Tuesday, October 4

Happy Birthday, The Buckeye Flame!: 5 Takeaways From Year One

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When The Buckeye Flame launched on June 23, 2020, we felt an overwhelming sense of urgency.

From our very first post:

A pandemic. Social distancing. Pride celebrations postponed or canceled altogether. The ongoing assault on black bodies that is both killing members of our families and causing our communities untold damage. Protests advocating for desperately-needed change that are obscured by a haze caused of the actions of others, a smog enabling the willful blindness of those who don’t want to see the presence and outcomes of systemic racism. The seemingly endless string of murders of our trans siblings (most recently: Riah Milton right here in Ohio). And leaders peering down above us all, figureheads who derive power from sowing division with nary a thought towards that which could unite us.

Here we are one year later and the urgency persists. Though there are parts of the pandemic that are now under control and over 20(!) Ohio Pride celebrations have already taken place in 2021 (with tons more to come!), the assault on our most vulnerable siblings has not abated. In so many arenas—particularly the legislative one in Columbus—those attacks have intensified.

Thus The Buckeye Flame must continue…not that we had any intention of dousing the fire.

In the past year, we have posted 134 stories from over 40 writers covering a wide range of LGBTQ+ Ohio life. As we celebrate our first birthday today, I want to put forth five thoughts: 3 reasons to celebrate and 2 resolutions for the year to come.

Reasons to Celebrate!

We Exist!: Let’s just start with the fact that we’re still here! The Ohio news desert is real, and even more so for LGBTQ+ publications. In this age when news sites come and go with alarming regularity, we are proud to be burning bright. And we’re even more proud to stay vibrant via staying on brand at that intersection of Ohio and LGBTQ+ identity. We take seriously our role as Ohio’s only statewide LGBTQ+ news and views platform, and it fuels us to keep doing what it is that we do.

We’re Having a Real Impact!: The temptation to measure our worth by numerical metrics is beyond tempting. Constantly refreshing that widget that tells us the number of page views and visitors can border on obsessive…and not the healthy side of that border. But when we pivoted to assessing our efficacy through the impact of our stories, the shift was monumental.

The words on our pages have resulted in: a ginormous increase in clients to a trans voice speech clinic, a huge number of surveys being filled out for a vital asset map, bundles of clothes being donated to a store servicing our trans siblings, tons of pairs of feet registering for an AIDS walk, directors of college musical theatre programs looking critically at their curricula, and tons and tons more. Sure, we’ve doubled(!) our goal of 100,000 views in our first year, but these other metrics of real world impact are astronomically more fulfilling.

We Have Incredible Partners in this Work!: From our wonderful Board, to our work with valued media partners affiliated with the Northeast Ohio Solutions Journalism Organization Collaborative and Local Media Association, to our faithful advertisers, to the myriad opportunities to work with individuals and organizations doing heroic work to advance LGBTQ+ equality, there is no shortage of partnerships to celebrate and cultivate!

Resolutions for Year Two

Improve Representation: Although we’ve done pretty well at featuring a wide range of stories covering a demographic array of LGBTQ+ Ohioans, there was and always will be room for improvement. Whether it’s covering life across the wide geographic spectrum of the state, making sure that we are doing everything we possibly can do to amplify the voices of our underrepresented siblings, or shining the light on issues like HIV decriminalization and the lived experience LGBTQ+ seniors that go largely uncovered by other media, we have to keep striving for better representation.

Build Capacity: So much of our first year was spent getting our name out there by showing everyone the quality content that we’re capable of producing. While the content will just keep on coming (we have amazing stories on deck!), we need to make sure that we are ensuring the long-term sustainability of The Buckeye Flame. Our Board will be engaging in a strategic planning process over the next few months which will increase our intentionality. And we need to do better at asking for your help:

  • Send advertisers our way: We have unbelievably affordable rates for advertisers. And we have the metrics to back up this sound marketing decision for you or someone you know who wants to reach the LGBTQ+ Ohio community.
  • Donate: Your contributions help support our truly modest budget, which allows us to create more and more LGBTQ+ Ohio content. 85% of our funds go directly to writers, and as we are a 501c3, your donation is fully tax deductible.

As we move forward into year two, we hold tightly to the tenant that you, our readers, are our publishers. We want to hear from you. Tell us how we’re doing. Point us toward LGBTQ+ Ohio issues that need to be covered. Wish us a happy birthday. Whatever you want…as long as we hear from you!

With your energy and input, The Buckeye Flame will continue to burn bright. And that is the best birthday present of all. 🔥

About Author

Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He received the 2021 Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for the LGBTQ Journalist of the Year from the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists. He is the author of "Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew" (2017), "LGBTQ Cleveland" (2018), "LGBTQ Columbus" (2019), and "LGBTQ Cincinnati" (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

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