The editors-in-chief of Out magazine and The Advocate, two LGBTQ brands owned by Pride Media, announced on Wednesday that they are leaving their posts. Their sudden departures, along with the exit of Pride Media’s interim CEO, Orlando Reece, have thrown the future of the storied publications into question.
“It has been an honor to helm this title, and to lead the most diverse team in this brand's nearly 30 years of publishing,” Phillip Picardi, the editor of OUT, wrote in an email to his staff. “I believe that LGBTQ+ media deserves the best — and that's what our team gave it while we had the chance.”
The Advocate's editor, Zach Stafford, who made news last December by becoming the first black editor-in-chief in the publication’s 50-year history, did not release a public comment.
The high-profile departures appeared to come as a surprise to employees at the two media outlets, both of which are based in Los Angeles.
“Personally, I'm pretty stunned,” one employee, who spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity, said. “The three highest-ranking members of a company all leaving in one day is just a lot to process, so I'm still wrapping my mind around it.”
Multiple sources with close knowledge of the departures said they were all due to the same reason: finances. Pride Media, which is part of California-based Oreva Capital, has been plagued by reports of unpaid invoices by freelance journalists.
Earlier this year, the National Writers’ Union announced a suit against Pride Media on behalf of 25 freelancers who were then allegedly owed over $40,000 for work that Pride Media published, but did not pay for. This suit and other efforts used the social media hashtag #OutOwes to draw attention to the issue.
As recently as Tuesday, one LGBTQ journalist, John Paul Brammer, a contributor to NBC News Digital, said he hadn’t been paid by Out for months of work.
“I've turned my column in on time every week for the past two years and I was just told there's not a set date yet for my overdue invoices from September through November to be paid,” Brammer wrote to his more than 100,000 Twitter followers.
The Advocate and Out magazine are not the only LGBTQ outlets to face hurdles, financial or otherwise, this past year. Grindr-owned digital publication INTO was shut down in January of this year, shortly after one of its reporters published an unflattering story about the company’s president, Scott Chen. And U.K.-based Gay Star News, which started in 2012, published its last article in July.