Jan. 27, 2010 - Issue #745: AGA
News site brings more than just gossip
The world of media geared towards queer women has been so small for so
long, that I have to admit I stopped longing for any better. I'd become
complacent with the stagnant state of gay news. There were few sites and zero
competition. No scoops, no investigative pieces. Until recently we were
living in a world where the only person able to source fresh content was
Perez Hilton and hot stories or not, I just can't make my web browser point
in his sleazy direction without dry heaving just a little bit.
It seems there are three categories of LGBTQ news magazines and websites: online aggregators that have little to no original content, clunky magazines like OUT or The Advocate geared towards wealthy white men and lastly, their female counterparts like Curve or Girlfriends targeting 20-something women with shallow interests in cruises, parties and superfluous pop culture stories. Aside from local 'zine projects and the odd European publication, we were staring at a barren landscape.
So here it was, this gaping hole of dyke news on the interweb. Blogs tried to fill it, but individual girls with individual views can only do so much. Then came Autostraddle.com. Debuting last march, the site is the fiery brainchild of Marie 'Riese' Lyn Bernard. The New York-based journalist and writer spawned the site after finding success with her personal blog Autowin, a ton of professional writing gigs and some lesbo cred from recaps on The L Word Online and a vlog for Showtime. She cites inspiration from sources as diverse as Sassy Magazine to Pump Up the Volume to Andy Warhol and the Factory.
One of the things that makes Autostraddle so interesting is it's focus on community building. The site has a handful of staff but also enlists the services of interns, many of whom come from Canada and one of which happens to be an Edmontonian. While money is definitely a priority for Autostraddle down the road, it seems to come after creating a rich and diverse home for stories that deserve reporting.
Bernard told me "We want to be more than just "content" or a glorified news aggregator of the day's top lesbian stories. Too many websites these days are designed to be search-engine friendly, rather than reader friendly."
Autostraddle stories run the gamut from pop culture to social issues to politics. Articles about Lady Gaga sit alongside ones about queer families and gay marriage votes. Or as Bernard puts it. "If Autostraddle was a classroom of schoolchildren, they'd be holding hands singing 'We Shall Overcome' and one of the kids would trip over something and we'd all laugh at the kid but still feel super serious about overcoming stuff like adversity."
Autostraddle updates constantly and while lots of content is good, the consistent quality is even better. "We want people to trust that we are only going to promote things that we actually like. Our readers are pretty savvy, the two or three times we've plugged something mediocre 'cause a friend or associate was so nice we felt guilty not doing it, the response is deafening silence." says Bernard.
"We want to do everything differently than anyone else is doing. I think the key to success in online journalism or even website content-production is to be ridiculously unique. Whenever we have the resources to do a politics piece 'our way' (like we did with our coverage of the National Equality March and the anti-gay protests in NYC, and as we do when live-blogging elections in Maine, hearings in New Jersey, and the Prop 8 trial as well) we do it.
"All of our media coverage is grounded in a subversive, ironic approach--we assume all our readers are smart and they're as bored by celeb gossip as we are. We think you can have intelligent conversations about stupid things, and these stupid things matter 'cause that's what the rest of the world is just mindlessly consuming, like twinkies."
Autostraddle aims to report a variety of stories that matter to a queer audience, even if they aren't obviously gay, according to Bernard: "We don't limit ourselves to covering strictly or stereotypically gay things because we understand that gay people are whole entire humans, with interests beyond just their orientation. It's an 'outsider' mentality; things that are risky, edgy and non-traditional."
I'll have more in two weeks with Autostraddle's founder to find out what brave new territory Autostraddle is headed to next. V
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