockbuster story with 250,000 downloads at a nickel per purchase would yield $25,000.
Of course, new technology would also have to make it more difficult to cut and paste more than one paragraph per story. And, much like cameras that take pictures of those that run red lights, an electronic surveillance system that imposed small penalties -- perhaps a dollar per infraction - would have to be developed. There would always be ways to get around the system. But, one would hope that enough people would have the decency to pay for good reporting to make it work.
GLBT bloggers should also welcome changes where they would actually get paid for their labor. It is disgraceful that some of our leading lights are posting during lunch breaks at their day jobs. Given their influence and size of their audiences, it is absurd that they have not reaped enough wealth to blog full-time.
Fans may balk, but they must realize they are also getting shortchanged. Imagine how much better most blogs would be if the writers had another 8-10 hours a day to conduct research? The products would be infinitely superior and be of greater value. Ultimately, the axiom, "you get what you pay for" rings true.
People must also realize that the status quo will soon lead to burnout among the best bloggers. Without a financial incentive commensurate with their work, don't be surprised when your favorite bloggers choose relationships over readership. If you don't pay, many will fade away -- which would be a great loss to the GLBT community.
In order for this business model to work, the leading bloggers, gossip sites and journalists will have to create a new type of union -- where they jump off the cliff all at once. There would also be an initial loss of readers, but who cares? The writer would still make more money by retaining a subset of paying readers. And, many of the dissenters would come back when they realized the true value of a product they once viewed as their birthright.
On a similar note, the continued improvement of E-book technology may save the GLBT publishing industry. On March 29, the legendary Oscar Wilde bookstore
will close in Greenwich Village, citing economic trouble. This follows the demise of the famed bookstore Crossroads Market
With few venues to sell books and fewer publishers, it is a tough time for gay authors. While the major retailers have GLBT sections, rarely do these books receive prime shelf space. E-books may be a way to cut out the middleman, save on printing costs and let gay authors sell directly to the reading public. Best of all, no more hand cramps from book signings!
The article in Time Magazine showed that the very concept of a magazine was a relic beyond its time. In the end, the tumultuous changes forced by the recession may be
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
by Wayne Besen
It would be wrong to say that the majority of Republicans are racist. But, it is fair to say that racists have comfortably nested in the GOP for quite some time. Since President Richard Nixon employed his infamous "Southern Strategy," bigots, xenophobes and homophobes have been sought after Republican constituencies.
Beginning in the late 1960's and extending through the present day, the GOP reframed its racism, branding itself "conservative." A word that once stood for small government came to stand for small minds that voted in large numbers. This new political deformity hid its hatred behind calls for "states rights" and "personal responsibility." (To be fair, in the early days, many Democrats were also segregationists)
Notorious Republican dirty tricks artist, the late Lee Atwater, explained the party's tactics.
"You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger," said Atwater. "By 1968 you can't say 'nigger' -- that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites."In a stunning repudiation of its recent history, the Republican Party elected Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele, who is African American, as its chairman. He defeated a repugnant, nose-holding cluster of clowns, including Katon Dawson, head of the South Carolina GOP, who had recently quit his membership in an all-white country club, and Chip Saltsman, the Tennessee party leader who handed out a Christmas CD that featured the song, "Barack the Magic Negro."
Sure, it took more than five hours and six ballots for Steele to win. The outcome shows, however, that many GOP leaders understand that the party must change or face continued failure at the ballot box. Of course, Steele's ascension does raise serious questions: Will white supremacists continue to support a party that is led by a black man? If they do exit the party, will a new, reformed GOP be able to attract enough new voters to replace them?
To answer the first question, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke sent out a press release headlined, "To Hell with the Republican Party," and said that, "GOP traitors appoint Obama Junior as Chairman of the Republican Party."
Steele tried to answer the second question by saying, "We're going to bring this party to every corner, every boardroom, every neighborhood, every community."
Every community? Does this mean we should expect to see official GOP booths at Gay Pride?
The Stonewall Democrats don't seem to think so. The group stressed that as Lt. Governor, "Steele made himself a public advocate for the Alliance for Marriage, a radical anti-marriage group which initiated efforts to pass a federal constitutional amendment to bar same-sex couples the freedom to marry." In 2005, Steele also "headlined a "'Defend Marriage Rally.'"
While this is not encouraging, it is clear that in its selection of Steele, the GOP was not simply looking to replace racism with homophobia by selecting the most anti-gay black candidate they could find. If that were the case, they could have chosen former Ohio Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, who once compared gay people to "arsonists and kleptomaniacs."
So, it is clear that the GOP chose to embark upon a strategy to win back mainstream voters and Independents, rather than simply pander to the Bible thumping base.
The big question the mainstream media is afraid to ask is: Will Steele's election sour the Party's relationship with the Religious Right?
While most social conservatives are not racist, it would be naive to deny a connection exists. Indeed, a map of GOP strongholds is essentially a map of the old confederacy - which happens to be called "The Bible Belt."
In 2001, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins addressed the Council of Conservative Citizens, which was formed as the successor organization to the White Citizens Council. The Nation magazine claimed that in 1996, Perkins paid David Duke $82,000 for use of his mailing list.
The most powerful man on the right is Rush Limbaugh, widely known for his racial insensitivity. And, let's not forget the former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who stepped down from his leadership position after he was broadly criticized for toasting, a little too enthusiastically, the career of segregationist Strom Thurmond.
To rebuild the GOP, Steele will have to choose between the inclusive Big Tent and the intolerant Big Steeple. The religious right won't accept a party that supports even modest rights for gay people, while moderate and younger voters will never trust a party that is anti-gay. The sooner Steele realizes that to get Republicans elected, social conservatives must be ejected from the party - the quicker he will be able to save the GOP.