Judy Wieder, the one-time editor-in-chief of The Advocate, has some harsh words for the magazine’s current leadership at Regent Media. After reading our report of the magazine’s dismal future, Wieder has a single question for the rag’s publisher: “What the f happened?”
It’s no secret that as The Advocate has changed hands, from LPI Media to PlanetOut Partners to Regent Media, it’s profitability and substance have dwindled with it. Wieder blames the owners, and that’s a logical leap to make: The people in charge of the magazine are, by definition, responsible for its success or failure.
But what Wieder — who served as Advocate EIC for seven years and was editorial director of that magazine, as well as Out, The OutTraveler, HIVPlus, and Alyson Books — misses is that not only has ownership changed, so too has the marketplace. And she’s casting herself of a relic of a bygone era. “Am I to assume that younger LGBTs today simply had no interest in reading about the significance of Adam Lambert soaring his way through American Idol?,” she writes in the Huffington Post. “Or later learning from the one-time only must-read publication in the community what it was like for him in an exclusive interview? They’d rather pick up Details and watch him making out and posing with women? Pleeeeeease! Just shoot me! I don’t believe it.”
Believe it, lady, because the generation of gay men and women who once turned to The Advocate to find stories about people who are like them now have 17,000 new places to turn. And as the gays go mainstream, the idea that a niche publication is the only way to serve their interests is a fallacy. So, too, is the notion that all young gay Americans, who are voracious consumers of media otherwise, even have a gay magazine on their radar when coming out and establishing their identity is — while not entirely carefree — increasingly less of a big deal within families and society.
Wieder, meanwhile, says she “refuse[s] to get into another deadening debate about print media vs online, blah, blah, snore. That’s distracting, designed to send you flying wildly past the point.”
But it isn’t, and it won’t. And it’s confusing to see a woman who once worked in print media to not understand how expensive producing it can be. “I’m talking about great stories!,” she continues. “You need raw facts, truths, great photo journalism, current people and events that everyone is dying to learn more about–and then you need the vision and creativity it takes to draw in what’s essential for the story (a person, an interview, a lost clue, a new piece of research) and you need the courage to deliver it.”
Not courage, Wieder. Money. And that’s something print magazines are losing fast, even outside the gay market.
We understand the argument: The Advocate is no longer the staple of gay America’s media diet, partly because, less and less, it serves their interests. And Weiner knows more about the inner workings of the magazine during her era more than we. But to say the magazine is crumbling because of what it’s devolved into misses the elephant that’s stampeding through the room: Unless Regent wants to subsidize it further, The Advocate cannot survive in its current form.
The Advocate has delivered its share of missteps, as staffers there who have posted to Queerty can attest. But struggling to ride a marketplace that no longer has any room for it is not a wise battle. And nor is advocating it be fought.
Give up and die? No. Grow and change with the media climate? Yes.