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August 1, 2008

Where's my Chronicle?

Newspaper moves to biweekly publication

Readers have been calling, asking why they could not find a copy of the Gay People’s Chronicle last week.

The answer is simple: The newspaper has returned to biweekly publication, publishing a new issue every other Friday.

From the time of its inception as a monthly newsletter in 1985, through to its first biweekly publication in 1993, being a weekly newspaper was seen as a gold standard. That was achieved in 1998.

However, with a worsening economy and lowering advertising revenues, concerns about the feasibility of publishing 52 issues a year arose.

After many meetings and conversations and much deliberation, the various options for the newspaper’s future resolved themselves into three main ideas.

The first, and least acceptable, was for everyone involved to just walk away. Put the chairs up on the desks, turn off the lights, and lock the door.

Nobody was willing to leave Ohio, especially the northeast corner of the state, without a source of LGBT news.

The second option was to try to make a go of being an online-only resource. One of the main concerns with that idea was the difficulty in using a website to make money. Even though the expense of printing and distributing the newspaper would no longer be there, in all likelihood neither would be most of the advertising revenue.

The final option was to cut back on the frequency of publication. A careful examination of the finances revealed that much--but not all--of the fiscal shortfall can be ameliorated by publishing every other week, and that appears to be among the solutions.

While it is a somewhat bitter pill to swallow after a decade of being Ohio’s weekly LGBT newspaper, there is a silver lining to every dark cloud. This move puts the Gay People’s Chronicle on firmer footing than it has been for years.

Illustrating their dedication to serving the queer community, the staff of the newspaper have been volunteering their time for the month of July to remove the expense of a payroll, albeit temporarily.

Another bittersweet change to the newspaper is the departure of publisher Martha Pontoni, who will be focusing more on her family and her work with Alice Paul Direct Mail, a printing and direct mail company that she founded in 1991.

While she will be missed, she will only be about 40 feet away if her wisdom and experience is needed, as the Gay People’s Chronicle offices are in the same building as Alice Paul.

We are not alone in feeling the effects of the current recession and the rise of the internet; across the board, newspapers are feeling the pinch. The Scene and the Free Times, two Cleveland-area alternative weeklies, just merged and cut their staffs. The daily Plain Dealer also reduced its staff and cut back on the page counts, and the Akron Beacon Journal has been struggling for years.

What the move to a biweekly paper means, however, is that the Gay People’s Chronicle, now into its 24th year, will continue on well into the future. The possibility of creating a website that is more of a daily destination than a weekly port of call is open, and is being examined wholeheartedly. Other changes may be coming, and they will hopefully all be for the better.


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