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The Advocate names first black editor-in-chief in its 50-year history

Zach Stafford will start his new role at The Advocate, the oldest LGBTQ magazine still in circulation, in late January.

The Advocate, the nation’s oldest gay magazine still in circulation, named Zach Stafford as its new editor-in-chief on Thursday. The award-winning journalist has an established track record of reporting on LGBTQ issues and will make history as the publication’s first black editor-in-chief since its debut more than five decades ago.

Zach Stafford, the incoming editor-in-chief of The Advocate
Zach Stafford, the incoming editor-in-chief of The AdvocateIvan Padilla

“Zach is a tenacious and talented risk taker, journalist and editorial leader who will help lead ‘The Advocate’ to become the undisputed leader in the LGBTQ community for breaking news and in-depth reporting on the communities we serve” Nathan Coyle, CEO of Pride Media, owner of The Advocate, told NBC News in an emailed statement.

“Zach’s understanding and respect for the critical role ‘The Advocate’ played in the LGBTQ community since its founding in 1967, combine with his proven talent for growing readership, positions the brand perfectly for its next historic chapter,” Coyle added.

The Advocate was first published in the late ‘60s as a local newsletter by the Los Angeles activist group Personal Rights in Defense and Education (PRIDE). The group was inspired to publish the newsletter, initially called The Los Angeles Advocate, following a police raid on the Black Cat Tavern gay bar.

Stafford said The Advocate’s rich history is among the reasons he’s looking forward to his new position, which he’ll officially start at the end of January.

“I have long respected ‘The Advocate’ and the role the magazine played in the LGBTQ community, which started with their reporting on police brutality in the late 1960’s, a topic I’m intimately familiar with from my own work,” Stafford told NBC News via email. “I am incredibly excited to lead ‘The Advocate’ in reporting and storytelling on LGBTQ life around the world, even if it means ruffling a few feathers along the way.”

Stafford’s appointment to The Advocate’s top editorial post comes as he leaves INTO, an online magazine owned by Grindr, the world’s most popular gay dating app. His exit takes place just two weeks after Grindr President Scott Chen posted comments on Facebook that many interpreted as his opposition to same-sex marriage, an interpretation Chen disputes. The company’s head of communications resigned last week due to Chen’s remarks.

When asked about Stafford’s departure, an emailed statement attributed to Chen wished Stafford luck in his new role.

“We appreciate the tireless work and endless contributions from Zach as editor-in-chief of INTO, and we wish him the best in his exciting new opportunity as editor-in-chief of The Advocate,” the statement read.

Prior to INTO, Stafford served as editor-at-large for Out magazine, an LGBTQ publication also owned by Pride Media, and as a contributing reporter for The Guardian on issues involving police brutality and LGBTQ issues. Stafford was recently named to Forbes’ 2019 30 Under 30 list.