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Presidential hopefuls not showing love to LGBTQ media

Few ad buys in niche outlets in 2020 campaign

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political advertisement, gay news, Washington Blade
This ad for Mike Bloomberg’s failed campaign appeared in Gay City News.

When it comes to covering the concerns of our community, nobody does it better than LGBTQ print and digital media outlets. Readers hungry for in-depth journalism know the value of hearing it from the horse’s mouth—so why is that lost on the lion’s share of donkeys and elephants?

“I personally have reached out to Buttigieg, Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Bloomberg, with no response from anyone about advertising,” said Justin Wyse, sales manager for South Florida Gay News, in a Feb. 23 email (before Buttigieg, the gay former mayor of South Bend, Ind., suspended his campaign). Democratic presidential hopefuls may be rebuffing Wyse’s overtures, but PACs sometimes have the paper’s back: The Log Cabin Republicans, he notes, planned to advertise in the two issues prior to Florida’s March 17 primary.

Still, not a single candidate has advertised with the paper in past presidential election cycles, says Wyse. “They all say they support our community, but do they? They sure don’t show it, by their silence.”

That silence, if broken, could speak volumes, says Rivendell Media president and CEO Todd Evans. “For a million dollars, you could completely saturate the LGBTQ media market. For $100,000, you will get the back cover in most gay print publications in top U.S. markets,” notes Evans, who places advertisements for the National LGBT Media Association—whose 12 members have a combined weekly print and online reach of approximately 500,000. (The Washington Blade and Los Angeles Blade are members.)

Of that niche market, says activist and Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal, “One of the things we share with the African-American and Latino community is, LGBTQ print is king. When candidates are trying to get to a community, they go in all manners—mailings, targeted social media. So when you go after our votes,” says Segal, of LGBTQs, “part of that is advertising.”

Over the years, says Evans, “We have compiled campaigns and reach-outs to the DNC. They’ve asked for it, even. But they’ve never done anything on a national scale, to my knowledge, ever… Let’s go back to the reason companies target LGBTQs: Primarily, for trend-setting. Why wouldn’t you want to carry that into getting yourself more visibility within our community?”

In anticipation of Pennsylvania’s April 28 primary, Segal notes that despite early outreach to Democrats with designs on the White House, “What they all say is, ‘Get back to us on April 1.’ ” (Sanders and Clinton did advertise with the paper in 2016; the former, with a mainstream ad, and the latter, with one designed for LGBTQ+ readers.)

Using the National LGBT Media Association as his calling card, this reporter requested comment from the RNC, DNC, and Democratic candidates. Only two campaigns responded.

Touting their track record of “locking arms and marching during Pride” as well as attending the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change Conference and RuPaul’s Drag Con, “Team Warren knows the importance of meeting LGBTQ+ voters where they are,” said Daniel Lander, Elizabeth Warren’s National Director for LGBTQ+ Outreach, in a Feb. 24 email.

This article’s deadline forced us to call off the search for answers to our reply, in which we asked if the Warren campaign had taken its message directly to the LGBTQ, Hispanic, or African-American press, via paid advertising.

Bloomberg campaign rep Natalie Johnson assured, in a Feb. 20 email, “We have great team members that can speak to this topic.” But after a phone call at her behest, “to get a better sense of the interview,” it was radio silence after we declined to send a list of questions prior to securing an interview.

Past NYC mayor and present billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who dropped out of the race on March 4 after a dismal Super Tuesday showing, did indeed purchased a presence in the LGBTQ press, albeit a general interest ad that appeared as part of a company-wide buy with Schneps Media, whose properties include NYC’s Gay City News (GCN), a member of the National LGBT Media Association.

When we spoke with GCN founding editor-in-chief and associate publisher Paul Schindler, he noted the issue that hit the streets on Jan. 30 had a back page ad from Bloomberg.

“In his mayoral campaigns,” recalls Schindler, of Bloomberg, “he blanketed our newspapers and our digital with ads. He so outspent his Democratic rivals, there was no competition.”

The Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC and Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn “have endorsed Elizabeth Warren,” notes Schindler, “so if Warren remains viable by the time of the [April 28 NY Democratic] primary, I think there’s a decent shot those clubs would buy an ad, but not much more than two or three weeks before the primary.” (Those clubs, if advertising, won’t be bolstering Warren: The Massachusetts senator called it quits on March 5.)

There’s good reason, says Schindler, that candidates are absent from the local landscape until their time in the primary sun is at hand. “Unlike other consumer products, they are not ‘on sale’ everywhere at the same time… I want to make it very clear that I’m stepping aside from my role as editor, when I say I’m glad they’re spending their money where they are [in battleground states and pre-primary buys]. That’s not something smart for me to say, businesswise, but it’s a cold political fact.”

Even colder and considerably more calculated, is the quest to bypass ads altogether, by pricking up LGBTQ+ ears with a compelling sound bite.

“Candidates [in 2020] do seem to be a bit more reluctant to tap into niche markets by paying for media,” says T.J. Billard, a Ph.D. candidate at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. “They tend to focus on the mainstream,” or rely on “earned media,” i.e., no-cost editorial coverage, as was the case numerous times, notes Billard, when Warren, “just in the course of talking about violence, mentioned transgender women of color. For a general audience, it doesn’t do much. But the fact that she said it is going to be news in the LGBTQ press. So by throwing that in, she’s able to assure a certain degree of visibility in the LGBTQ community that requires no [financial] investment.”

“I’ve seen the tone shift, now that we’re in a post-marriage equality era,” says public affairs and media professional Kenn Campbell, who served as a national advance associate on behalf of the Obama White House, the Office of Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Hillary for America. “Campaigns aren’t reaching out as early as they were, and they aren’t targeting the LGBT community as aggressively as I think they should be … I would hope DNC Chair Perez has a [general election] plan for that. But at this point, I haven’t seen any outreach effort.”

Scott Wazlowski, vice president of advertising for San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter, was in talks with a presidential candidate when we spoke, but under “a fairly comprehensive” non-disclosure agreement. Wazlowski notes the paper’s “strong voting bloc” garners advertising from the city’s Department of Elections “prior to every election in the city and county,” as well as advertising from Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, prior to annual Pride celebrations.

Even for a paper of BAR’s visibility, notes Wazlowski, “Reaching the right person who makes the decision on who buys media for anything other than a small local campaign is almost impossible.”

Of the LGBTQ press, “We are on the front lines, in terms of our local communities,” says Michael Yamashita, president and CEO of BAR Media Inc., and BAR publisher. “I don’t think campaigns really appreciate that direct and close relationship we have.”

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Business

Study: One in ten LGBT workers experienced discrimination at work

LGBTQ employees of color were more likely to report being denied jobs and verbal harassment at work as opposed their white counterparts

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bullying in the workforce, gay news, Washington Blade

LOS ANGELES – A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds an estimated 46% of LGBT workers have experienced unfair treatment at work at some point in their lives, including being fired, not hired, or harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  

An estimated 9% of LGBT employees reported experiences of discrimination in the past year, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which extended employment non-discrimination protections to LGBT people nationwide. Approximately 11% of LGBT employees of color reported being fired or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the last year.

Using survey data collected in May 2021 from 935 LGBT adults in the workforce, researchers examined lifetime, five-year, and past-year discrimination among LGBT employees.

Results show that over half (57%) of LGBT employees who experienced discrimination or harassment at work reported that the unfair treatment was motivated by religious beliefs, including 64% of LGBT employees of color and 49% of white LGBT employees.

“Employment discrimination and harassment against LGBT people remain persistent and pervasive in 2021,” said lead author Brad Sears, Founding Executive Director at the Williams Institute. “Passing the Equality Act would ensure that LGBT people—particularly transgender people and LGBT people of color—are allowed to participate fully in the workplace as well as other public settings.”

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS:

Discrimination

  • 30% of LGBT employees reported experiencing at least one form of employment discrimination (being fired or not hired) because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives.
  • 29% of LGBT employees of color reported not being hired compared to 18% of white LGBT employees.

Harassment

  • 38% of LGBT employees reported experiencing at least one form of harassment (including verbal, physical, or sexual harassment) at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives.
  • LGBT employees of color were significantly more likely to experience verbal harassment than white employees.
    • 36% of LGBT employees of color reported experiencing verbal harassment compared to 26% of white LGBT employees.

Religious Motivation

  • Of employees who experienced discrimination or harassment at some point in their lives, 64% of LGBT employees of color said that religion was a motivating factor compared to 49% of white LGBT employees.

Avoiding Discrimination

  • Half (50%) of LGBT employees said that they are not open about being LGBT to their current supervisor and one-quarter (26%) are not out to any of their co-workers. 
  • Many LGBT employees reported engaging in “covering” behaviors to avoid harassment or discrimination at work, such as changing their physical appearance and avoiding talking about their families or social lives at work.
    • For example, 36% of transgender employees said that they changed their physical appearance and 28% said they changed their bathroom use at work to avoid discrimination and harassment.

Read the report

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Business

Time to dust off your pre-pandemic budget

We can no longer rely on closures to restrict us from spending money

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With pandemic restrictions lifting, we’ll all be spending more on going out in 2021 than we did last year.

D.C.’s first ‘mostly open’ weekend shows there is a year’s worth of socializing built up. It was amazing to feel the energy of the District roar back to life. From long lines outside bars to literal dancing in the streets – this is the city we all came to love. Now that the physical hangover may have subsided, you should prepare for the financial hangover. If you were lucky to keep your full pay and position through the pandemic, data tells us most of you were paying down debt.

The first thing everyone needs to do is dust off that old pre-pandemic budget. Sadly (or really luckily), we can no longer rely on health restrictions to naturally restrict us from spending. If you need a refresher, start with your post-tax income. From there, subtract ‘fixed’ or required expenses, like rent, and the balance is what you get to play with. Some may ask why I don’t use gross income (aka the before tax income) like many financial institutions do for credit applications. Frankly, it’s because net income (aka the money you actually receive) is the most practical number to budget daily life with. It’s what you can tangibly use to live.

Now as you develop your budget, return to using an app like Mint to take some of the work out of it. If you prefer to retain some level of privacy, many banks offer their own version of ‘spending trends’ that you can use to put together a more simple budget. This time the challenge is a bit different – we are all ‘restarting’ our social lives. So instead of having to ‘cut’ things, we can better prioritize what we actually want to do. Still – it is not easy or fun to have to choose, but every dollar you don’t spend today, will be there for the next rainy day.

Finally, so many of our friends and family lost their jobs or had their wages cut during the pandemic. Expanded unemployment benefits helped, but anyone trying to budget for life in D.C. knows that choices had to be made and often rent/utilities took a back seat to eating. Luckily, a state-run, but federal program will help people pay back rent and utilities, so they can focus on getting back to work. In D.C., this is called StayDC, but each jurisdiction offers a similar program.

Be prepared to do a little homework, you will need proof of income (or lack thereof) and documentation of the late payments. Finally, your landlord will need to complete separate forms, but it is in their best interest to receive those funds, so don’t let them drag their feet. The program will cover back rent to April 2021, three months of future rent, and past utilities. Do not delay, nor feel any shame by participating – this is the key to your long term success and, frankly, is a drop in the bucket compared to other spending priorities.

I hope this helps and I wish everyone a much more fun and prosperous 2021.

Information contained herein is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice or recommendations. Advice may only be provided after entering into an advisory agreement with an advisor.

Alex Graham is a Principal at Graham Capital Wealth Management, a registered Investment Advisor located on K Street.

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Business

Gay D.C. business owner to run 100-mile ultramarathon

Brandt Ricca to raise money for Capital Pride, LGBTQ businesses

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Brandt Ricca (Photo by Jonathan Thorpe/jthorpephoto)

Brandt Ricca will begin a non-stop 100-mile ultramarathon at 6 a.m. on Oct. 7 while most D.C. residents will still be sipping their morning coffee.

In a year of isolation and economic downturn, Ricca decided to run 100 miles in two days to benefit local, LGBTQ-owned businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Ricca, who’s lived in D.C. for 10 years, is donating the money he raises to the Capital Pride Alliance and Equality Chamber of Commerce, where he has been a member since 2018.

The gay entrepreneur and owner of the D.C.-based business Nora Lee by Brandt Ricca understands first-hand how the ongoing pandemic affects small businesses, particularly LGBTQ-owned companies.

“I definitely want to give back to the community and local colleagues, especially because Capitol Pride has been now canceled two years in a row,” Ricca said.

Out of the funds raised, 90 percent will go towards funding 20 small business grants through the Equality Chamber of Commerce and the remaining 10 percent will go towards supporting Capital Pride Alliance.  

Brandt, already an avid runner and self-described “fitness explorer,” decided after crowdsourcing ideas to pursue the 100-mile project. Ricca has been a frequent visitor at the Equinox Anthem Row in D.C. to prepare for the run.

“I was looking to do my next fitness endeavor, at the same time wanting to do something to get back to the fellow business owners in D.C.,” he said.

Applications for the 20 grants of various sizes for LGBTQ businesses are projected to open this summer through the Equality Chamber of Commerce, Ricca said. His goal is to raise $100,000 from individuals and companies. The grants will be distributed in October following the completion of the run.

Equality Chamber of Commerce Vice President Riah Gonzales-King is in the process of developing grants and additional summer educational programming to help young LGBTQ entrepreneurs and students start their businesses.

“So much of the culture centers around these businesses, many of which have been around for decades,” Gonzales-King said. “They’re pillars of the community — their owners are pillars in the community. And I think it’s time that we gave back.”

Helping LGBTQ entrepreneurs specifically at this time is essential, Ricca said, especially entrepreneurs in the creative and hospitality industry.

Ricca began training in February with the help of several exercise experts like Brian Mazza, a New York City fitness entrepreneur who ran 50 miles last December to raise awareness for male infertility stigma. The former Men’s Health headliner is guiding Ricca’s physical training, which has been a near-daily routine. Ricca was inspired by Mazza’s run in the first place.

Ricca reached out to Mazza over Instagram to get his assistance and training.

Mazza said Ricca reaching out over Instagram “meant the world.”

“I believe what he’s doing for his cause is remarkable,” Mazza said. “It’s important. I’m happy that he’s standing up for what he believes in and helping these businesses and helping individuals in general.”

Jacob Zemer, a coach and nutritionist, has designed a daily nutrition program for Ricca to prepare him for the run. Zemer and Mazza have been working together throughout the process to track Ricca’s health and progress.

The two fitness experts work with Ricca multiple times a day to monitor his diet, mileage, heart rate and pace monitoring. Both Mazza and Zemer said Ricca’a training has been successful.

“Brandt’s an excellent individual,” Zemer said. “He’s very easy to work with. He’s highly coachable, he’s a pleasure to talk to every day.”

Pacers Running will be sponsoring and designing Ricca’s 100-mile route throughout the D.C. region. The company is also working with Ricca to design specific shoes for the ultramarathon.

Pacers Running CEO Kathy Dalby won “Best Straight Ally” in the Washington Blade’s 2019 Best of Gay D.C.

“I really wanted someone local who could really guide me on a route,” Ricca said.

Elyse Braner, a community lead at Pacers Running and longtime friend to Ricca, said the local business was excited to collaborate with Brandt because of an alignment of values.

“As a community, inclusivity and diversity is extremely important to Pacers Running,” Braner said. “As a small business, we really appreciated that Brandt wanted to do an event that supported small businesses — specifically LGBTQ businesses.”

Originally an event-planning business, Nora Lee debuted in 2018 on the second annual Allison Gala, a fundraising event benefiting the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, which Brandt created in memory of a family friend. He’s worked with a range of clients, including the Dupont Circle Hotel and Sotheby’s Real Estate.

Looking back at events on his website, he said he found himself bored with the photography. This led him to focus on creative marketing and decided to pivot his business model at the beginning of the pandemic. Now, Ricca provides photography and video shoots for clients.

“When COVID hit I decided to, like every business owner, I revisited my plan,” he said. “I really enjoyed the creative branding more in the photo shoot. So I decided to pivot strictly to just a full-on creative branding agency.”

The training for the 100-mile run has provided a stable routine for Ricca, which has helped him get through the pandemic, he said. Ricca is planning to create a campaign this summer inviting LGBTQ entrepreneurs to do their version of 100 miles, with the hope it will provide positive stability in their lives as it does in his.

“Obviously, people think I’m crazy for doing this,” Ricca said. “All the uncertainty out there right now – with business, with clients, with whatever; I needed an anchor. Something that was going to be a routine for me that I can control.”

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