Note: Updated at the end of the article.
When veteran reporter Karen Ocamb, 66, got the call asking her to come into the Frontiers Magazine‘s office while she was on vacation, she knew something was wrong. It didn’t take remarkable investigative skills to realize the financially struggling publication was going to let her go.
Since joining the print publication as a full-time staffer in 2002, she’d risen through the ranks to become news editor. But the new owners wanted to change the magazine’s direction to focus on millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 2000 and coveted by advertisers. When she arrived at the meeting, management informed her she was being “laid off,” but not fired outright.
Now, however, they’re admitting she’s been fired – because she’s too old.
Bobby Blair, CEO of Frontiers parent company, Multimedia Platforms Worldwide, told PressPassQ the company “found $1.1 million of efficiencies” by “reducing print staff.” The media conglomerate also owns New York’s Next magazine, FunMaps, Guy magazine, and Florida Agenda and the new millennial-focused Wirld website.
“Unfortunately, Karen fell where we realized 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,” Blair told PressPassQ. “Karen did an incredible job and is very much missed. We would like to use her services in the future from time to time, if she would like to.”
In an interview with PressPassQ, Ocamb talked about her suspicions when she got the unusually timed call.
“About two weeks before I was terminated, there were rumors that I was on a list to be let go,” she said. “But since no one from the company had raised that as a possibility, I set it aside and did my work.”
“News had always been an anchor for the magazine, no matter how many changes Frontiers went through over the years. But I had my suspicions about how I might fit in. So when I was called in from vacation for a five-minute meeting, I was pretty sure I knew what would happen. Nonetheless, as intellectually prepared as I might have been, there’s still a toll letting go of my long career of community service through Frontiers.”
“Lay offs are hard, no matter how they are handled,” Ocamb said in an interview with LGBTQNation. “So being told I’m not needed anymore has been strange for me. I’ve tried to be gracious, after all – people I care about still work at the company and I carry with me the memories of when Frontiers was important for news about HIV/AIDS and the latest civil rights battles. As someone said in an email, this smacks of a ‘post-gay’ move. I just don’t think we’re ‘post gay’ yet. On the other hand, given Bobbie Blair’s comment, I am now most definitely ‘post-Frontiers‘.”
Bob Witeck, President of the DC-based communications firm Witeck Communications, expressed concern about Blair’s decision to abruptly fire one of the most respected journalists in queer media.
“I have known Karen for decades, and worked with her much of that time,” he said. “I consider her one of our hardest-working, most knowledgeable and passionate journalists reporting on and serving the LGBT community. She has very, very few peers in my book. She knows firsthand that every later chapter has built on earlier ones, since her encyclopedic memory is phenomenal.
“It’s hard to understand the business choices made by Frontiers, or why her dismissal seemed prudent, necessary or even cost-effective. I can’t believe firing Karen will help one iota with either their readership or advertisers. I imagine this means they will report fewer stories and far more superficially in the future – which may only degrade their product over time.”