Dana Piccoli is a writer, novelist, strategist, podcast host, and entertainment critic who has written for sites including NBC News, The Mary Sue, Decider and Curve; and was a longtime writer and staff editor for what was once the most popular website for queer women’s pop culture.
She’s the former managing editor of the Bella Media Channel, a vertical of Bella Books Publishing that focuses on queer entertainment and pop culture. Dana is the founder and editor-in-chief of Queer Media Matters. She was named one of Advocate Magazine’s 2019 Champions of Pride and one of Curve Magazine’s 2017’s Pridelist for her work in LGBTQ+ media.
In 2022, Dana joined Local Media Association as project manager for News is Out: National Queer Media Collaborative, with initial funding from the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge, focused on business sustainability and producing great journalism. The collaborative has seven founding publishers, including Bay Area Reporter, Dallas Voice, Philadelphia Gay News, Q Voice News, Tagg Magazine, Washington Blade, and Windy City Times.
We interviewed Dana to learn more about her experience, challenges for LGBTQ+ publishers, goals, and opportunities with this new project.
Dana, it’s great to have you here at Local Media Association and News is Out. Tell us how you’ve been applying your experience so far with this new endeavor.
Thank you! It’s been a whirlwind few weeks and I am having the best time. One of the skills I am applying a lot right now is listening and asking questions. It’s so important to get this right, which involves really listening. We are seven publishers (and me), working towards a common goal of exemplary, inclusive and sustainable queer media. There’s not a lot of room for ego there, ha.
After a decade in queer media, I’ve learned much about what people are looking for in coverage. What delights and entertains, what informs and touches people deeply. I think News is Out will deliver that in a way we haven’t seen before. I’m also someone who has been advocating for my community for a long time, as have my colleagues here, and I think that will show when it comes to coverage. This is a calling; it totally is. I love what I do with a passion, and I hope people feel that with every click.
With your years of experience writing about LGBTQ+ issues and for LGBTQ+ media outlets, what do you think is the biggest thing that most mainstream media outlets get wrong about the queer community?
That we’re all the same. The LGBTQ+ community isn’t a monolith. This often comes up when it comes to coverage of important issues, especially in advertising. We are a community with so many niches and different needs, which tend to get overlooked by mainstream media. This is why I think queer media is so important. We need room to have different ideas and feelings about things. For example, a mainstream site may believe that a film has great trans representation but for the actual trans community, that conversation is much more nuanced. We need to see ourselves in media and media coverage and criticism.
What goals do you hope to accomplish with News is Out in the next 6-12 months?
I have three big goals. My first goal is to intimately understand each of the amazing outlets that make up News is Out. That way I can best serve them and our readers regarding content and campaigns. Getting a site launched and onto peoples’ radar is goal No. 2. I want News is Out to be the site you can’t wait to check when you get to work in the morning or scroll through when you are looking for excellent LGBTQ+ content. That involves stellar content and the design and look, how intuitive it is, and the user experience. Plus, how we can market the site using social media, newsletters, etc. Then, No. 3 is connecting with advertisers and sponsors who share our vision and want to see queer media excel in a challenging media landscape. I want to help change the mindset that the only time that businesses should support the LGBTQ+ community is during Pride season. We need support throughout the year, and we are year-round consumers. The global LGBTQ+ community spends nearly $4 trillion a year; that’s a lot of spending power.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for LGBTQ+ publishers?
Financial sustainability is a significant issue. I don’t know of many LGBTQ+-focused sites that haven’t had to turn to fundraising or some alternative model to keep the lights on. Digital media is especially tough right now, and I’ve watched several sites shutter or dramatically reduce staff and content. We’re one of the only communities I know of that has to self-fund a majority of our own content.
Another challenge is that mainstream media have caught on that LGBTQ+ content has a place. In one respect, that’s fantastic. However, if we are relegated to getting piecemeal content from mainstream media, which are also getting most of the advertising revenue, that doesn’t benefit us in the long run. We deserve representation in media and to hear from voices we relate to. Everyone wants to cover the next Big Gay Film, but what about the indie films that need the support and coverage? What about legislation on the local level that will have a ricochet effect on the community all over the country? That’s why we need to support local and independent LGBTQ+ publishers.
With regards to News is Out and the state of the media industry, what keeps you up at night, and what gets you out of bed in the morning?
I tend to be an eternal optimist, and News is Out gives me a lot to be excited about. We’re talking about some of the most gifted journalists in LGBTQ+ media, working together to make the world a better place for our industry and the people we serve. In my 10 years in media, I’ve gotten so many messages and even had in-person conversations about how much representation and queer media has meant to people. Knowing they had a place to come and read about the things that mattered to them gave them a sense of hope and belonging. That’s what gets me up in the morning. Anyone who has ever tweeted me about an article I’ve written or shared, or to tell me about something they read that spoke to them, that’s why I do what I do.