If you’ve checked up on your fave LGBTQ media outlets in the past 48 hours, you might’ve heard that Into, Grindr’s nearly two-year-old online editorial platform catering to the LGBTQ community, has folded. Trish Bendix, Into’s former managing editor, confirmed to NewNowNext that the closure was due to a “pivot to video” mentality.
It was a hard pill to swallow for Bendix, who joined the Into editorial team in November 2017 after its soft launch that summer. The news also comes shortly after the site published a very meta exposé claiming Grindr’s president and former CTO was anti-marriage equality—and after former editor-in-chief Zach Stafford left to helm Pride Media’s The Advocate. Still, Bendix says she didn’t see the editorial and social teams’ departures immediately on the horizon.
“You just never feel secure in your job in media, first of all,” she says. “It doesn’t even matter how great of a job you’re doing; you will get fired because they can’t afford it anymore. I see so many reporters and editors who this happens to constantly, so I’m never under any delusion of grandeur that I’m always safe. And you’re always a little bit nervous after a huge shake-up happens. After Zach left, we had a lot of uncertainty about the future, but we didn’t know that that meant that we were going to be let go.”
But Bendix, whose long resume includes a tenure as Editor-in-Chief of the queer women’s site AfterEllen and writing for outlets including NewNowNext, is still immensely proud of projects she led at Into. She credits the site’s staff writers and robust list of freelance contributors—many of whom depended on fair and speedy pay from Into to get by—for helping the small site grow in such a short amount of time. A goodbye letter from the editorial team, published after the mass layoffs in a Google Doc, cited the outlet’s award-winning reporting on pertinent issues affecting LGBTQ people around the world.
— Mary Emily O'Hara (@MaryEmilyOHara) January 15, 2019
“I was really proud of getting people from the international community to tell their own stories about their own places,” Bendix explains. “It was amazing to actually speak with activists or writers or content creators. Sometimes they were very green or hadn’t even written something before or created something before, but we worked with them—working with translators, working to help craft the narrative so that they were the ones who were in charge of it.”
Of course, no job is perfect; though Grindr supported Into’s editorial and video projects from the very beginning, Bendix says higher-ups at the site’s parent company failed to see how its content could generate a sizeable profit. It’s an industry-wide problem, she says: Prospective advertisers might be wary about advertising their product or service next to an article about gay sex or queer culture. (Outlets like Out or The Advocate, which have legacy appeal; can offer celebs glossy magazine cover spreads; and historically skew more “cis, white, and male,” don’t struggle with this as much, Bendix believes.)
That, and Into fell prey to the push for “flashy video content.”
Just heartbroken today. https://t.co/skiKNWTawY
— Zach Stafford (@ZachStafford) January 15, 2019
Going forward, Bendix hopes LGBTQ media outlets continue to center diverse voices from the queer community. Queer media in 2019 is a “scary place” to be, she admits. For a while, it seemed like mainstream outlets—think NBC News or The Huffington Post—believed the future of LGBTQ media lay in queer verticals on non-queer sites. But even NBC Out and HuffPost Queer Voices are no longer the “[beacons] of queer media,” she says. In her overwhelming experience, writers and editors in this niche end up “having to decide if you just want to be a business person about the content” and write what’s profitable.
“And that’s not typically why most of us who like to write get into this industry,” she shares. “So it’s one of those things where you just either have to be okay not making a ton of money, but doing it because your heart’s in it—and also not getting too burned out. Especially when you’re writing about your own community; there are just so many things at play. You know, you can’t just leave your identity at the door, go inside, and report on it.”
— Trish Bendix (@trishbendix) January 16, 2019
Does Bendix have any regrets from her time at Into? “Well,” she says, pausing to laugh, “there’s one Ariana Grande story I would’ve never published.” (Stafford, her former editor, is in agreement and issued a statement apologizing for the controversial op-ed about Grande’s “Thank U, Next” music video.)
Still, she’s hopeful that there’s a market for LGBTQ voices and queer stories in media, queer (think Condé Nast’s Them, Viacom’s NewNowNext, Pride Media’s Out or The Advocate, etc.) and mainstream/non-LGBTQ. Bendix believes that the onus is “mostly on editors out there” to make sure that they’re finding diverse writers to tell diverse stories: “I just want [editors] to look for these writers. They exist!”