Personnel issues continue to plague Pride Media’s flagship publications as OUT Magazine’s Deputy Editor (Digital) Nico Lang announced that he was resigning effective close of business Tuesday, December 31.
Lang’s departure comes less than a month after the top management team at Pride Media resigned or was forced out. Out Magazine’s Editor-In-Chief Phillip Picardi left on December 11 which was followed simultaneously with the departures of The Advocate’s Editor-In-Chief Zack Stafford and the CEO of Pride Media, Orlando Reece.
The move results in Out Magazine being without a dedicated editor.
In his resignation letter provided to the Los Angeles Blade Tuesday, Lang noted that he was grateful for the opportunity to have made a difference at OUT during his 5 month tenure. He thanked Pride Media colleagues but then went on to note; “I would have liked to continue that work at Out, but I feel I cannot give my community the coverage it needs unless I know I have the resources to produce it. I wanted basic transparency, accountability, and respect from our owners as the publication weathers a uniquely difficult time in its history, and that was not offered. Thus, I resigned from my position.”
Pride Media, which was created after the purchase of both The Advocate and OUT publications from HERE Media by Santa Monica businessman Adam Levin, CEO of the High Times Holdings company which publishes High Times Magazine less than two years ago, has been plagued with controversies ranging from debts acquired during the purchase to thousands of dollars in freelancer fees not paid by OUT.
Rumors quickly spread about Levin’s plans for Pride Media, his re-branding of the two magazines and other Here Publishing properties he bought reported LA Blade News Editor Karen Ocamb last November. Ocamb also wrote in the lengthy profile piece that Levin has tried to be transparent by responding to media inquiries, including several long interviews with the Los Angeles Blade.
An Oct. 18 Women’s Wear Daily story suggested the new straight owner of The Advocate and OUT magazines was “a documented supporter of conservative Republican politicians during a time when the culture wars have never been more fierce,” he was startled. And he certainly didn’t expect the backlash that followed.
The article painted Levin as “opportunistic,” as one gay observer put it to the Los Angeles Blade on background. He believes Levin is intent on building up, then selling the brands as “assets” to pay down debt on High Times Holding, which Levin runs. “He’s probably bought into the narrative that LGBT people have millions of dollars in disposable income and he wants to monetize the brands. But he doesn’t understand where The Advocate came from or how important the legacy and reputation are for its existence.”
The tensions and problems at Pride were also further exacerbated last summer as well with the abrupt resignation and departure of then Pride Media CEO Nathan Coyle.
In his resignation letter Tuesday, Lang made reference to the company’s problems noting; “I realized that queer media will not have a future if we continue to perpetuate the narrative it cannot survive by remaining silent as those in power starve us. The problem has never been LGBTQ+ journalists and content creators; the problem has always been cisgender, straight men who do not have our best interests at heart, who profit off us until they can no longer exploit us to their satisfaction. It does not escape notice that this is the second time in less than a year that I’ve been part of a team which raised the bar for queer excellence in media just to end up unemployed.”
Lang had previously worked alongside former Advocate Editor-In-Chief Zack Stafford at INTO, the online LGBTQ magazine owned and operated by gay dating app Grindr, which terminated its editorial staff last January, effectively ending the digital LGBTQI media outlet’s 17-month run. NBC News had reported that came barely six weeks after INTO published a story about Grindr President Scott Chen’s controversial comments on gay marriage. Chen identifies as a straight man.
Lang also expressed in his letter that traditional models of reporting LGBTQ stories needed to be augmented. “I believe that LGBTQ+ people need new platforms and new ways to tell our stories. Over the next few months, I’m going to be having conversations about what that looks like with others who believe our stories matter, that they are important, and that the world is better when they are told. I do not know what that looks like yet,” he wrote and added, “When I took the job at Out, I promised to fight for beauty, for truth, and visibility for all those who feel erased and forgotten. I’m going to keep fighting, and I hope all of you will join me in that fight.”
— Additional reporting by Los Angeles Blade news editor Karen Ocamb.