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Word Is Out queer media collaboration will create sustainability model

Word Is Out

Q Voice News is one of six LGBTQ publications participating in Word Is Out: the Queer Media Collaborative, a groundbreaking news venture being funded initially by the Google News Initative Innovation Challenge. Word Is Out is the first of its kind collaboration to focus on business sustainability for LGBTQ media and producing great journalism. Photo: Jon Viscott/City of West Hollywood

Q Voice News is one of six LGBTQ publications participating in Word Is Out: the Queer Media Collaborative, a groundbreaking news venture being funded initially by the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge.

Word Is Out is the first of its kind collaboration to focus on business sustainability for LGBTQ media and producing great journalism.

“This collaborative has the potential to be a game changer not only for the news industry, but also the queer community,” said Phillip Zonkel, publisher and managing partner of Q Voice News, who helped initiate the project.

“In the past few years, queer publications have closed and coverage of our community has diminished. Our goal is that Word Is Out will be a business model for LGBTQ publications to thrive and survive,” he said.

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Word Is Out was announced by the Local Media Foundation, the programming arm of the Local Media Association, a media trade association that focuses on business sustainability for local news outlets.

Word Is Out is the sixth news industry collaboration incubated by Local Media Association and the Local Media Foundation.

The collaborative will build on the successful model of Word In Black, which includes 10 leading Black publishers and also received funding from the Google News Initiative.

Google News Initiative will provide $200,000 that will be used to launch and build the infrastructure for Word Is Out. That amount was the maximum for this round of funding, said Nancy Lane, CEO of the Local Media Association.

Here are the other five LGBTQ publications participating in Word Is Out:

  • Dallas Voice, the premier media source for LGBTQ Texas, publishing every Friday since 1984
  • San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter, a weekly publication started in 1971
  • Tagg Magazine, an award-winning Black and queer woman-owned publication founded in 2012
  • Washington D.C.-based weekly the Washington Blade, the oldest LGBTQ newspaper in the U.S. launched in 1969
  • Chicago’s Windy City Times, which was founded in 1985 and covers Chicago and its suburbs.

“We are so excited about this unique collaboration for LGBTQ media,” Ebone Bell, owner and editor of Tagg Magazine who collaborated with Zonkel and Windy City Times’ Tracy Baim to create the project, said in a statement announcing the project.

“This group of media has often been left out of national partnerships and is new to the philanthropic side of journalism funding. This provides a great opportunity to uplift and transform legacy and new LGBTQ media,” she said.

The six publishers are in the early stages of planning and setting goals. But they noted that the group plans to hire a part-time project manager and will focus on audience surveys to better understand the needs of the LGBTQ community. Google News Initiative funding will cover the initial research and the project manager.

“We are thrilled to support the work of LGBTQ publishers through the Word is Out initiative,” Chrissy Towle, head of news, Americas Partnerships Solutions with Google, said in the statement. “Queer media needs more resources to support their long-term sustainability. This project goes a long way in making that happen. We hope other funders will also step up.”

Word Is Out will also launch several elements:

  • National website and newsletter, supported by a membership model
  • Sponsorships
  • Branded content
  • Journalism funded by philanthropy.

The publishers plan to expand the collaboration and include other LGBTQ publishers as funding allows, but lessons learned will be shared with all.

Lane added: “This project is extremely important to the sustainability of LGBTQ media. Our goal is to start with this small group of six and quickly expand. We’ll draw heavily on the learnings from Word In Black to guide our strategy.”

In other news, Q Voice News has launched a campaign to raise funds for its Queer History Lessons with Jewels — 2021 Local News Fund. Queer History Lessons with Jewels is an ongoing video series with fabulous hostess Jewels giving history lessons about LGBTQ trailblazers and significant events to readers.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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