Alicia Eler


GLBTs can’t marry in Maine

I was scared to check my Blackberry this morning. We couldn’t lose both Prop 8 in California and Question 1 in Maine, right? Wrong.

The Bangor Daily News in Bangor, Maine, reported the following results:

“Unofficial Results sorted by race for 2009 November Election contested races updated at 10:05 AM on Wednesday, November 4, 2009. 565 of 605 (93 %) of precincts have been reported. 544699 of 969912 ( 58%) registered voters have participated in this election. Election information provided by the Bangor Daily News.”

Yes 287412 52.77%
No 257287 47.23%

Filed under: LGBT, media, Uncategorized, , , , ,

Sizing up Chicago LGBT publications’ Twitter Feeds

At my TweetCamp Chicago presentation on October 10th, 2009, I discussed how arts journalists could use the Twitter application Hootsuite to organize and keep up with goings on at hundreds of museums.

During the presentation, I noticed two Twitter models at play:

Tweeting like a representative of a company by only posting links to articles about your own company; and

Tweeting like a community hub by posting links to more than just your own articles and announcements. Exchange tweets with your community, link articles outside of your own company that may be of interest to your followers, and actively look for people with similar interests.

Now I’m going to look at one of my own hyperlocal niches of interest, Chicago LGBT niche publications, to figure out how each of the three publications uses their Twitter feed.

Windy City Times

I’ve been a Windy City Times reader for a few years now. (Full disclosure: I have written a few articles for them.) They appear to be doing a pretty good job on their Twitter feed.


1,912 following


  • Tweets act as preview bits for their articles, and then link directly to said articles,
  • are clear and easy to read.
  • @WindyCityTimes1 follows everyone who follows them, showing readers that they care, and
  • acts like a Twitter-version of the actual newspaper
  1. Windy City Times
    WindyCityTimes1 Nice tribute to Windy City Times photog Kat Fitzgerald, from HBHC gala,
  2. Windy City Times
    WindyCityTimes1 Hate-crimes Senate vote tops big gains today for LGBTs,
  3. Windy City Times
    WindyCityTimes1 When straight people make us cry, in a GOOD way–WWII vet for same-sex marriage in Maine,
  4. this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

But, and here’s the big but, there is no interaction with any of the WCT’s 1,912 followers. Plus, their tweets aren’t posted daily.

I’d like to see more tweets from them on a regular basis and, since their tweets are mostly newsy, I wonder if they’d consider a model that a few mainstream media sources have embraced: breaking the news on Twitter before publishing the story.

In August 2009, WCCO Breaking News tweeted that “sure-fire future Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Brett Favre had signed a two-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings” before their story was even visible online. A few tweets in, once the story was finished, they tweeted out the story link. Their pageviews rocketed to 100,000 in only one hour as compared to 30,000 total per day. This was all thanks to clever Twitter strategy. This Mashable article, that I’ve already excerpted from, explains the complete rationale behind breaking news on Twitter first.

Of course, the numbers aren’t going to be as big for a small, local, community newspaper, but this would still be a worthwhile experiment. If nothing else, it would give Windy City Times a chance to figure out how many of their readers are active on Twitter, and how those readers react to news that breaks on Twitter. Plus, what’s the big deal about tweeting the news before it’s online or in print? After all, Windy City Times gives away their content for free  online and in print,  so tweeting it for free first seems like the next logical step.

But the Windy City Times doesn’t own Chicago’s LGBT news coverage. The Chicago Free Press is their direct competitor.


610 following


  • Twitter feed reads like an RSS or Twitter-version of the newspaper,
  • announces community events, and
  • follows everyone who follows them, showing readers that they care.
  • Unfortunately, they haven’t tweeted since October 9th. Twitter is a constant stream of information, so if publications want people to stay devoted to aTwitter feed, they have to keep tweeting.

  1. Chicago Free Press
    ChiFreePress Chicago Police Dept. 23rd District District Advisory Committee meets at 6 p.m. today, 3608 N. Halsted.
  2. Chicago Free Press
    ChiFreePress Alleged anti-gay cop’s attorneys file motion to stay and cop placed on administrative leave
  3. Chicago Free Press
    ChiFreePress Alleged anti-gay cop Fiorito busted this guy for a DUI, but take a look @ the surveillance footage. What do u think?
  4. this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

Windy City Times and Chicago Free Press feel newsier, while Gay Chicago Magazine comes off as a bit lighter. How does this publication compare on Twitter?


0 following


Their follower numbers are higher than either Windy City Times or Chicago Free Press, but guess what? They don’t follow anyone back. To me, this feels  like someone who just likes to talk and doesn’t want to hear what the other person has to say.

It’s also curious to note that they don’t tweet out many of their own articles. Much of this Twitter feed is devoted to community announcements, articles by other publications, the occasional conversation with a member of the community, and job ads.

Job ads, really? Now there’s really no need for a classifieds section, right? Maybe they’re on to something else: Using Twitter as a place for advertisements. Both Twittad and AdCause are services for Twitter-based ads that Gay Chicago Magazine might consider using.

  1. Gay Chicago Magazine
    Gay_Chicago Need a job? KENNEL ASSISTANT with exceptional customer service skills wanted, M-F, 3pm-10pm and rotate weekends. Call Joseph, 312-659-7387.
  2. Gay Chicago Magazine
    Gay_Chicago A slap on the wrist. Geneva teacher reprimanded for gay slur.
  3. Gay Chicago Magazine
  4. Gay Chicago Magazine
    Gay_Chicago 11th Annual Matthew Shepard March tonight from 7:00 PM – 9:45 PM. Meet at the 7-11 parking lot, corner of Halsted & Roscoe.
  5. Gay Chicago Magazine
    Gay_Chicago @qbofdamidwest I’m just the Gay Chicago Twitter guy. You’ll have to send your music to Mr. Lewis, he’s the editor.”>
  6. this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

Gay Chicago Magazine also uses the image of their weekly magazine as their thumbnail image, whereas Windy City Times and Chicago Free Press use their logo. Which technique works best? That depends on who you are. Personally, I prefer the solid brand, rather than a thumbnail that every other week.

Now that we’ve looked at each of these three publications, it’s time to determine their Twitter feed type.

Both the Windy City Times and the Chicago Free Press’ Twitter feeds read like a representative of the company is tweeting their news. If these publications want to be seen on Twitter as strictly news sources, they should keep up what they’re doing, and be sure to tweet more often.

Gay Chicago Magazine’s Twitter is more like a community hub. If that’s what they’re going for, they should continue to do exactly what they’re doing, and post more ads on their Twitter feed.

Overall, I’d like to see more tweets from all three of these publications, and interaction with LGBT publications in other cities across the country. Why should we isolate ourselves in Chicago? Ultimately, all LGBT publications have some political motive behind them, so it’s important to link up with like-minded publications’ Twitter feeds.

LGBT Twitter politics aside, Twitter is a fun, admittedly addicting social media service. In these three examples, Chicago’s niche LGBT publications all use their Twitter feeds in different ways, which makes sense because each publication caters to a different type of queer. Ultimately, the number of followers won’t determine a publication’s success–reader returns will. So what is Twitter doing for each of these publication’s readers?

Because I’m a news fiend, I prefer Windy City Times’ slick, news-only Twitter feed. I like the way Chicago Free Press writes, but I wish they’d update more often. I enjoy watching Gay Chicago Magazine’s interaction with the community, especially oddballs who tweet directly at them; their response to @qbofdamidwest (Quarterback of the Midwest? huh?) is pretty hilarious. It’s refreshing to see their community involvement, particularly around important city events like the 11th Annual Matthew Shepard March.


I follow all three of these publications on Twitter, and use  Hootsuite to organize them (see image left). I’ve created a tab for LGBTQ News, and a column within that tab for Chicago LGBTQ news.

As I look for other LGBTQ publications around the country, and reliable LGBTQ bloggers, I’ll add them to my Twitter feed and my Hootsuite LGBTQ News tab.

The number one rule on Twitter is “be yourself.” In an age where consumers are constantly forced to fend off and deconstruct advertisements both on- and offline, the best thing to do with a Twitter feed is to keep it real–and that goes for organizations and individuals alike.

Filed under: LGBT, media, new media, social media, , , , , , ,

Tweet This, Facebook That: When LGBT niche publications embrace social media

LGBT niche publications have provided us with the news we need for decades. Now, they’re in danger–if they keep up their old media ways.

virtualequality I just started  reading Urvashi Vaid’s groundbreaking and still relevant book Virtual Equality (1996), which mentions the Gay Community News on the first page. I’d never heard of this newspaper, and wondered if it was still around. So I Googled it—how else does one find information in our hyper-networked culture—and found its Wikipedia page—the only other source for “true” information. According to the Wikipedia page, the Gay Community News was “an important resource for the LGBT community,” run out of Boston from 1973-1992. It closed down way before the old media vs. new media debate began, though its casualty was not the first.

As someone who believes in both journalistic integrity and  new media, I think about how LGBT print publications to exist alongside online publications and blogs. In the Chicago LGBT media landscape, the community recognizes publications like the Windy City Times, Chicago Free Press and Gay Chicago Magazine as established, important resources. Then we have the national, online publications including AfterEllen, Queerty and EDGE Publications, and blogs like Towleroad, Pam’s House Blend and Breeder’s Digest. Sites like Queerosphere, a community-moderated and edited site featuring LGBTQ news, blogs, articles, videos and links, aggregates this news and lets users vote it up or down in a similar way to Digg. How can these old and new media resources work together to keep as much relevant LGBT news coming to readers?

Press Pass Q, a newsletter and trade publication for the LGBT Media Professional, recently published a re-cap of the National Lesbian Gay Journalist Association (NLGJA), which took place in Montréal from Sept. 10-13, 2009. I received this link courtesy of  widely syndicated gay journalist Rex Wockner, and this excerpt stuck out to me, specifically as it relates to the old media vs. new media debate:

“A lively exchange followed, one that underscored a tension within the professional association of NLGJA, between “old” media, or traditional LGBT journalists, and “new” media, the bloggers and citizen journalists who are sometimes viewed within the association more as political activists than practitioners of the craft of journalism.”

The newsletter goes on to discuss ways that LGBT organizations are trying to reach bloggers more than newspapers and magazines:

“Web-based LGBT radio broadcasting, combined with social media networking, also challenges print media, Rogers said. “The Michelangelo Signorile Show’ [on SiriusXM Satellite Radio] reaches more people in San Francisco in a 40-minute period via Twitter and Facebook than [traditional LGBT media]. That’s why HRC is pushing stories online and working with Pam Spaulding,” who is the editor and publisher of Pam’s House Blend, an interactive blog that has garnered honors as “best LGBT blog” by the 2005 and 2006 Weblog Awards. “Again,” Rogers questioned, “are newspapers the most effective way to move the message?”

Is this the end of niche LGBT newspapers and magazines? No, it’s not. These publications just have to quickly learn how they can reach those online users in a shorter amount of time— and how to make money off of them. Everyone, including LGBT people, are spending more time online, and on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

So how do LGBT publications reach these wired users? By going to the social networks where they get their news, learning about their reading habits, and talking with them directly about what they want to see. This is how, the site on which the entire newspaper industry blames their downfall, became what it is today. (Advertisers stopped paying for classifieds ads in newspapers because they realized they could do this for free on Craigslist, hence the decline of classified advertising.) In this Wired magazine article, Craig Newmark of explains his obsessive customer service habits. This is step one for what LGBT niche should consider doing—that and getting into Twitter and Facebook, and even hiring a social media editor, as the BBC just did.

If the “old media” publications can learn to do this, I think new and old media will find a happy balance.

Filed under: LGBT, media, social media

Got the caffeine blues?

tumblr_krru3gDW2P1qzzu9zAt one point, I was drinking a red eye coffee (that’s coffee with a shot of espresso) in the morning, and a shot or two of espresso in the afternoon. I’d also sneak in another cup of Joe sometime during the day. I was addicted to coffee, and everyone knew it. Without that first cup in the morning, I was a headachey, jittery jerk.

I couldn’t keep up this coffee-drinking pace, and that’s when I met Brenda, who doesn’t consume any caffeine at all. She helped me slowly reduce my caffeine intake until I was down to  one cup of green tea per day and then no caffeine at all. It was scary to realize just how dependent I was on caffeine. It really is a drug.

But every few months, the same thing happens: I start thinking about coffee again. This weekend I was at First Slice Cafe with my friend Keidra, and I remembered the rich taste of this do-gooder cafe’s organic coffee, and the nice kick it gave me.

Every time I find myself thinking about coffee, I try drinking it again. It’s tasty at first—the rich, roasted coffee beans dissolved into a thick brown liquid that’s perfect for these cool fall days. I get that kick again, feel great, run around and do twice as much work, and then crash hard. By the end of the day, I feel horrible—hungover, even. Plus, when I’m on caffeine, I have to go to the bathroom too much, I feel nervous and shaky, and then I realize just how dehydrated I am. I rush to drink more water, but it’s never enough.

Now if I drink coffee, it completely ruins my day.

I decided to learn more about coffee, particularly the whole “coffee is good for you” myths that we’re fed that, not surprisingly, by the companies that make coffee, so I ordered these two books:

Caffeine Blues: Wake Up To The Hidden Dangers of America’s #1 Drug

By Stephen Cherniske

The Truth about Caffeine: How Companies Deceive Us and What We Can Do About It

By Marina Kushner

Here’s an excerpt from a blog post on discussing Cherniske’s work that pretty much sums up what I experienced during my coffee detox:

Cherniske who well understands this, wrote: “Caffeine does not provide energy – only chemical stimulation. The perceived energy comes from the body’s struggle to adapt to increased blood levels of stress hormones… Using coffee for mood enhancement is a short-term blessing and a long-term curse. While the initial adrenal stimulation may provide a transient anti-fatigue ‘lift,’ caffeine’s ultimate mood effect is a letdown, either subtle or profound. Advertisers and coffee ‘institutes’ have kept this side of caffeine from public view… “While caffeine users may feel more alert, the experience is simply one of increased sensory and motor activity (dilated pupils, increased heart rate, and higher blood pressure). The quality of thought and recall is improved no more than the quality of music is improved when played at a higher volume or speed.” The energy we get from caffeine is similar to the “energy” a horse gets when whipped. It is not energy gained but power spent responding to an injury.

If we know this, why do we keep seeing those articles about the “positive” effects of coffee on the body, like this New York Times piece, and find organizations like Positively Coffee? The blog post answers that, too:

The effects of caffeine on the body are well researched, but you never hear about it in your newspaper. You never hear about it anywhere because the whole nation, if not the whole world, is addicted to caffeine. Doctors, journalists, scientists, writers, everyone drinks coffee. Those whose job is to inform us are usually heavy coffee drinkers.

As consumers, we need to be aware of this information. I’ll write again as I learn more about caffeine and its effects on our health.

Filed under: media, raw food, , , , ,

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