Friday, November 20, 2009

Bad economy claims one of the best gay news magazines in the world

Shock waves are still being felt in the United States over the sudden demise of several leading LGBT newspapers under the Window Media imprint after the media conglomerate announced it was shutting them down after declaring bankruptcy.

Among the papers affected by the bankruptcy proceedings were the Southern Voice, the South Florida Blade and the venerable Washington Blade.

Some of the papers might actually be revived under different ownership and name. Staff members of the Washington Blade, for example, have already announced the launch of a new publication to be called "DC Agenda" (set to launch today).

Just as shocking as the Window Media closures, at least to those of us who follow international LGBT media, was this week's announcement that the owners of Zero magazine in Spain might also be shutting down the print version of their publication after declaring themselves under financial duress.

Rumors that the magazine was in trouble surfaced earlier this year when Zero Press SL, publishers of the magazine, failed to produce a single issue after July for what had been a monthly publication. On their website, all content was gone except for an offer for two photography books they had published before at a discount.

Their Facebook page was full of inquiries about the status of the magazine with no response from the editors.

Official word finally came yesterday, via Spanish newspaper El País, when they quoted Zero Press SL Director Miguel Ángel López as saying that publishing the magazine was no longer economically viable ("Crisis threatens Zero magazine").

"The 'no' from the banks, the crisis in publicity and the general situation has made it impossible for us to sustain a monthly with 16 full staff members," he said.

López says that Zero will survive but in a different incarnation. Indications are that the magazine might go into a bi-monthly publication schedule and eventually be replaced by an online version of the magazine.

A year ago I was all giddy about the prospect of Zero launching a Latin American wing ("Zero magazine's global ambitions"). According to El Pais, their abandoned Latin American venture, HispaGay, was a flop.

López, who admits Zero had been launched twelve years ago following the prototype set by US magazine "Out", had criticized the US counterpart in an interview with Argentina's Pagina/12 last year. Out, he said then, "never reached a situation in which it was anywhere near to achieving something in political terms; they allowed themselves to be carried away by commercial interests, beyond activism".

And that is exactly what made Zero so great. Sure, they had the puff pieces and fashion spreads, but they also ran in-depth articles on transgender rights, immigration issues, and gay life in Spain and elswehere. Among their most controversial articles was a cover piece on the coming out of the Catholic Reverend José Mantero, about whom I wrote early in the life of this blog, back in 2005.

The magazine, which as of late had turned a bit more fashion-oriented, nevertheless outshone The Advocate and Out in many ways. It covered issues such as gay life in Cuba in a more in-depth way that The Advocate ever did, and also celebrated LGBT sexuality and eroticism in ways that no US LGBT news publication would ever do. For a special issue on body image in the gay community, the full staff posed naked for a series of articles on the topic.

It ran into controversy more than a few times, drawing particular scorn from gays in Spain for putting politicians from the conservative Partido Popular political party on the cover. It also was known for it's photo spreads and centerfolds including that of Kylie Minogue's choreographer and lollipop boy Marco Da Silva (right). That's also porn star François Sagat on their latest - and final? - cover (above).

In any case, the beefcake is certainly important but not necessarily the point I am trying to make with this post.

Just as it is a shame to see the Washington Blade and other LGBT newspapers under Window Media fold, it's shocking that Zero might be gone as well.

If they survive, whether as a print media or on the internet, I'll keep tabs on it and will post updates in the future.

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