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Publication Name:

Vital Voice

Years in print:

2000- 2020

History:

New Paper Comes Out of the Closet

By Holly Rauch

            What the now defunct Gay News Telegraph  (GNT) didn’t have was money and marketing. But former GNT editor Jim Thomas has filled those voids and is back at his typewriter – this time as editor if the Vital Voice, a new bi-monthly newspaper serving the St. Louis gay and lesbian community.

            The Vital Voice made its debut at this year’s [2000] Pridefest June 24 and 25.

            A glance at the Vital Voice shows a more colorful, evocative paper than the GNT. With articles ranging from politics and religion to features headlined “What are lesbians like?”, the Vital Voice does not replicate the GNT , which mostly ran wire copy. Thomas admits the GNT never made much money, leaving him unable to hire the staff he needed.

            “As things started going bad, I Left positions unfilled. I had five different jobs to do,” said Thomas.

            The GNT closed its doors Jan. 14, after 19 years of publication. One month later, Thomas got a call from Pam Schneider, publisher of the St. Louis Pride Pages and producer of the Gay and Lesbian Business Expo. Schneider, publisher of the Vital Voice, contacted Thomas about starting up a new gay and lesbian newspaper.

            “I saw other cities that had decent publications,” said Schneider. “They gave communications insight…It just made me think ‘I just don’t get why St. Louis can’t have this.’”

            Schneider told Thomas she could provide money and marketing strategies but needed him to be the “brain of the publishing of the newspaper.” By March, Thomas agreed to come on board and by June they produced the first issue with a circulation of 15,000.

            Schneider said she will use and apply the experiences of the GNT to the Vital Voice. One area where a reader will find crossover between the papers is in advertising. The Vital Voice will also use St. Louis Pride Pages – a directory of gay-owned and friendly businesses – to help build an advertising base for the paper.

            “The News-Telegraph was a success for 19 years. I want to bring that success to the present day,” said Schneider. “I want this to be not just critical news, but also about numerous lifestyles and diverse cultural stories – a full-service publication – a paper that appeals to the community at large.”

            Thomas said he too wants the Vital Voice to be a paper that helps enhance the gay and lesbian community by encompassing all aspects of the community including sports, religious groups, politics and grassroots organizations.

            The Vital Voice is distributed at 110 locations around the St. Louis area. At most sites, the paper is free. However some vendors require the paper to be listed with a cost in order to put it on their newsstands. At those sites the paper costs 75 cents, though the Vital Voice does not collect it.

            Schneider said she is thinking about promoting the paper regionally, but right now [she] wants to concentrate on strengthening its foundation locally, though it is also distributed at a few sites in Kansas City, Columbia, Eureka Springs and Southern Illinois.

            “There are already four publications in Kansas City,” Schneider said. “Do I want to throw another into the mix? I won’t expand before I’m ready, but sort of, the sky’s the limit.”

            In St. Louis, the Vital Voice won’t have much competition. Slam! Magazine, another St. Louis gay and lesbian publication, is folding after its next issue, though Schneider said its folding had nothing to do with the Vital Voice’s debut. The only other gay and lesbian publication is EXP magazine, which is geared more toward entertainment and the bar scene.

            “EXP and Vital Voice are two very different publications,” said Schneider. “There’s enough support for both of us. EXP is more of an entertainment magazine. The Vital Voice takes a little more time to read.”

            Ultimately, Schneider and Thomas want the Vital Voice to have an impact on the gay and lesbian community.

            “Knowledge is power,” said Thomas. “If my community is going to grow and mature in successful ways, it has to have an avenue to do so – a good newspaper will do that.”

            (Reprinted with permission of the St. Louis Journalism Review. Originally published 9/00).


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