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Publish, not perish: LGBTQ media confront COVID-19

‘At the end of this, we will be stronger than ever’

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quarantine, LGBT press, LGBTQ media, gay news, Washington Blade

The March 20 front page of the Los Angeles Blade. (Image courtesy of the Blade)

The LGBTQ media are reeling from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, as venues remain shuttered and public gatherings are cancelled or postponed in markets across the country.

But those at the helm of several publications say they’re determined to keep delivering the news, information, and insight their loyal readership relies on, by shoring up steadfast relationships and cultivating new clients.

“Almost immediately, we got calls to cancel advertising” at the onset of COVID-19, recalls Jan Stevenson, co-publisher and CFO of Pride Source Media Group, whose biweekly LGBTQ print publication, Between The Lines, is normally available for free pickup at over 600 locations throughout the greater Michigan area (see pridesource.com for more info).

The closure of most of their distribution sites, notes Stevenson, led to the decision to publish “only a PDF version of the paper, and to include all the booked ads, except for events that were cancelled, at no charge.”

Pride Source, which Stevenson owns alongside her wife, Susan Horowitz, sent a message to advertisers “acknowledging that with everything they are facing, the last thing they need to worry about is their ads with us—so we froze, in place, all contracts, to be revisited when things open up. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and thankful.”

Between the Lines re-established itself as a print publication when the hard copy edition resumed on April 30. Still, says Stevenson, “Michigan’s largest Pride celebrations have all been either rescheduled or cancelled. It will result in a huge loss of revenue for our publications. We are conserving our resources now, applying for whatever assistance we can, and hoping to weather the rest of 2020.”

Pride month and its perennial attendant revenue “is everything for every gay publication,” says Troy Masters, publisher of the Los Angeles Blade (losangelesblade.com), a weekly print publication that, like Between the Lines, is part of the 12-member National LGBT Media Association (nationallgbtmediaassociation.com). “It represents a disproportionate percentage [of annual sales income],” notes Masters.

Says Masters of the postponed LA Pride Festival and Parade and other events: “Events are critical in this market and very popular with potential sponsors, but that is presently impossible… Asking people to spend money on marketing is very hard, although we have had success talking to our regular clients about collections. We’ve actually gained a few small ones. A hardware store comes to mind, but we remain down in advertising numbers and revenue.”

On March 6, anticipating the looming crisis, the paper revised its distribution to focus “on every residence and apartment building on key blocks of West Hollywood, as well as grocery stores we can access,” says Masters, who notes the Blade continues to be available via street boxes, albeit only within the West Hollywood area.

Norm Kent, founder/publisher of the South Florida Gay News (southfloridagaynews.com), is similarly determined to forge ahead.

“I will just give you the grim outline,” says Kent. “We are facing a disease that is threatening our lives, as well as our livelihoods—and I am more concerned about our community surviving and my friends living than I am my newspaper printing. You can start a paper up again, not a life. So what material losses I endure are inconsequential compared to the friends I may lose.”

The advertising revenue lost from the postponement of April’s Pride of the Americas festival in Fort Lauderdale and March’s Miami Beach Pride and Palm Beach Pride, notes Kent, represents “the balance of our year. So we’re going to have to find a way to engage this adversity, with a smaller paper that is laser-focused, understanding that bigger is not always better, and sometimes, less is more.”

Last March 24, recalls Kent, “I published one of the largest weekly gay papers in history, at 124 pages. One year later, the paper was 28 pages. But the real losses are being endured by the social service programs that were the intended beneficiaries of those events.”

Notes Kent, who left his position as executive director of AIDS Project Florida to found his publication, “I’ve always cared more about people than profits, and that’s why I’m going to use all my resources to tread water in the tides of a rising ocean—and I’m pretty confident, because I’m a good swimmer.”

Some silver linings remain, notes Masters, of the Los Angeles Blade. Advertisers including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AIDS Project Los Angeles, and the City of West Hollywood, who’ve been a consistent presence throughout since the paper’s 2017 inception, have increased their visibility throughout the COVID-19 crisis, both in print and online.

Stevenson says that online traffic is up significantly, noting, “People obviously want to stay connected, and are concerned about how the pandemic is impacting LGBTQ people and organizations. The other non-pandemic news about LGBTQ issues—like the passage of anti-trans legislation—is getting a lot of traction.”

Furthermore, says Stevenson, local health departments wanting to communicate messages about HIV testing and COVID-19 services have come on board, along with several others who’ve requested banner ads and other online outreach.

That presence sends more than just a message about products and services.

“Our community is especially receptive to seeing that people are supportive,” maintains Masters. “That’s always true, but in a pandemic that echoes the trauma of the AIDS crisis, it’s especially true. We want to know that our gains are important and that we are included.”

“There are some real heroes out there in LGBTQ media, like Comcast and [HIV/AIDS treatment provider] Gilead, who are continuing their campaigns in LGBTQ media,” says Todd Evans, president and CEO of Rivendell Media (rivendellmedia.com), which places advertisements for the National LGBT Media Association. Together, the association’s members — including Boston’s Bay Windows and the Dallas Voice— reach an estimated 500,000 weekly print and online readers.

“In a time when the news is dominated by a crisis,” notes Evans, “LGBTQ consumers want to know who is supporting us, and who is not.

One big difference with this crisis versus 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, and the financial crisis of 2008/2009, says Evans, is, “We’ve had virtually no cancelling of ads. I’ve had a few campaigns that were just ready to start now, so they’re delaying, which makes sense. So I think that shows that advertisers are waiting for information—how long we stay at home, how long distribution points are closed.”

That said, says Evans, “The community still needs its news. We still want to know who supports us, and who doesn’t. I know myself, as a super-consumer of news media, when it comes to the LGBTQ community, I only find out, especially the political stuff, via our own media… I truly feel, at the end of this, that we will be stronger than ever as a community, because we’re used to fighting—and we’re also used to being under attack.”

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California unveils digital COVID-19 vaccination records

Californians will enter into a state-owned website their name, date of birth and email or phone associated with their vaccine records

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

SACRAMENTO – Officials announced Friday that the state is providing Californians with a newly created way to access their coronavirus vaccination records in a digital format.

Dr. Erica Pan, the state’s epidemiologist told reporters the new tool allows residents access to their COVID-19 vaccination records from the state’s immunization registry and includes the same information as the paper cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To access the information, Californians will enter into a state-owned website their name, date of birth and email or phone associated with their vaccine records and they will be asked to create a four-digit PIN. The record will include a QR code that users can save to their mobile phones.

With nearly 20 million people fully vaccinated in California and proof of vaccination already required in some circumstances such as travel, state health officials felt there would be demand for the tool, though it remains optional, Pan noted.

“The odds are someone is going to misplace their paper CDC card and a digital COVID-19 vaccine record provides a convenient backup,” she told reporters.

 Amy Tong, director of the state’s department of technology told reporters that businesses that use a QR scanner would see the same information as residents — their name, birthdates and vaccination details, she said. She added that businesses would not be able to store that data for future use.

The system is accessible through myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov. Governor Gavin Newsom has said the digital version wouldn’t be a “passport” or a requirement.

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LA Public Health emphasizes vaccinations as pandemic guidelines relax

The County will also follow the State on lifting current travel restrictions on June 15 to align with CDC travel recommendations

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – On June 15, the state of California will be lifting most capacity limits and distancing restrictions at businesses, and Los Angeles County will align with the State in order to allow businesses to fully re-open. Specific requirements will continue for large capacity events, schools, day cares, day camps, high-risk congregant settings and health care facilities.

The County remains in the least restrictive yellow tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy framework.

The County will also follow the State on lifting current travel restrictions on June 15 to align with CDC travel recommendations. Businesses must comply with all Cal/OSHA requirements at worksites past the June 15 reopening.

Tuesday, the State released the final blueprint tier numbers before the Blueprint for a Safer Economy program is retired next week; L.A. County’s adjusted case rate remains at 0.7 new cases per 100,000 people, and the overall test positivity rate remains at 0.4% across the county and in areas with the fewest health affirming resources.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will host a Virtual Town Hall on Reopening on Thursday, June 10, at 6:00 p.m. Join the town hall to get the latest updates on the June 15 reopening of Los Angeles County. The town hall will be streamed live on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube @lapublichealth. For more information and to submit a question, visit: tinyurl.com/AskReopeningTownHall

Public Health confirmed 13 new deaths and 186 new cases of COVID-19. Of the 13 new deaths reported Tuesday, three people that passed away were over the age of 80, six people who died were between the ages of 65 and 79 and four people who died were between the ages of 50 and 64.

To date, Public Health identified 1,245,412 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 24,404 deaths. There are 232 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 16% of these people are in the ICU.

“As California reopens and most physical distancing requirements and capacity limits are lifted a week from today, it’s very important that those not vaccinated continue to take precautions,” said Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“While we are making great progress with vaccinations in the County with 54% of L.A. County residents 16 and over fully vaccinated and 65 percent having received one dose of the vaccine, there are millions of residents who do not have protection from COVID-19. For those not yet vaccinated, and the over 1.3 million children under 12 years old, wearing a face covering remains important for preventing transmission.”

Free COVID-19 vaccines are available for everyone age 12 and older. You do not need to have health insurance and you will not be asked about your immigration status. Vaccines are offered at hundreds of locations across L.A. County. These include clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, places of worship, and mobile clinics. Many sites are open late and on weekends and no appointment needed at many locations.

To find a vaccination site near you, to make an appointment at vaccination sites, and much more, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) and www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). If you don’t have internet access, can’t use a computer, or you’re over 65, you can call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment, connecting to free transportation to and from a vaccination site, or scheduling a home-visit if you are homebound. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.

With 12-17 year olds now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, providing accurate and important information to teens is critical. Public Health participated in a COVID Vaccine Teen Forum and helped answer some of the most popular questions from Los Angeles County teens themselves, ranging from vaccine safety to how they can talk to their parents about getting the vaccine. The forum can be seen at the following link: https://youtu.be/U7U5VnckkP0.

Through Thursday, June 10, everyone 18 and older coming to get their first vaccine or who brings a first-time vaccine recipient with them to their second dose appointment at County-run vaccination sites, L.A. City and St. John’s Well Child and Family Center sites, will have an opportunity to win a pair of season tickets to the 2021-2022 home season of either the LA Football Club soccer team or the LA Dodgers. Official rules and participating site locations can be found on the Los Angeles County Vaccination Sweepstakes page online.

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Newsom; “Vax for the Win” and LA sports teams also enter vax push

The incentives aim to give an extra nudge to those who still need to get vaccinated, especially in hard-to-reach communities

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California Governor Gavin Newsom appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live Thursday (Screenshot via YouTube)

SACRAMENTO – California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a multi-million dollar vaccine incentive program Thursday to motivate more people to get vaccinated leading up to June 15, when the state economy is slated to fully reopen. The $116.5 million vaccine incentive program is the largest in the nation to boost vaccinations as the state prepares to fully reopen the economy June 15.

The incentives aim to give an extra nudge to those who still need to get vaccinated against COVID-19, especially those in hard-to-reach communities, while also thanking everyone who has already been vaccinated.

More than 62.8 percent of Californians aged 12+ are at least partially vaccinated, but an estimated 12 million people who are eligible still have not gotten a vaccine to protect their health and the well-being of their communities.

“Getting every eligible Californian vaccinated is how we bring our state roaring back from this pandemic,” said the Governor. “California has already made incredible progress in the fight against COVID-19, with the lowest case rates in the country, while administering millions more vaccines than any other state. But we aren’t stopping there, we’re doing everything it takes to get Californians vaccinated as we approach June 15 to help us fully reopen safely.”

California residents who have been vaccinated are already entered for cash prizes, and those who haven’t been can get inoculated for the chance to receive a $50 card and win cash prizes. “You don’t have to register to do this as is the case in other states,” Newsom said. “You’re automatically registered.”

Beginning on May 27, the next two million people who begin and complete their COVID-19 vaccination will automatically be eligible to receive a $50 prepaid or grocery card, worth a total of $100 million. It gives them the option to select from a $50 Virtual Prepaid Card (which can be spent online, in-store where major debit cards are accepted, or added to a mobile wallet to be used to shop in stores that accept mobile wallets), or a $50 grocery gift card from Kroger (which includes Ralphs, Food 4 Less and Foods Co.) or Albertsons (which includes Safeway, Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Andronico’s Community Markets), while supplies last.

Californians will receive a text message with an electronic prepaid card redemption code sent to their mobile phone or email address 7-10 days after their two-dose series of Pfizer or Moderna, or single dose of Johnson and Johnson. An incentive card will be held for those who start their vaccination at the launch of the program.

Those who do not have a mobile phone or email address can receive a physical card by calling 1-833-993-3873, 7-10 days after receiving their final dose. Those without a permanent address can also call to coordinate delivery.

For more information, visit COVID19.ca.gov/vax-for-the-win. To schedule an appointment to be vaccinated, visit MyTurn.ca.gov or call the CA COVID-19 Hotline at 1-833-422-4255.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Launches Vaccination Sweepstakes with Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Galaxy

In Los Angeles County, starting tomorrow, Friday, May 28, two Los Angeles County residents 18 and older who get their first vaccine or bring a person needing their first vaccine to their second dose appointment can enter to win a pair (2) of 2021-22 season tickets to the Los Angeles Kings or 2022 season tickets to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The vaccination sweepstakes will run from Friday, May 28 to Thursday, June 3. Two residents will be awarded prizes.

Residents can book appointments or walk in to County, LA City, and St. John’s Well Child and Family clinic vaccination sites to enter.

For more information, including official rules and participating site locations, residents can visit the Los Angeles County Vaccination Sweepstakes page at: www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/vaccine/sweepstakes.htm

Must be a Los Angeles County resident 18 years or older to enter.

Related: Jimmy Kimmel- ‘GOP Throws Out MyPillow Mike, Trump’s Crazy Memorial Day Message & Governor Gavin Newsom Sneaks In’

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