McEntee: QSaltLake is working hard to keep serving LGBT community
Since its debut in 2004, QSaltLake has been a voice for the LGBT community, offering news, commentary, political profiles, arts and entertainment and some pretty funny comics.
But like so many newspapers, it is running pretty lean these days, and publisher Michael Aaron is working overtime to build his readership, in print and online, and find a way to survive.
Just last year, the biweekly newspaper (called Salt Lake Metro until 2006) and its website had broken even for the first time. But starting early this year, the costs of paper, printing and fuel for delivery have risen, and Aaron is operating in the red yet again.
Which is a shame. The loss of any reputable news source is deeply troubling in these turbulent political and economic times.
And yet, Aaron says, "Believe it or not, our circulation is at our peak now. We're now printing 10,000 copies. And, boy, we don't get a lot back because people are picking us up."
That stands to reason, because he estimates there are more than 100,000 gays and lesbians living along the Wasatch Front. Moreover, about 25 percent of those who read QSaltLake aren't gay.
"It's a lot of moms, just people who want to know what's going on in the valley," Aaron says.
Meantime, Aaron has enlisted a band of "Qvangelists" charged with telling merchants they learned of them in the paper's ads. He's also started up the business and services booklet called the Pinq Pages, and is creating a VIQ card that will give holders discounts at cooperating stores.
Such appeals also have bolstered QSaltLake.com, which took that name in 2006, Aaron says.
Much of that success, despite dwindling profits, comes from Salt Lake City's reputation, as Aaron puts it, "as the epicenter for the gay rights movement."
Much of that recognition is directly related to California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, and the LDS Church's well-known support of it. But Aaron also cites Utah's own ban, enacted by voters in 2004.
Aaron was hard-hit by the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay man killed in Wyoming in 1998. He came back to Utah from San Francisco a few months later to "to follow my passion instead of making money," he says.
Aaron had been QSaltLake's publisher and editor, but he ceded the latter to Seth Bracken to better handle the downturn and also brought on a new sales team.
He also manages the nonprofit QCares Foundation, which raises money for local gay and lesbian charities and sponsors an anti-methamphetamine campaign and a hepatitis immunization awareness program for gay men.
Arts organizations, event organizers and others use QSaltLake's website for publicity.
Still, it's been a struggle to hold it all together. Keeping an eye on the bottom line keeps him from more important things, like doing good things for the community.
"QSaltLake is really a vital service and resource for the community, and its survival is really dependent on that community to support them," he adds. "I'm talking about businesses getting ads in the paper, getting the readers mentioning where they saw their ads."
Pretty much all traditional news sources are working feverishly to freshen their pages, online and in print, and the competition is fierce. Utahns are lucky to have as many sources, across a spectrum of interests, as we have. QsaltLake is right there among the best of them.
As Aaron says, "We just need to turn this around."
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and facebook/pegmcentee.
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