NLGJA convention attendance, membership down
America’s LGBT journalists have taken their annual national convention on the road this weekend, to Canada. But the NLGJA 2009 convention held over the weekend in Montreal turned out to be a much smaller affair.
Final figures aren’t in yet, but attendance at this year’s National Lesbian and Gay Journalists convention is down sharply. NLGJA President David Steinberg says fewer than two hundred are here at this downtown Montreal hotel. Compare that to some seven hundred LGBT and mainstream reporters, writers, editors and PR people who came to the New York convention five years ago.
Steinberg says the reason is simple enough.
Steinberg: “Um… [sigh] Does the phrase ‘worst recession since the great depression mean anything to you?”
Steinberg says the recession has caused cutbacks in big media companies’ employee travel budgets. Freelance journalists have tightened their belts hard as newspapers, magazines and TV networks have cut back their freelance budgets. And many print journalists have been laid off in the last year. Some are looking for work and can’t afford to travel; others have left the industry altogether.
Steinberg says those problems are also reflected in NGLJA’s falling membership numbers.
The group has addressed the issue head-on, with a panel Saturday titled “Is NLGJA necessary.” Steinberg says that considering NLGJA’s founding mission to fight within newsrooms for fair and accurate coverage of the LGBT community, the answer is yes — now, more than ever.
Steinberg: “Honestly, there are fewer of us in the newsroom, so we need to be able to provide support to those people who are to be able to talk to decision-makers and be able to feel comfortable raising those issues.”
NLGJA will celebrate its 20th anniversary at next year’s convention in San Francisco.
–Tim Curran, Montreal
Tim Curran is a member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.