Los Angeles' LGBT community may be saying “Bye, Felicia” to Frontiers Magazine.
The staff of Multimedia Platforms Worldwide's five publications, which include Next Magazine, Florida Agenda, and SoCal's own queer mag Frontiers Magazine, has been laid off, according to Wehoville.com. While Frontiers has yet to officially announce it will be shuttering, and its most recent issue currently appears online, the 35 year old magazine has yet to release printed editions this week.
Bobby Blair, founder and CEO of MMPW, attributed the company's turmoil to a lawsuit filed by lenders in the State of Massachusetts. According to a press release from Blair, a court order had been issued seizing his assets, as well as a restraining order “prohibiting the company from distributing any cash or any other assets of the company.” Meaning, until this suit is settled, the staff of Frontiers cannot be paid.
Blair was quick to dodge blame. In an interview with South Florida Gay News, he said, “for the record, I was re-appointed CEO last week as I became informed all this was happening by management. The last four months I have not been involved or included in any day-to-day business or involved in this now disputed credit facility.”
This isn't the first time Frontiers has suffered financial woes. In March 2013, the publication filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the following year it was purchased by Michael Turner, who endeavored to expand the magazine's reader base and increase its digital presence. Despite these ambitions, Frontiers continued to struggle and was sold again in 2015, this time to Blair.
Although Blair had stepped down as CEO four months ago, according to an SEC filing on June 30th, 2016, which covered the six month period when he was actively at the company's helm, MMPW “recognized net revenue of $1,459,168 and a net loss of $4,698,798 and had negative working capital of $5,518,237.”
Blair's half year reign also heralded the termination of LGBT news editor Karen Ocamb from the ranks of Frontiers. According to Blair, the decision to sack Ocamb, who had covered the queer community for 38 years, was primarily motivated by a desire to skew towards a younger audience.
“We were moving toward a digital and Millennial audience, and we wanted to give the generation of Millennials a real shot at creating our content,” said Blair during an interview with PressPassQ.
The move was criticized as being overtly ageist by some in the LGBT publishing community, including Bob Witeck, president of Witeck Communications.
“It’s very clear that Frontiers will not be the trusted publication we have known for years, and never benefit from Karen’s smarts and archival knowledge. It’s all about trust and expertise – which Karen Ocamb owns in giant measure,” said Witeck during an interview with LGBT Nation.
While Ocamb acknowledged that her age was possibly a factor, she posited that her termination was more influenced by dollar signs than by the number of candles on her birthday cake.
“No one is indispensable,” said Ocamb to PressPassQ. “I see my being laid off as a purely financial business decision, no matter what direction the new owners may choose.”
Ocamb wasn't the only employee to suffer under Blair's leadership. Several of MMPW's contributors were subjected to delays in payment, if they were paid at all. For example, Tyler Stanley, a 22 year old videographer that created digital content for the company, is currently suing Multimedia Platforms for the thousands of dollars that they owe him. While the task of having to fight to obtain money he had already earned is aggravating enough, to Stanley, MMPW's unprofessional attitude is salt in the wound.
“They were very condescending in the way they went about not paying me,” said Stanely. “After several months of not being paid, I sent them an email saying, ‘If you don't pay me, I’m going to pursue legal action. You have to pay people when you owe them thousands of dollars for work that they’ve done.’ And they called me and told me I should apologize for sending that email. Not only that, they said as a young person, you don’t understand how this industry works.”
Beverly Hills-based attorney Scott Schwimer does know how the industry works. When asked to weigh in on this situation, specifically on the likely possibility that MMPW may file for bankruptcy, Schwimer admitted the situation looked grim for the company's former employees.
“If they file bankruptcy, you're done and stand in line,” said Schwimer. “It sucks. Sorry.”