A 'Gay Sensitive' News Service p. 12

By: David Noack Three-year-old news service based in Albuquerque provides another option to gay and lesbian papers sp.

TRACY BAIM UNDERSTANDS the problems that gay and lesbian newspapers and magazines face in trying to get a handle on national news stories and issues important to their readers.
Often, gay and lesbian publications rely on exchanging subscriptions to keep up with news from other parts of the country, which is not timely, or on national wire services, which are expensive.
Baim, managing editor and publisher of Outlines, a 22,000-circulation gay and lesbian monthly newspaper in Chicago, has taken advantage of a third option: GayNet News Service, a three-year-old gay and lesbian news service based in Albuquerque.
In addition to scanning daily, mainstream newspapers and gay publications, Baim uses the bulletin board service, which provides a national menu of stories, to add to her paper's coverage, which is gleaned from a variety of other sources as well.
She said stories culled from GayNet provide additional coverage of issues and events that may not have received much, if any, coverage in mainstream media.
"We use it as a supplement to our coverage. We don't use it exclusively for anything. We use it as a supplement for our national and international coverage. We try to give our readers a comprehensive look at what happened in the past month of significance," she said.
She called the service a "worthwhile" resource and much more "gay sensitive" than mainstream media, although she said mainstream media are improving.
GayNet serves roughly two dozen gay and lesbian publications and broadcast outlets throughout the country and in Canada and Scotland.
Gary Garvin, one of its founders, operates the service as a fee-based electronic bulletin board. Stories can be sent electronically to the service, and other newspapers or magazines can download those stories and use them in their publications.
In addition, GayNet acts as a meeting place, where reporters and editors can share information using electronic mail.
Roy Reini, a driving force in developing GayNet, is editor of Out!, a gay and lesbian magazine distributed throughout New Mexico.
"No longer do we have to settle for gaps in our coverage or news and features that don't reflect the gay and lesbian experience. Working together through GayNet makes all of us stronger than we would be separately," Reini said in a statement marking the service's first anniversary.
Reporters and editors submit articles to GayNet via computer, telephone and modem. The service is accessible to members only.
The service uses off-the-shelf bulletin board software and can be accessed by using regular communications software on Macintosh or IBM-compatible computers.
"Writers who were previously seen only in their local markets can now gain international exposure of their ideas," Garvin said.
The nonprofit news service also offers a separate, publicly accessible electronic bulletin board called GayNet Direct. News releases, public service announcements and other information may be posted on this board and picked up by subscribers to the regular news service.
GayNet is staffed by three part-time volunteers, including Garvin and Reini, and one part-time paid writer, who compiles information for the GayNet News Digest, a national roundup of news stories.
Garvin said GayNet was started because of a lack of similar services available to gay and lesbian publications.
Another reason for starting the service, he explained, is that mainstream newspapers and wire services tend to cover big stories, such as the gay and lesbian march on Washington last spring, but fail to cover "minor" issues.
"And yet to us, it's very important," he said.
Editors at gay and lesbian publications who subscribe to the service call it a welcome addition and valuable resource, which helps supplement their overall news coverage.
"Basically, there were no other services for the gay media. There really are no gay-oriented news services," Garvin said.
He said GayNet was created to solve a problem experienced by Out! and other publications.
"Out! had exchanged subscriptions with a few papers and articles looked interesting, but we had to call to make sure we could use them and there was a time factor in getting it," he said. A faster and more effective method for gathering and distributing news appeared to be a computer bulletin board service.
Publications that deliver stories to the service do not have the financial resources to support large staffs, Garvin said. By connecting to GayNet, they are able to get news and information that would be difficult and time-consuming to gather on their own.
Before starting the service, Garvin said, letters were sent to gay and lesbian publications asking if they were interested in this type of service.
He said no efforts have been made to extend the service to mainstream newspapers and other publications because part of the agreement involves exchanging stories.
"I'm not saying that we would refuse to have the New York Times as a member, but we have never solicited them for that reason," he said.
Members pay GayNet a fee, which ranges from a one-time charge to a sliding scale of $29.95 to $99.95 monthly, depending on the number of issues published or broadcasts made each month.
Garvin said one challenge facing the news service is its location.
"Our biggest challenge has been overcoming the perception that Albuquerque is outside the perceived centers of gay culture: New York and San Francisco. However, now that we've been operating for three years, that is changing along with the realization that with the electronic revolution, any place can be an information center."
He noted that one of the most popular features of the service is the national roundup of stories affecting the gay and lesbian community.
"The members can use any article from the digest as is or they could just take different categories," he said.
Leroy Aarons, president of the Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, said creating a news service for gay and lesbian publications was a "great" idea.
He suggested that GayNet expand its scope and sell stories to mainstream newspapers.
"The mainstream press does not have a tremendous amount of access to what the gay press is reporting about. Very often, the gay press is on the cutting edge of what is happening in the gay community," Aarons said.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for the mainstream press to expand its net," he added.
Rob Faggart, editor in chief of the Front Page, a 10,500-circulation twice-weekly gay and lesbian newspaper in Raleigh, said his publication has been subscribing to GayNet for the past two years.
"We have been very happy with the service. It's been a great resource for us," he said. "One of the things that we use in every issue is their national news digest."
Trixie Burke, news editor of IN, a 20,000-circulation weekly gay and lesbian newspaper based in Boston and distributed throughout New England, said that if GayNet did not exist, it would have to be invented.
"I think the idea of having something like this on a modem, bulletin or database is great," she said.
Burke said her newspaper's stories come from a variety of sources, from staff writers to other publications. IN has been subscribing to GayNet for two years.
Burke's only complaint concerned stylistic changes that must be made to GayNet stories so they match her newspaper's style.
"We trust that their sources are credible, and that's an implied trust, just like when I assign stories to people. I have people who write for me whom I've never met, we just talk over the phone. We hope that it is a credible service and are grateful that it exists," she said.
? (GayNet News Service has proven to be a "great resource," said Rob Faggart, editor in chief of the Front Page, a gay and lesbian newspaper in Raleigh.) [Photo and Caption]
? (Noack is a free-lance writer.) [ID]


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