The axing of the print edition of the Pink Paper is a blow against press diversity – we still need minority media
By Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
The Guardian – Comment is Free – London – 25 June 2009
The print edition of the Pink Paper, Britain’s only national gay newspaper, ceased publication this week – killed off by the recession and the resultant sharp fall in advertising revenue.
At a time when many national newspapers are becoming more homogenous and lifestyle oriented, with less news reportage, the loss of the Pink Paper, or any minority media, is regrettable. It diminishes diversity; narrowing the range of news sources and of issues covered.
Sadly, we’ve seen the same squeeze happening to the ethnic minority press, where the Afro-Caribbean newspaper New Nation folded earlier this year, along with the Asian community newspaper Eastern Eye. Faced with the economic downturn, the print editions could not be sustained.
These closures are bad news for media pluralism and for the reportage of news stories affecting minority communities. Many of these stories never make it into the mainstream national press. Some do hit the nationals, but it is often only thanks to the minority press unearthing them in the first place. Without a strong specialist media, many important stories might not see the light of day or get the coverage they deserve.
A good example is the horrific homophobic murder of 18-year-old Michael Causer in Liverpool last year. His killing was almost entirely ignored by the mainstream press. They rightly ran headlines for weeks about the savage racist murder of Anthony Walker, also aged 18, in the same city three years previously. However, most of the nationals wrote barely a word about the equivalent homophobic hate crime that claimed Causer’s life. It was the gay media, like the Pink Paper, that exposed the truth about Causer’s grisly fate, which shows why we need minority community publications.
They are good for democracy and for journalism. Having a vibrant, diverse minority media ensures that alternative experiences, voices and concerns get reported. We are not all the same. Some of us have particular backgrounds and special interests, which receive better service from specialist presses.
I enjoy sharing with others and hearing their perspectives. That’s why I often read niche newspapers and magazines, like Red Pepper, Muslim News, The Voice, the Jewish Chronicle, Tribune and the Church Times. All these publications have lots of strong, interesting news stories and ideas that rarely get reported by the nationals. A great pity. They perform an important public service to their readers, informing, connecting and empowering. Their closure would be a great loss to the constituencies they serve.
This is how I feel about the axing of the Pink Paper’s print version. A great loss. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community will be poorer without it.
The publisher’s decision to retain the online version is good news. However, I doubt that it is an adequate substitute for the fortnightly paper.
Announcing the end of the Pink Paper’s print edition, editor Tris Reid-Smith, said:
“As a free newspaper, Pink Paper relies almost entirely on advertising income. This time last year it was a very successful business but since then organisations have slashed their spend on print advertising, meaning the paper has been unable to cover its costs.
“We were particularly vulnerable as we were largely reliant on property and recruitment adverts, two of the sectors worse hit by the global financial meltdown.
“The Pink Paper will continue online at PinkPaper.com and through its weekly newsletter, Pink Paper Xtra, delivered straight into reader’s email inboxes.”
Given that most LGBT people have internet access, the newspaper’s closure is not a disaster. But the non-online minority will lose a major source of news and information, and an invaluable forum for debate. Most readers were used to picking up the print edition from cafes, bars, clubs, libraries and bookstores. It was a weekend ritual to go out and get the Pink Paper. With the newspaper’s demise, that experience is no more. The habit is broken.
There is a danger that now the print edition is gone, some readers who relied upon the hard copy will drift away from the Pink Paper entirely. If this happens, the LGBT community could become more fragmented and isolated, with people in one part of the country being less aware about what is happening in other parts of the country. This might also weaken LGBT campaigning and lobbying.
The Pink Paper came into existence in 1987 at the height of the homophobic political campaigns waged by the government of Margaret Thatcher and the rightwing tabloid press. First they demanded family values, and then a return to Victorian values. Next they blamed LGBTs for HIV, which they dubbed the Gay Plague. This was followed by nanny Thatcher’s astonishing attack on the right to be gay at the 1987 Tory party conference, soon followed by the introduction of Section 28, which banned the so-called promotion of homosexuality by local authorities. When this homophobic firestorm broke, we had the Pink Paper to report the hate and bile, and to mobilise the LGBT defence campaign. And very useful and effective it was.
Thank you and goodbye Pink Paper. Hello and welcome PinkPaper.com.