'Voice' Goes Silent in 'Show-Me' State

By: Mark Fitzgerald When it comes to gay and lesbian-oriented newspapers in Missouri, The Vital Voice is really all there is. There are a couple of entertainment pubs that circulate in bars, but every other Friday for the past 10 years, Pam Schneider has published the only quality newspaper serving the so-called LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) audience, not just in its home base of St. Louis but in cities across the "Show Me" State.

The Vital Voice isn't for the flamboyant: From the start, it has refused to accept the sex-related advertising that is a mainstay for even some well-regarded gay papers. But for all the well-documented purchasing power of the LGBT market, the Vital Voice illustrates the financial struggle that locally owned gay papers are facing in many parts of the country. The industry and general recession have taken an especially harsh toll on sole owners such as Schneider, whose day job as a real estate agent is equally challenging these days.

As the financial burden of the 30,000-free distribution newspaper began increasingly to wear on Schneider, she asked her readers a blunt question: Should Vital Voice stay, or should it go?

"It's time for me to find out how important [the Vital Voice] is to the community," Schneider wrote in a note to readers. She sketched several scenarios: go non-profit? Online only? Became a "lifestyle glossy"? Or simply shut down?

The outpouring of respect for the paper was heartening. Readers "totally did not want it to go away," she says. Nor did they want it to change. But in this brutal economy, that cheerleading was the extent of their support.

"Nobody came forward with any cash, so to speak," she says, "and my well has run dry." The paper suspended publication in September. Schneider says she can't go into details, but plans are afoot to bring the paper back in January ? and readers and advertisers are "going to have to step up to the plate."


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