Trish Bendix is a freelance entertainment writer and late night TV columnist for The New York Times. She got her start as an LGBT journalist writing for AfterEllen, an online publication that followed the depiction of lesbian women and couples at a time when being a gay woman on TV was literally major national news.
“There was no one, no coverage, no real criticism of how we were being depicted” at the time, because it was so new, Bendix says. The site “grew as the community grew. It was around the same time that Will & Grace was coming to TV. I was one of four full-time staff members,” a number that eventually dwindled.
For every victory, there’s a setback, she says. It’s now far more common to see articles about the LGBT community in major outlets, which would’ve been unimaginable even 20 years ago; but at the same time, it’s no longer just LGBT-specific outlets that are telling the stories of the community, making it easier for bigger named celebrities or advocates to take their stories to those larger outlets.
“The more mainstream press covers anything related to LGBT people, the more they start to get the fun stories too,” Bendix says. “Celebrities used to come out in The Advocate, but now they’re trusting and going more to major publications. Now mainstream publications are getting the stories we used to have to relegate to LGBT-specific press. They feel kind of slighted. It might be disappointing that they’re sidestepping and going bigger.”
There are still smaller, regional publications that are doing well, because they know and have represented their community for a longer period of time. But it’s getting harder to be, specifically and singularly, an LGBT writer covering LGBT topics.
Case in point: Bendix, who says she doesn’t mind getting story assignments with an LGBT focus because she’s a member of that community, wrote an article for BuzzFeed on LGBT media and its changing mandate. The day the story was published, BuzzFeed laid off most of its staff on LGBT coverage.
“When AIDS occurs, when Pulse occurs, that’s when the mainstream press are looking for those (LGBT) writers and finally prizing those writers because they know they can get that story, but it’s a flavor of the week” for outlets that don’t specifically cover that community, Bendix says. “I’m usually optimistic, but I’m not seeing anything currently that makes me feel it’s going to change.”