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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2015-11-25
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HuffPost Gay Voices offers news, views
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

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Noah Michelson was the senior editor at Out magazine, primarily responsible for running its website, a role he had for about two years—and he was content, not looking for a career move.

But then officials at the Huffington Post came calling, looking for an editor

"The reason this [job] was so exciting to me was, they sort of let me do exactly what I wanted to do. They let me design [the webpage] the way I'd like to see it. They put a lot of trust into me, to make my dream LGBT website."

In October 2011, Gay Voices was launched on the Huffington Post website.

"My idea was, and still is, when you come to the site, you walk away from it and sort of have a snapshot of what's going on in the LGBT community at that moment," said Michelson, 34, who grew up in Wisconsin and now lives in New York City. He is openly gay with a partner, Travis DeZalia, of almost two years.

"Prior to launching, the Huffington Post was already covering a lot of LGBT news, so I think they just thought it made sense to have a place where all of that LGBT news could live and thrive. That was the general idea."

Michelson said the site's first 16 months have been a success, and exactly what he hoped it would be.

"The thing that has surprised me the most is just how much of a reach the Huffington Post has and, by extension, how much reach we have. That's a great thing and also a scary thing," he said. "It's great in that we're able to put some stories out there that, maybe, some people wouldn't have heard of any other way."

Many of the visitors/readers of Gay Voices are straight. That's partially because many come to the site via the Huffington Post home page and also through its parent company, America Online. "Because of that, we're able to reach people who normally wouldn't be reading stories about, say, transgender people, or any other LGBT issues simply because they normally wouldn't go to a [predominantly gay] website," Michelson said.

When launched in 2011, the site featured only Michelson and an associate editor. Today, the site also features a dedicated reporter and an editor-at-large.

"I'm very proud of our original reporting, which we really didn't have when we started," Michelson said. "The sky's the limit [for the site]. I really would like to concentrate on even more original reporting. Plus, I want to get more and more people involved, on the page.

"I think my two goals for 2013 are, to keep beefing up our original reporting and then find new ways, and also strengthen our original ways, of getting more readers to interact with us.

"At this point, I think we're only limited by the number of people we have [working on the site] and the resources. There's always more news that we could be covering."

Michelson and his crew were swarming the Chick-fil-A controversy in 2012, which he tagged as a "watershed moment for a lot of people who became active and vocal about what they saw as unfair and negative, in a very public way, about LGBT people."

He said coming-out stories remain very popular on the site.

"You might think, in 2013, that coming out is less of an issue, or less important [than in the past], but it's just as important and people still want to talk about it and are still curious about it," he said.

Same-sex marriage also, naturally, has been a huge news story.

"One thing I'm proud and excited about is [that] we also are a sex-positive site, which is something you don't see often," Michelson said. "We don't shy away from stories that feature sexuality and sex, and I think we do it in a very smart and nuanced way."

Michelson said he also has endured some surprisingly negative responses, specifically, for light-hearted reports under 'the gayest' banner. Such as, the Gayest Super Bowl Moments, or the Gayest Christmas Songs.

"We get a lot of pushback on those, mostly that we shouldn't be using the term 'the gayest' as a way of qualifying something, that it's a derogatory term, stereotyping, etc.," Michelson said.

Michelson noted that Gay Voices is always seeking bloggers from across the LGBT rainbow, even from those who carry a varying opinion of life than his. They still have a home on Gay Voices, Michelson said, "because we want everyone to have a voice."

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