INTO’s Closure Reflects the Brutality of The Media Industry Towards Queer and Trans Writers of Color
Those who are harmed the most by Grindr’s decision to shut down INTO magazine are queer and trans Black writers.
On Tuesday morning Grindr closed down its LGBTQ+ publication, INTO after laying off the magazine’s entire editorial and social media staff, leaving full-time employees without jobs while dozens of freelancers and columnists lost their primary source of income.
The layoffs come months after the magazine broke the story that Grindr’s CEO and President Scott Chen had posted that “marriage is between a man and a woman” on his personal Facebook page. According to Out magazine, the decision to close down the publication wasn’t made in retaliation to those reports but rather because the “company will be focusing its efforts on video.”
Late last year, ahead of a sale to Bustle Digital Group, millennial news site Mic laid off most of their staff and according to a report by The New York Times, sources said that the venture capitalist-backed publication had relied too heavily on their relationship with Facebook and its algorithm. The efforts of their talented newsroom didn’t pay off for the writers and editors who were only given a month’s severance and health insurance benefits, but it did pay off for the founders, former Goldman Sachs banker, Chris Altchek and co-founder Jake Horowitz, who raised $59.5 million in funds and sold to Bustle for $5 million.
While we expect magazines which represent the voices of the marginalized to be spaces where we can thrive, develop our voices and skills, and carve out a platform to not only be represented, heard and celebrated, the companies that own them view their staffs as entirely disposable which means those who are harmed the most by these closures are queer and trans people of color.
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In this capitalist society, most publications have already stripped down their newsrooms to a bare minimum: full-time writing positions are hard to come by and when they are available they usually go to people who can afford to enter the world of journalism and publishing—which primarily means white, middle to upper class men. At its core the world of media remains an industry which underpays or altogether ignores queer and trans Black, Indigenous and people of color (Q/T BIPOC) unless we’re the subjects of violence for them to report on. Rarely are we given a chance to write about our own experiences and communities, and if we are, we often face harassment for using the power of our pens.
We could expect and hope that publications which seek to represent us would be kinder to us, perhaps even more aware of how media abuses, harms and exploits Q/T BIPOC—and while this may be true of the editors we work with, there is no such thing as for-profit media companies that aren’t based in capitalist exploitation of our labor. Writers and editors produce the work that is necessary in ensuring that the public remains not only aware of oppressions and injustices in this world, but we also help make space for the compassion that is necessary in pushing for real change. Anti-oppression oriented writers and editors ensure that we use our experiences, words and research to push against white supremacy, misogyny and queerphobia, so when entire newsrooms are closed down for a mythological “pivot to video” or prior to being sold for profit to another company, marginalized editors and writers are yet again left in precarious financial situations, wondering whether our work has any value to anyone at all.
So what can be done? Well companies which own media outlets, or venture-capitalist backed enterprises like Mic are never going value Q/T BIPOC writers and editors. Journalism and the labor, both literal and emotional, is undervalued by CEOs who only care about SEO, Facebook’s news policies or the numbers of clicks on any given piece. Journalism is about changing things for the better, it is about providing a space for the ignored to be amplified and have our experiences shared with others. It is about holding those in power accountable for their actions. Writing, communicating and sharing information is vital to human existence, but it cannot be done if the powerful keep throwing away the writers who create that change. Writing is what is keeping us alive but the industry which employs us is killing us little by little. It is time for our readers to demand better for editorial staff and freelance writers. Support unionization efforts, subscribe to the work of freelancers who have Patreon accounts, support independent media sources.
When media companies exploit the voices of queer and trans Black, Indigenous and people of color, all the while demanding that we represent a kinder side to them, it is clear that they don’t deserve our support.
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