David Stern on his tenure as publisher of Frontiers

Frontiers Magazine

BY DAVID STERN | Karen Ocamb’s tribute to Frontiers Magazine was a tour-de-force tribute to what was once a vital institution. But I would like to elaborate on what she called “machinations” during my tenure as co-owner, sole owner and publisher.

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When Mark Hundahl and I, then publishers of IN Magazine, purchased Frontiers in 2007, we purchased it at what was then fair market value. For the two years that followed we ran both IN & Frontiers with a blended staff from both publications.

During a very shaky economy in 2009 we merged the content of IN and Frontiers into one publication. I’m very proud that IN (my baby) got 11 full years of publishing before merging the content into Frontiers.

Shortly after that I made the publication all glossy, created PozFrontiers.com, and re-vamped the Frontiers website.

We thrived even in the face of adversity.

Though we were unable to keep pace with expenses, including a huge debt to Wells Fargo, during the economic downturn we found some success after filing Chapter 11 and establishing a plan for recovery.

I successfully created a new revenue opportunity that could potentially keep the company afloat by growing the website’s traffic by 400%.

The resulting revenue stream allowed the company, absent debt, to more easily operate in the black. I established an events division that also created new revenue streams and which provided additional ways to promote advertisers associated with the then respected Frontiers brand. Our events included the Community Builders Awards tied into our 30 & 31 anniversaries, the West Hollywood Auto Show, and my swan song, the hugely successful LGBT Wedding Expo, with over 1500 attendees, which included a stellar Frontiers Wedding Guide that went with it.

Unfortunately, due to the debt repayment dictates of the Chapter 11 overseers, many writers, etc. that were owed money only got pennies on the dollar.

By the time Michael Turner stepped in and bought the company — free of debt — from the bankruptcy court, he inherited a thriving and growing website as well as a growing revenue stream from the events division.

Had I remained Publisher, as Turner had promised until the 11th hour, there was a plan in place to make good once New Frontiers took ownership.

I cannot speak to what happened after that, as I was not part of it.

I would like to be clear, at the time Turner bought Frontiers thru the Chapter 11 and with the Wells Fargo debt removed, he was handed a company in the black, with a thriving events division, a growing website, and “We want you back” campaign ready to launch, instead of a an issue in Russian.

Frontiers Russian EditionMichael Turner took over Frontiers in Feb of 2013. I stayed an additional 5 weeks, but the writing was on the wall as was my departure after 26 years in LGBT media. By the time the Pride issue came out, less than 3 months later, Turner had managed to lose over 40% of the advertising base. He followed this up in the fall with the 2nd annual LGBT Wedding Expo. (The only thing I know of this is that it went from1500 attendee’s to around150 – no the loss of a zero is not a typo – the formula for sales was the same, which included a Wedding Guide that he never printed.) Rule #1 – be impeccable in your word – not that I’m perfect, but it certainly I principle I try to practice daily.

There is much more I could say about this time period, but as Karen so eloquently put it, I’d rather turn my anger into a sigh.

Karen & I have been friends for over 25 years. I will always be grateful for her old school style of journalism, you know, little things like fact checking and unbiased reporting. She is the best of the best!

It was sad day when I heard of her firing and the comments Blair made to Press Pass Q.

I do agree with one thing I read Blair said, which was to make room for millennia’s. But he sadly missed the vital part of that equation, which was for them to learn from those that blazed the trail so they could carry it forward.

For many years Mark & I had discussed creating a non-profit to act as a training ground for upcoming LGBT media professionals and their allies. It is a vision that I created with the Frontiers Awareness & Education Foundation, which I am proud to say, that even thou in its infancy, Mark got to see before his passing.

In the short time the Foundation was active, it had 2 interns and a grant from the City of West Hollywood. Even the Chapter 11 judge saw the value of the Foundation and allowed a small stipend to keep it going.

During my negotiations with Turner, among the many things he promised was that he would keep that small amount of funding for the Frontiers Awareness & Education Foundation in place. Suffice to say, it was cut within his first few weeks of ownership, the grant was returned, and the talented people at Frontiers, including Karen were no longer available to train the next generation of LGBT media.

I will always be proud of my 26 years as a part of the LGBT media in Los Angeles.

Sigh, release, let go, and bless all the people that came together that made Frontiers the great service to the community that it once was.

David Stern
Publisher Frontiers 2007-2013
Publisher IN Publications 1998 – 2009



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