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+TALK

+TALK: DIANE ANDERSON-MINSHALL, PIONEERING JOURNALIST

Karl Schmid speaks with AIDS pioneer, Dr. Michael Gottlieb

The following is a transcript of the conversation between Karl Schmid and Diane Anderson-Minshall.

KARL

 Diane Anderson-Minshall

Minshall. She’s making history and she’s up next.

KARL

 Welcome to Plus Talk on Plus Life where we are all about turning positive into a plus. Today, I’m joined by Diane Anderson-Minshall

Minshall. She is the CEO and editorial director of Pride Media. We’re gonna talk all things about you, Pride Media and the fact that you made history Diane when you became the first woman ever to hold the position of CEO and editorial director. Congratulations, how’s the job going?

DIANE

 Thank you. It’s going great, I love it, yeah.

KARL

 What does it mean for you to have that moment? As I said, just then to make history?

DIANE

 Well, I mean, considering I came out when I came out in media in the 80s, A, I was told you couldn’t be an out queer person and be a journalist or be in media. And then I was also told you couldn’t have a career in LGBTQ media. And I was also told there weren’t very many women so you had to always do what the boys did. So being able to, which I totally did, every two martini lunch, I was there. I did everything the boys did. So to me, it feels like really exciting to be at this pinnacle of sort of the intersections of no and kinda breaking through that.

KARL

 And what about the idea that you really have come full circle because “The Advocate” was the first LGBTQ magazine you ever sort of read in the 80s, right?

DIANE

 Yes, “The Advocate” in the late 80s and then “Curve”, which was de nouveaued like right after and those two definitely sort of solidified my desire to do this instead of, I left mainstream media after coming out and was just like LGBTQ media is where I wanna be and what I wanna do.

KARL

 There’s been a lot of talk over the years as things seem to move more from print to digital. And a lot of people say, well, what role do these publications have in this day and age? So what role does the queer media, does Pride Media have? How important is it that we have “Out”, that we have “Plus”, that we have “The Advocate”?

DIANE

 Yeah, well LGBT media has been so critical and it gets kind of lost in our history because basically like queer journalists, queer and trans journalists basically were the earliest activist. Our offices had been firebombed in some places, we were vandalized, We were victims of violence, journalists. So we’ve actually been some of the earliest activists, prior to Stonewall and beyond. So and today it’s still really relevant because while you might find Ricky Martin and in “People Magazine”, you’re still never gonna find somebody who’s covering really the depth and breadth of our communities’ lives and our issues the way that LGBTQ media will.

KARL

 Yeah and prior to your current position, you served as the editorial director for “The Advocate” and “Plus” magazine, which is a huge and really important HIV magazine. Tell me about your space, as Sharon Stone refers to herself, an AIDS worker but in the world of HIV advocacy and really changing the narrative and people’s opinions on what HIV means.

DIANE

 Yeah, well I started out as an activist with ACT UP back in the 80s and so and I think that we had sort of this ferocity about us, nobody was paying attention to us. And then after we finally got antiretroviral drugs, a lot of like journalists kind of moved on and no longer covered HIV. And yet, as you know and many people know, people living with HIV continued to have lives that evolved and I think that we’ve always been on the top of helping people figure out, both to find empowerment ’cause that’s still very critical. HIV is still incredibly stigmatized and so our magazines, people find themselves, they find empowerment but they also find hope. They find the truth about treatment that this is not a life sentence, that this is not, you’re not going to die, that you need to get on treatment, that you can have healthy, happy, sex lives, all of those things. And they find that in publications like ours because so often, the mainstream media still really just bungles that message.

KARL

 Well listen, I get it all the time. I try to get HIVDIANE

related stories on network television and I’m constantly told, “We love what you’re doing, it’s just not the right time.” So you understand that as well, right? But thank God there are places like your publications that will put those stories out.

DIANE

 Yeah, absolutely because people need to hear those stories more than just like every World Aids Day.

KARL

 Thank you for saying that, absolutely. How has the journalist landscape, how has reporting on HIV and the way you report it and the way you write about it in your publications, how has that changed over the years?

DIANE

 It’s actually really interesting ’cause we put out around 2015 with Plus, we put out an HIV reporting style guide and we worked with NLGJ to push it to the mainstream media. And it’s amazing how we’re still sending it out to mainstream media because so often people are not reporting on it accurately and they’re using really stigmatizing language. So we like to think of ourselves as sort of the leading edge in reporting on facts and with appropriate language. And so, but I think that how we’ve reported on it has been, at first there was just a sense of urgency about it and dealing with a lot of sense of helplessness. And I think now, we’re at a very, we’re almost like a wellness magazine. There’s so much to your life as a person living with HIV that we can’t just cover what your treatment protocols are. We need to be covering your health and your fitness and your nutrition and just like “Women’s Health” and “Men’s Health” and “WebMD” and all those magazines, we’re really looking at the health of a whole person. And so I think that’s a really new change in the last few years.

KARL

 Yeah and don’t you feel that people kind of zone out when it’s all just medical, medical, medical as well, either they bury their head in the sand or they’re like this doesn’t relate to, I’m not relating to this ’cause it doesn’t affect me?

DIANE

 Well, that’s one of the things we find a lot too, is that people report on stuff often like their medical journals and I’m always saying, so I’ll go to my young writers who are first doing pieces and I’ll say, what does this mean? And they’ll say, I don’t know ’cause they’ve just rewritten a press release or a medical journal or something like that. And I’ll say, if you don’t know, our readers don’t know. Write this for somebody with a high school education and then get back to me and explained to me what it means. So I think that even taking the medical information and I don’t like to say dumbing it down but definitely bridging that gap between all of the science and the doublespeak that you have in the medical community and making it that understandable by just your ordinary person.

KARL

 Yeah and that’s what we try to do here at Plus Life too. I’m constantly saying in meetings, once you start talking numbers and all these things, it can out of my head. Put it in layman’s terms. We’re having a beer and a conversation, talk to me so I can understand. I know for you a career highlight was talking at the United Nations Commission on the status of women in 2014 about preventing HIV in women. Are you frustrated that we still largely in this country treat HIV as a white gay man’s issue and kind of forget about black, brown, trans and women who are also equally affected?

DIANE

 Yeah, I think that this is one of those things where we tend to see pharma companies will drive a lot of conversation and they tend to see this as a market segment so they’ll go after different sorts of market segments. Now, it’s the Latin next year. Now it’s the AfricanDIANE

American year, those kinds of things. I think that the conversation is still pretty myopic.

KARL

 You are a busy woman because you’ve got all this going on but you’re also a host and you are the editorial director of Pride Today. Where do you find the time for all of this?

DIANE

 I really don’t. I don’t sleep, we worked 14 to 16 hour days. but I have a really supportive spouse who does more than lion’s share of work, so.

KARL

 What inspires you, Diane?

DIANE

 Oh gosh, you know what, I’m supposed to say young people because they really are these great, I have great hope for stuff like that and I know I’m supposed to say that but, and it’s true. That is really true but it just sounds so trite when you do say it but I think actually just seeing change and evolution is really inspirational and especially if you look at where we were in the 80s. I was telling somebody yesterday, I’ve been married to the same person five times, each time seeking more and more legal equality. And I remember in the late 80s, we were just trying to argue for each state to pass a domestic partnership law. Like at the time, I thought that was the highest we could possibly achieve. And now marriage equality is isn’t just lay of the land but it’s like widely embraced by young people in particular. So I am always excited by the evolution of where we’ve come and where we’re going and the intersectionality with which we’re moving this movement today.

KARL

 And with a crystal ball looking to the future, where do you hope we’re going in the queer media space but just in general for how we live our lives, what do you hope? What do you see as you put these stories together and you build these publications?

DIANE

 Well, I think I see what we want is right now almost 50% of Americans are still closeted at work. I’d like to see a future where people don’t just see themselves on TV but feel safe enough in their private lives to take their full selves to work the way they can with my company. I would like to say the evolution of our rights where it doesn’t feel like it’s cyclical and every four years it could be taken away from us. So I think the widespread adoption of that and perhaps the going away of the old guard of the Mitch McConnell’s of the world.

KARL

 Well and that is where we will leave and end on a high note. Diana Anderson-Minshall

Minshall, it was so great to see you. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

DIANE

 Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

KARL

 Absolutely, you’re the best. That is all the time we’ve got for this episode of Plus Talk. If you want more information, be sure to check out the website, pluslifemedia.com and remember you can follow us across social media platforms, we are @pluslifemedia. Until next time, stay safe. Keep washing your hands. We’ll see you next time.

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