Randy Stern: Establishing a Foundation

Part of my life as a writer is feeding a local LGBT publication with automotive content. Lavender Magazine has been my local and community home for this work. I am fortunate to have a Managing Editor who gives me some freedom on my subjects, an ad sales team that understands the currency of the content, though there are times when we need to have an understanding between editorial and the request of an advertiser. I am grateful that the publisher has allowed me to be a part of this magazine as a contributor. It has been a great relationship.

Randy Stern

Last December, I received the most exciting news in my career from the Managing Editor. She mentioned that the magazine will explore new themes for issues being published in 2015. One of them will be centered on automobiles. This was followed up by an e-mail from her stating exactly that. You can tell how ecstatic I was about this news!

Days later, I went to work on story ideas. I came up with a huge list of story ideas and ways to distribute the work amongst other writers and columnists. This was presented to a meeting with the Managing Editor in mid-January. Seven pieces came out of that meeting. I ended doing four of them – by default. Not that I was ungrateful, but it simply worked out that way.

The result of all of this will be out March 19. Issue 517, as it is officially called. This will be a shared issue with the periodic pets theme.

Before you ask, the magazine already covered pets and automobiles. That was not happening this time.

What did happen was a lot of work. I already had the Managing Editor assign the motorcycle lifestyle piece to our sports writer, have her assistant set up a shoot with a clothing company catering to motorcycle enthusiasts and had our music editor come up with a road trip soundtrack.

What was left was me. This is where the fun begins…

First of all, I reached out to a gentleman named Stephen Rhodes. If you have not heard his story, he came out after his last NASCAR ride over ten years and had been trying to secure one in the Camping World NASCAR Truck series. After I sent him the questions, he still has not secured sponsorship for his ride.

Then, there was a history piece that explored automobile trends in the LGBT community after the Stonewall riots. I learned a lot from this article. One, what was true in one region of the country may not be true elsewhere. There were some universal themes, however. In the 1990s, when a few automakers reached out to the LGBT community, they did so on a national basis through The Advocate and Out magazine. Not that it was anything new, but it did tie in the consumer trends of a community across a nation and not subdivide on the basis of region.

With that in mind, I interviewed a few community members who were in the auto retailing business in the Twin Cities market. Sometimes, we focus on which brands and companies support us internally and externally. However, the front line of the auto business is at the dealership. As consumers, it is always helpful to support our community through the businesses we are involved with. Ultimately, it does come back to the community and to the greater good and welfare of the manufacturer and dealer group. It was an exploratory conversation that saw a 360 degree examination of the relationship with business, community and the individual representing that business.

Lastly, I was told to come up with my regular car review. My goal was to bring something special to the readership of Lavender. The Managing Editor and I looked at what I had coming in and we agreed on a vehicle. The problem was that said vehicle could not be delivered for the review due to a part on order. About that time, I received a message from a contact at a dealership in the Twin Cities who knew I was doing this issue. He followed up on a conversation that had me reviewing one of their finest offerings back in July. There was a part two that did not happen last summer. He offered that other car – the 2015 Maserati Quattroporte. Though his dealer sold Aston Martin and Bentley, we could not make those other two marques work out. In the end, it turned out that the Quattroporte was the right subject for this issue.

You might wonder how all of this would ever be considered for a LGBT publication? I believe in trying not to play into any stereotype, but rather show more of a reality-based picture of the community. Add to this the element of dreams and ideas that are not unique to everyone. This is to disseminate information and engage with the readership. In all, to show how serious Lavender is to advertisers and the automobile industry as an innovative leader in the LGBT media.

Lofty goals? Yes. One cannot take these risks without some “what ifs.” For example, what if the readership of the magazine – online and in print – simply do not care? It is a free distribution magazine within a certain region with a growing web and app-based presence. Why not risk it?

And, why talk about this? Lavender is a great magazine. Part of that comes from having Steve Lenius as one of the magazine’s original columnists covering the leather/BDSM community. Working with Steve yields a high level of credibility as we both have our place in that magazine.

The incentive to being a driver for this issue is simple – to pour more cement on Lavender’s foundation. Rather, to build a new wall, apply insulation and put up the windows. In the fourteen years of working in media – in particular, working with Ruff – it has really come down to this.

Randy Stern is a past managing editor of the GLD predecessor Midwest Ursine and an automotive journalist. His work is published at Victory & Reseda and Why This Ride You can contact him at randy@randystern.net.