The Closure of ‘Into’ Matters. We Need More LGBT Media, Not Less
The headline-making, innovative reporting done by Into enlivened LGBT media. Its shuttering by owner Grindr deprives good journalists of jobs and readers of good journalism.
There was an LGBT dream team behind Grindr’s short-lived online magazine Into.
In its 17 short months, they delivered an ambitious mix of national and international LGBT reporting, cultural critique, and internet-breaking videos. Several members of the Into team, like ex-politics reporter Nico Lang, were—and still are—good friends whose talents I have long admired. The site they created together was fresh, new, and unabashed in its commitment to serving everyone in our community, be they gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or non-binary.
It was the sort of publication that the 21st century LGBT community not only deserves, but so sorely needs. At a time when LGBT rights are under such obvious attack and the mainstream press responds with cowardly “both sides” journalism, there are too few outlets that treat our humanity as a settled question rather than a subject for debate.
This is why Into’s sudden closure this week was such a devastating blow for all of LGBT media. Well-funded media outlets that make diverse and humanizing content for the full range of the LGBT community—well, they don’t exactly proliferate. Into only lasted for months but it could be years before we see something of its like again.
The sad news was announced on Tuesday, Jan. 15, when the Into staff released a letter announcing that parent company Grindr had laid off everyone on the site’s editorial and social teams in order to begin “refocusing its efforts on video.”
“We feel that Into’s closure is a tremendous loss for LGBTQ media, journalism, and the world,” they wrote, concluding, “It was literally too good to be true.”
In a statement, Grindr told me that the company “decided to modify Into’s content mix to rely more heavily on video” and that this shift was “driven by the high user engagement and development we see through channels such as Twitter and YouTube.”
“This was a difficult decision and one that we do not take lightly,” the statement continued. “We want to thank these colleagues for all of their contributions to Grindr and our community.”
Layoffs in a turbulent industry like online media are all too common. But when some of the most talented LGBT journalists are all laid off at once, the effects are particularly palpable. Important stories go uncovered—or get covered from the wrong angles. LGBT freelancers looking to build their bylines and break into the industry have one less source of income. Places like Into are incubators for emerging writers as much as they are showcases for more established ones. Without it, all of LGBT media suffers.
The need for high-quality LGBT journalism has arguably never been more urgent.
With as many as 7 percent of millennials identifying as LGBT—and Gen Z paving the way for a future full of gender non-conformity—there are millions of Americans who have to turn to specialized outlets to feel adequately represented.
Although mainstream outlets can and do produce excellent LGBT coverage, it’s too often left to outlets like Into to present important viewpoints one might not encounter elsewhere.
For instance, when the transgender-themed Netflix film Girl was earning rave reviews in the Hollywood trades, Into’s Mathew Rodriguez highlighted the film’s uncomfortable fixation on the main character’s genitalia—and on transgender trauma more generally.
Rodriguez’s critique broke through the praise for the film—and as the Into staff noted in their farewell letter “helped start a national conversation” about its content. Mainstream outlets preferred to label Girl “controversial”; Rodriguez called it “trans trauma porn.”
While global LGBT issues are often covered from afar, Into's Nico Lang flew to Malaysia and Taiwan, interviewing local activists and producing incredible on-the-ground reporting that deserved far more attention than it got.
Those are just two examples of the power of LGBT writers with LGBT editors covering LGBT issues for an LGBT outlet; the perspectives tend to be bolder, the reporting more humane. Anti-LGBT hate groups actually get called “hate groups” instead of some milquetoast euphemism. Reporters feel more empowered to call out those in power.
Certainly no one could accuse Into of failing to stick by its founding principles. When Grindr president Scott Chen made a comment on Facebook saying that he agreed that marriage was a “holy matrimony between a man and a woman,” it was Into—and Rodriguez in particular—which first reported the news.
That’s a bold move for a media outlet owned by Grindr. (Chen issued an apologetic statement the following day saying that his comment only pertained to his “personal feelings about [his] own marriage to [his] wife” and that he “support[s] gay marriage.”)
Some of the Into dream team has already moved elsewhere. Rodriguez, for example, left for Out magazine shortly before the layoffs, where new hires like Raquel Willis are breaking barriers. Zach Stafford, former editor-in-chief of Into, is now editor-in-chief of The Advocate—the first black person, as Out noted, to serve in that role for the magazine. Wherever they go, ex-Into staff are bound bring the same qualities that made their old home great.
To be sure, there are still places for readers to get amazing LGBT writing and other content, although few have parent companies as wealthy as Grindr. My go-to site is Autostraddle, which caters to lesbian and bisexual women, and largely relies on reader support to stay afloat.
But the fear— loathe as I am to even vocalize it—is that there aren’t nearly enough new homes for everyone. Layoffs in media are on the rise and LGBT media can be a small world. Against that backdrop, the mass laying off of Into’s editorial staff hurts not just them, but an entire community that is already underserved by the popular press.
LGBT outlets as good as Into don’t grow on trees. Indeed, one can only hope that they can still grow at all.